Jim Vesper not impressed with officials honoring each other over “clean” audits

This morning I (Tona Monroe) received the following text about mine and Karen Miller’s standing apart from politicians honoring other politicians, in an election year, for receiving “clean” audits at last night’s commission meeting.

“I appreciated you standing apart with Karen last night. The self-congratulations show the other commissioners held last night was embarrassing.  Audited returns do not reflect monies well spent, or assets well managed! I wish every commissioner had your integrity and respect for their constituents wallets.  Blessings to you my friend.”

Jim Vesper – Blount County citizen and businessman

Commissioner Karen Miller and I voted against honoring elected officials and department heads for receiving clean audits.  Mr. Vesper is spot on.  These audits do not reflect the quality of spending or management of assets.  These audits are more a reflection of following accounting standards.  Money can be wasted on many things, but if it is properly accounted for it usually won’t result in an audit finding.

Keep in mind that the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office gave the sheriff and county a free pass for the sheriff signing the federal inmates contract without first obtaining commission approval possibly because its auditors hadn’t caught it the entire time (well over a decade) the contracts have been in effect.  The Comptroller’s Office also gave the mayor, finance director and county a free pass for the $2 million that the mayor and finance director claimed authority to assign.  The mayor and finance director lacked the authority to express the county’s intent with that $2 million “assignment.” Only the commission had the authority to assign those funds with the county’s intent.  The Comptroller’s Office chose not to recognize the mayor and finance director’s $2 million assignments but failed to mention their actions in the audit reports.  Even two failures to properly prove authority did not result in audit findings.

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office seems to be handing clean audits out like candy.  It’s important that the citizens of Blount County, and ultimately Tennessee, understand the limited scope of these audits and that they don’t reflect the quality of spending.  Clean audits do not mean that elected officials are good stewards of your taxpayer monies.

Even people from other counties find Register of Deed Phyllis Crisp’s behavior disturbing

Today I (Tona Monroe) received the following email related to the March Commission meeting in which Phyllis Crisp, Blount County Register of Deeds, spoke during public input on items not on the agenda about an item on the agenda.  The author resides in another Tennessee county.  Even people living in other counties are appalled by her behavior.

“Just watched the March meeting for Blount County.  That register of deeds is a real piece of work.

I also watched your presentation that you did in January and you’ve really got me interested in the discretionary inmates piece.  Is there still no data on how many or what rough % of inmates at county jails are from state or federal?  I’m interested in this issue here as well.

As always, thanks for everything you do.  You’re a real inspiration to me.  I’m hoping I can be as good a commissioner as you are.”

Phyllis Crisp praised newly appointed 4th district Commissioner Brian Robbins.  When she finished speaking Robbins stood up and clapped.  Afterwards someone said to me Robbins was clapping for himself, since Crisp was praising him.

Important questions you need to ask about the salaries of elected officials before voting in the local May 1st and state and federal August 2nd 2018 primary elections

State mandated minimum salaries and additional pay supplements for local elected officials vs what taxpayers are making

When you look at important economic indicators such as median household income and average annual income, Blount County taxpayers haven’t fared well in recent years.  When adjusted for inflation, 2014 numbers show that average pay in Blount County actually dropped and that household income averages a double digit drop.

The State of Tennessee mandates very generous salaries for elected officials that are 2, 3 and 4 times what the average Tennessee taxpayer is making.  I (Tona Monroe) have written the state legislature for a couple of years on this matter but this matter has largely fallen on deaf ears when it comes to taking action.  A few lawmakers have agreed with me that the mandated minimums are too high but none have taken action to provide reform.

You can view the state mandated minimum salaries for local elected officials here.
2018-2019  2017-2018   2016-2017  2015-2016  2014-2015  2013-2014
2012-2013   2010-2011  2009-2010  2008-2009  2007-2008  2006-2007

This figures show huge increases to the base pay for local elected officials being mandated by state law.  Despite being paid double and triple, and in the case of judges almost quadruple what the average taxpayer is making, 4 of these local elected officials are receiving pay supplements above the already large state mandated minimums.  Blount County taxpayers are paying $96,717 more than state minimum for the circuit court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor.  It’s obvious these people don’t feel the same economic pain that many Blount Countians are feeling.

