Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21, 2014 New Humane Society Board Elects Officers and Appoints Nancy Phillips as Interim Director

The MH Humane Society Board with its eight newly-elected members present met at 7 PM yesterday and elected Dr. Daniel Parks, local veterinarian, as its new president.[Scroll down to the October 15 post for the list of the new members and recent election]

Nancy Phillips was named interim shelter director until a new director can be hired. Former director Steven Eldridge abruptly left the shelter after the eight new board members were announced last Tuesday.

Phillips stated unequivocally that she is accepting the interim position only and does not want and will not seek the position on a permanent basis. The director position will be advertised and a committee was appointed to review applications.

Parks reported that the shelter is overflowing and that two parvo cases were recently discovered. Parks stated that with the current conditions at the shelter, there are two options: euthanize or try to get animals out of the shelter and into rescue. The Board voted to hire a full-time rescue operations director on a temporary basis.

In addition to the regular audit, the Board will obtain a financial audit and inventory listing up to the date that the new Board came in.

The Board will meet again next Tuesday in a regular meeting to begin tackling some of the many other issues facing the shelter.

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20, 2014 City Council Set To Vote on Changing Distance Requirement for Beer Sales

The Morristown City Council agenda for tomorrow includes a reduction in the distance requirement between businesses selling beer and schools, churches, and parks.

This latest change comes after the Popkin Food City (on part of the old Berkline property) was built and then "suddenly" Food City discovered that the building was too close to the City's Popkin Park to get a beer permit under the city's current distance guidelines.

No problem. Whenever a law inconveniences the City or certain well-heeled companies or  councilmembers, the solution is always the same: change the law.

[Remember the George McGuffin Law that LeBel, Senter, Bivens, Garrett, and Jinks passed overturning a referendum to help the LeBel Five put George McGuffin back on the MUS Board. Click here or here or on the label "McGuffin Law" at the side of this blog]

Now some of the changes being made tomorrow are general changes that need to be made. But the change in the distance requirement is specifically for Food City. 

Whether the distance requirement should be changed or not should not come up suddenly--particularly in response to a situation where a corporation that is very knowledgeable about beer permitting in localities throughout Tennessee and designs and builds a store in Morristown that is too close to a city park to qualify for a beer permit.

Food City already has numerous stores in Morristown that sell beer. Food City knows and knew the beer permit distance requirements when they bought the Popkin property (with City Councilman Paul LeBel involved in the sale) and when they located and began construction on the store.

So let's not act like, golly-gee, we're shocked and need to do something (change the law) to help these poor souls.

There will be lots of posturing tomorrow--and lots of claims about needing to take this action to "create jobs" or to help a business/corporate/friend. Plus there will be claims that the old distance requirements are "suddenly" out-of-date. See Gary Chesney's October 17 Facebook post here.

Job creation is extremely important, but there are some who say that "job creation by Food City" in Morristown is largely smoke and mirrors as Food City is opening two new stores (Masengill Springs on W.A.J. and Popkin on E. Morris Boulevard) with great fanfare---and with the help of millions of local tax increment dollars (TIF) used on each site--and then with far less fanfare Food City will quietly close down one or more of its other Morristown stores.

Watch what Councilmember LeBel, who was involved in the sale of the property to Food City and who profited by that sale, says and does.

Watch them all as they skirt around the fact that the major change being made tomorrow is a change to the beer permit distance requirement to accommodate Food City at Popkin Center--a corporate business that knows the local beer permit law, built its building too close to a park to get a beer permit under the existing law, and then turned to LeBel and company to have the law changed.

And when the law is changed tomorrow and customized for Food City, it is changed for all businesses. And if. in the future, another favored business builds its building too close to a school, church, or park to get a beer permit, we will go through this same customized change to the law, the same political charade.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15, 2014 Eight New Members Elected to Humane Society

In a two-minute meeting yesterday at high noon, Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society president Christine Coley announced the results of the recent special election for eight members of the Humane Society Board of Directors.

Newly-elected members of the Humane Society Board of Directors are: Susan Allen and Dr. Daniel Parks (one-year term); Dr. Michael Bratton, Bette Crawford, and Diane Lovejoy (two-year term); and Robin Robinson, Judy Stockard, and Susan Widener (three-year term).

It was a clean sweep for the eight new members as incumbents/those nominated by the prior board's nominating committee were defeated: Larry Baker, Christine Coley, Ruth Frederick, Diane Fox, Charlotte Long, Wally Long, Eddie Davis, and Frank McGuffin.

