Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24, 2014 MH Humane Society with Two New Members Approves Contract with City and County

The Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society Board gave its approval yesterday to a proposed contract with the city and county.

And the Humane Society apparently has two new members--Sonya Shipley who was appointed by County Mayor Bill Brittain and Wayne Nesmith who was appointed by City Mayor Danny Thomas.

The city already has a contract with the Humane Society. The County makes an annual donation of  over  $130,000 for the operation of the animal shelter but has no contract with the Humane Society.

With the uproar at the shelter including alleged embezzlement of funds, poor record-keeping, a lapse of workmen's comp insurance that resulted in a large payout to an individual that had to be paid with animal care funds, and the questionable hiring of a close associate of Board member Larry Baker as shelter director, the Board has hunkered down and fought to retain control of animal care in Morristown and Hamblen County.

The County Commission approved a contract with the Humane Society several weeks ago and gave the Humane Society until Nov. 1, 2014, to approve the contract as drafted or county funding would cease.

County Mayor Bill Brittain, County Attorney Chris Capps, Commissioner Doe Jarvis, City Mayor Danny Thomas, City Attorney Dick Jessee, and City Administrator Tony Cox worked on that contract. County Commission made one change to the contract before passing it.

The Humane Society, on which Mayor Bill Brittain serves an ex officio member, balked.

Mayor Brittain and Mayor Thomas  worked with Humane Society Attorney Scott Reams to draft another contract that the current Humane Society Board has indicated it is willing to sign---albeit reluctantly.

And amid all this uproar, the current Humane Society Board is sending out ballots (2nd time) on Friday (Sept 26) for the election of a new Board with both current members and challengers on the ballot. Ballots are due back at the offices of Purkey, Carter, Compton, Swann & Carter, CPAs, on October 8. 

One current Board member. Diane Fox, made an interesting and important comment yesterday. She noted that with the upcoming election of a new Board--which may or may not include members of the current Board--why the rush by the current Board to approve the contract.

Why indeed?

Her very logical thought was that the new Board that will be in place shortly after October 8 and well-before the Nov 1 county deadline should make the decision on any contract.

Friday, September 05, 2014

September 5, 2014 Ford Calls Special Meeting Without Authority, Adjourns Meeting When Objection Raised by Commissioner

County Commission Chair Stancil Ford issued the call for yesterday's special meeting of the Hamblen County Commission.

Ford, however, had no authority to call yesterday's meeting.

Under state law, T.C.A. 5-5-105(a)(2), the chair can only call for a special session if the Mayor or a majority of commissioners apply in writing to the chair for such a meeting.

Neither the Mayor nor any commissioner had submitted such a request to the Chair. Ford had just taken it upon himself to call the body into session.

[Under T.C.A. 5-5-105(a)(1), the County Mayor also has the authority to call a special session but only if, in the mayor's opinion, the public necessities require it. Mayor Brittain did not issue the call for the special meeting.]

During public comments, I provided information regarding the above state law and an email exchange with an attorney in the Comptroller's office confirming the very clear requirements that must be met before the chair can call a special session of the commission.

County Attorney Chris Capps admitted that Ford had called the meeting without authority--that there had been no written request for this meeting. 

Brittain recommended that the meeting continue saying he and Stancil had "discussed" a meeting.

Attorney Capps recommended that the meeting continue while acknowledging that it was a technical violation of the statute. Capps added that it should only go forward if no commissioner objected.

Commissioner Johnny Walker objected.

A few commissioners were willing to go on with a meeting that had been called by the chair without authority to do so.

Ford, while serving as chair, entered into the discussion and said he thought the meeting should go on.

Walker said what kind of precedent does that set if we are not doing what we are supposed to.

Ford then asked Capps to explain what CTAS (County Technical Advisory Services) had said about the situation.

Capps said that his conversation with CTAS (County Technical Assistance Services) was not actually a specific discussion of T.C.A. 5-5-105 (a)(2) but was a "general" conversation. Capps added that he and Brown painted it "with a broad brush" in that conversation, and she did not consider it a "real big deal so to speak"

Commissioner Joe Huntsman then stated that he wanted to do what was right and he didn't want to set a precedent by breaking the law on their first day there. 