2 important primary elections will be held this year.  The local government primary election will be May 1, 2018 and the state and federal primary election will be held August 2, 2018.  All office holders elected in partisan elections are Republicans in Blount County.  There isn’t a single Democrat or independent in office in Blount County, excluding the school board which has nonpartisan elections.  Thus, it is highly likely that all upcoming offices, excluding the school board, will be decided in the primary elections.  If you wait to vote in November, you will miss your best opportunities to have an impact on who governs at the local and state levels.  There will be no county elections in November and only state and federal general elections occur in November.

The May 1 and August 2 primary elections provide opportunities for you to clean house of these state and local officials who refuse to hold the line on these outrageous salaries.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and myself have voted to cut the pay of these 4 elected officials down to the state minimum, which is already much higher than it should be.

Questions to ask before heading to the polls on May 1 and August 2:
1) Why have local elected officials refused to cut the pay of these officials to the state mandated minimums?
2) Why have the state legislators continued funding huge increases for elected officials?
3) Why did Jerome Moon try to lead the commission to believe that these pay supplements weren’t optional?

Please consider these questions before casting your votes in the May 1 and August 2 elections.

East Tennessee Index 2014 figures for median household income:

What does this measure?
Median household income, adjusted for inflation. Half of households earn below the median, and half are above.

Why is this important?
Median household income is a gauge of overall economic health of the region and the financial resources of households.

How is our region performing?
In 2010-14, median household income in the region was $45,100, slightly higher than the state ($44,600) but lower than the nation ($53,500). Among local counties, median household income was highest in Loudon ($50,600) and Knox ($47,500) and lowest in Union ($36,000) and Monroe ($37,200). The region, state, and nation all saw their median income fall by double digits from 2000 to 2010-14 (down 12% in the region, 14% in the state, and 10% in the nation). Median income fell much faster in the region from 2005-09 to 2010-14 than in the nation and state (16% decrease in the region compared to a 6% decrease for the state and the nation). Among the counties, median household incomes decreased most from 2000 to 2010-14 in Sevier, Monroe and Blount (all 14%). Union experienced the smallest rate of decline (7%), but still has the lowest median household income in the region.

Notes about the data
Figures are presented in 2014 dollars. The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The bureau combined five years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census.

ETIndex.org 2014 figures for average annual salary:

What does this measure?
The average annual salary in a region in a given year, adjusted for inflation.

Why is this important?
Salaries are a gauge of overall economic health and a measure of the degree to which employees are sharing in the prosperity of a community. They also indicate the vitality of a region and its ability to compete and attract workers.

How is our region performing?
In 2014, the region’s average salary was $43,000, below the average for the state ($45,200) and the nation ($51,400). Since 2000, the region’s average salary increased by 6%, on par with growth nationally and but below statewide (7%). Roane County’s average annual pay grew by 26% over the same time period, more than any other county, while average salary fell in Blount and Sevier counties over that period (both less than 1% respectively). Between 2013 and 2014, the region’s average annual salary increased by 1%, on par with the state increase.

Notes about the data
Data presented in 2014 dollars.

Blount Memorial Hospital Transparency

With all the recent discussions about the hospital’s nonprofit embezzlement scandal and today’s coverage of the taxpayers being on the hook for hospital debt, it is worth taking a look at what I (Tona Monroe) wrote about the debt and lack of information provided by Blount Memorial Hospital in November 2016.  Some of you may recall that then Chairman Jerome Moon, who was appointed state representative by 16 yes men on the commission, cut me off for discussing information that the hospital should have been forthcoming with prior to asking the commission to approve refinancing its debt.

Mayor Ed Mitchell and Commissioner Dave Bennett are acting indignant now, but these two and most of the commissioners didn’t seem to be concerned about the taxpayers when they reauthorized putting the citizens on the hook for variable rate debt that have swaps attached.  You can listen to the meeting here and will hear Bennett objecting to my pointing out that approving the hospital’s variable debt means that the county will still be responsible for variable rate debt.

Furthermore, when two hospital board appointments came before the commission in January 2016, I moved to postpone it for a month so that we could learn more about the nominees’ plans for the hospital debt and vision for the future. (See page 3.)  The majority of commissioners didn’t seem to care enough to think we should discuss future plans for the hospital.