A number of issues loom before the eight new Board members who will be joining the full Board.

The Humane Society has had numerous financial issues over the past years, including alleged employee embezzlement and failure to maintain worker's compensation insurance. These problems resulted in substantial loss/reduction of available operating monies.

In addition to the above problems, there was the recent hiring of former Board member Larry Baker's friend as Director--an individual with lots of baggage who never should have been proposed or hired as the face of the Humane Society.  This individual may decide to pack up and leave/resign with the election of the new Board members.

Hopefully, there will be a smooth transition to a new Board that is accountable, that operates in a fiscally transparent manner, that works vigorously to promote low-cost spay and neuter clinics, that encourages local adoption as well as rescue adoption, and that supports fostering and volunteer activities.

The Humane Society receives its primary funding from the City and County governments--about $270,000 total per year.

An all-out effort to get the Humane Society back on track in caring for the animals of this community is needed. The new Board has a great opportunity--and many challenges--in front of it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October 7, 2014 No Motion and No Vote at County Commission Public Services Committee on Humane Society Contract

Some background regarding the MH Humane Society:

1) The city and county provide the majority of funding for the MH Humane Society--just over $130,000 from each government

2) The Humane Society was asleep at the wheel for the past several years during which their non-profit status was lost and only recently re-established, approximately $50,000 was lost through alleged embezzlement by an employee, insurance coverage was not maintained and a large payout to an employee who was purportedly injured on the job had to be made from operating funds, a new "Director" (with close connections to former county commissioner/current Humane Society member Larry Baker) was quickly hired with poor results as an employee and disastrous results as the public face of the Humane Society; a new election for board members was totally botched and new ballots were sent out recently; and it goes on and on.

A few months ago, County Mayor Bill Brittain along with County Attorney Chris Capps and County Commissioner Doe Jarvis met with City Mayor Danny Thomas, City Administrator Tony Cox, and City Attorney Dick Jessee to iron out a contract with the Humane Society.

This contract was brought to the county commission in August by Mayor Brittain. At that meeting, Mayor Brittain and Attorney Capps proposed one change to the contract. The contract was approved with the change and the Humane Society was given until November 1 to approve the contract.

Shortly after presenting and getting approval by commission of a proposed City/County/Humane Society contract, Mayor Brittain--who is a member of the Humane Society Board--began working with the Humane Society on a contract that is different in many respects from the one that he brought to county commission in August and asked commissioners to approve.

Yesterday, Mayor Brittain sought approval from the Public Services Committee of his 2nd Humane Society contract.

There were comments and extended discussion at and after the meeting about the Humane Society and the current situation.

The frustration of commissioners is evident.

When Public Services Chairman Herbert Harville asked if there was a motion to approve Brittain's newest Humane Society contract, there was silence. Finally, Harville declared that there was no motion and he moved on to the next item.

When all this mess started out, it seemed like it was primarily a financial/bookkeeping issue and that the treasurer should step down and there should be additional oversight of the Humane Society finances.

As more information has emerged and as I have attended Humane Society "board" meetings and have stepped in to foster animals as well, it is evident that the problems go way beyond just treasurer/bookkeeping issues.

The Humane Society was started decades ago by dedicated individuals who worked with care and concern for the animals uppermost. Some of those individuals are still on the Board and are good people who didn't intend for this mess to happen. They assumed and trusted that everything was being done correctly, but they didn't verify.

The mess did happen, and it hasn't been cleaned up. In fact, it has been made worse by the hiring of the current "director" months ago with continuing problems with shelter operations and then improper attempts by the existing Board to influence an election for board members by sending out a ballot declaring that certain candidates on the ballot were ineligible to serve on the board.

After several of these individuals provided proof of their Humane Society membership and eligibility, the votes from the first election were never counted and a new ballot prepared. The new ballots are to be counted on October 9.

In all of this, Diane Fox, current Humane Society secretary, showed the most common sense at the September 23 meeting of the Humane Society Board.

When the contract that County Mayor Bill Brittain, City Mayor Danny Thomas, and Humane Society Attorney Scott Reams had drafted was presented to the Board, Fox voted "no."

Her reasoning and her statement was that any contract decision should be made by the Humane Society Board which would be elected and known by October 9.  Common sense.

 It appears that there is common sense on the part of commissioners as well to wait for the election results on the Humane Society Board. And with the City as a party to the contract, why are all these contracts being drafted by certain officials and attorneys but no contract has been presented to or even discussed at a City Council meeting or work session?