Stancil Ford again asked Walker if he objected. Walker said yes.

Ford closed the meeting.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

September 3, 2014 City Council's Super Short Meeting; Chesney and the Sunshine Law

The Morristown City Council met yesterday, and it was over almost as quickly as it began.

If you blinked, you pretty much missed the meeting.

But don't worry. You didn't miss much.
A truck was purchased and some outdated language in the sign ordinance was deleted.

In the work session that followed the meeting, Parks and Rec Director Craig Price presented information on a playground for Wayne Hansard Park on the west end of the City.

The work session is where information is shared and items are discussed but no votes are taken.

During Price's presentation, however, Councilmember Paul LeBel decided to request a "show of hands" in support of the proposal.

This isn't the first time, LeBel has requested a "show of hands" at a meeting or work session.

LeBel requested a "show of hands" from councilmembers who would support CPA Glenn Thompson's appointment to the MUS Board at a council meeting in July. 

Six hands went up. LeBel's "raise your hands" vote came just two weeks after Councilmember Chesney announced on his Facebook page ( that Thompson was the "consensus" of a majority of councilmembers.

How Chesney knew that a majority of councilmembers were in favor of Thompson raised the question of whether Chesney had been discussing the vote on the MUS appointment with fellow councilmembers in violation of the state "Sunshine" law that requires that all deliberations on public business occur in public.

Other posts by Chesney on the recent MUS appointment process also hint at possible "Sunshine" law violations.

In a recent (August 27) post, Chesney denied any Sunshine Law violations and said he got his information about councilmembers' preference for Thompson from MUS Board members and not from other councilmembers.

A little more information would clarify whether there was, in fact, any Sunshine violation.

Which MUS Board members discussed a possible Glenn Thompson appointment with Chesney? 

Who brought up Glenn Thompson's name? Chesney? Or the Board member(s)?

Who did Chesney talk to in order to get a "count" showing that a majority of council supported Thompson?

Who did the MUS Board member(s) talk to in order to get a "count" showing that a majority of council supported Thompson?

Was someone taking a "count" for Chesney in order to try and prevent a Sunshine violation by Chesney? 

Oh--and Gary decided to delete his post of July 2 that mentioned that a majority of council supported Thompson. Why?

To help Gary's recollection of his July 2 post, Attorney Link Gibbons re-posted Gary's July 2 entry as part of Gibbons'  "comments" on Chesney's August 27 post.

Link Gibbons Gary, I assume I am the concerned citizen you are addressing above regarding a possible violation of the Sunshine Law as I questioned how you seem to have knowledge of other council members' votes before the issue is addressed publicly. I also specifically asked how you knew a "majority" of council members' preference for Glenn Thompson for the MUS board as stated in the last paragraph of your July 2nd facebook post, some two weeks before the informal show of hands at council's July 16th meeting. Since this post appears to have been deleted from your facebook feed, I will repost it in full for your recollection:

COUNCIL REPORT: The Industrial Development Board (IDB) is good-to-go with a complete set of members, but the Morristown Utilities System (MUS) Commission has work to do.

Tuesday's Council meeting saw Dr. Jack Campbell, Tim Coley, Joel Hice, and Andy Smith reappointed to six year terms on the IDB. Terry Ball's term was also expiring but he withdrew his name from reappointment consideration after legal research determined Ball's recent appointment to the city's Planning Commission made him ineligible to also serve on the IDB.

IDB nominations traditionally come from the Chamber of Commerce, however, Council can make its own nominations - and did, by voting in local building contractor Ed Hale. The vote was 6-1 with Mayor Thomas dissenting.

Raul Rangel will fill another IDB slot created when banker Jennifer Schuchart vacated. The 15 board members are required to be city property owners. It was recently discovered three did not which delayed the reappointments by two weeks while corrections were made.

The vacancy on the MUS Commission will remain empty a while longer. Mayor Thomas nominated Max Biery from the three names served up for consideration by MUS. Council voted 6-1 against. The process repeats with three new names at either at the next meeting, or could be delayed until the first August meeting.

CPA Glenn Thompson appears to be the preference of the majority of Council members.