Thus, there are some who are acting indignant now but where was this concern when I tried to shed light on how the hospital was/is operating?

Those voting to approve the Blount Memorial Hospital Board nominees in January 2016
Allen – yes  Archer – yes  Bowers – yes  Carter – yes  Carver – yes  Caskey – yes  Caylor – yes  Cole – yes  Crowe – yes  Farmer – yes  Headrick – yes  Lewis – yes  Melton – yes  Moon – yes  Samples – yes  Stinnett – yes

Those voting not to approve the nominees in January 2016
Akard – no  Daly – no  Miller – no  Monroe – no

French was absent. There were 16 voting yes, 4 voting no, 0 abstaining, and 1 absent. Chairman Moon declared the appointments approved.

Those who voted to approve renewing the variable rate debt with interests rate swaps
Allen, Bennett, Carver, Caskey, Caylor, Cole, Crowe, Farmer, French, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples, Stinnett

Those who voted not to approve renewing the variable rate debt with interests rate swaps
Archer, Daly, Miller, Monroe

Those who were absent
Akard, Bowers, Carter

There were 14 voting yes, 4 voting no, 0 abstain, and 3 absent.  Chairman Moon declared the motion to have passed and the resolution adopted.

Local debt
The next time you hear that the county’s debt is finally fully fixed rate keep in mind that much of the hospital debt is variable, with swaps attached, and that you’re on the hook for it if the hospital defaults, thanks to a lackadaisical commission majority and mayor who didn’t demand more accountability and transparency from the hospital.

Rick Carver has a conflict of interest
Commissioner Rick Carver works for East Tennessee Medical Group, which is owned by Blount Memorial Hospital.  He has a conflict of interest and should have abstained on both of these votes.  He did not declare that he has a conflict of interest and voted yes on both.

Let freedom ring!

May 1, 2018 Local Election Issues

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio AM 1470 invited me to speak on his Sunday morning radio show to discuss important issues that you need to know about before voting in the upcoming May 1, 2018 local government primary election.  The interview was recorded so that you can listen to it and the slide show presentation is attached for your information and review.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of important local issues.  This is a good starting point in becoming informed for the upcoming May 1st primary election.

Let freedom ring!
Tona Monroe
Blount County Commissioner

May 1, 2017 local government primary election issues slides


Despite Setbacks, Liberty Will Prevail in 2018

by Ron Paul MD   Monday January 1, 2018

Happy New Year! We always approach a new year with anticipation, hope, and also some worries. Last year was one of the strangest political years I have seen in some time. A new Republican president spent his first year pursuing more or less the same foreign policy as his Democratic predecessor and the Democratic Party spent the year looking under every rock in the US for a “Russian connection” or any other reason to see him impeached over it.

The neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment on both the Left and Right were so furious that candidate Trump dared suggest we could get along with our “enemies” overseas that they jumped on the impeachment bandwagon — even though once he became president Donald Trump filled his Administration with neocons and began dropping bombs.

Like “peace candidate” Obama, Donald Trump quickly dropped his “get along with others” rhetoric to become just another aggressive, interventionist US president. He slammed missiles into Syria over unproven claims of a chemical attack, he built US military bases on Syrian soil, he dropped the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan, he continued helping Saudi Arabia destroy Yemen, he expanded the US military occupation of Africa, he put NATO troops on the border of Russia, did his best to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement and in fact may have just launched a “color revolution” on Iran, and continued rattling sabers over China’s presence in the South China Sea.

That tells us quite a bit about what’s wrong with American political life these days. The “opposition party” doesn’t really oppose the other party’s policies. They are just angry that other the party is in power. With no real philosophical or policy differences, politics is essentially pointless. It is a game of spoils for the well-connected and little more than a sporting event for the rest of the country. Everyone wants to see his team come out on top.

Still, I have much hope for 2018. I know we are continuing to make steady progress waking up the American people to the idea that ideas do matter! Our interventionist foreign policy, responsible for so much misery around the world, is not inevitable. Our destructive economic and monetary policies, which enrich the well-connected while impoverishing the rest of us, are not inevitable. The further destruction of our right to privacy, to live our lives as we see fit, to pursue our own happiness without the government looking over our shoulder, is not inevitable. We can turn this around!

In 2018 I strongly believe more Americans will wake up to the seriousness of the total debt the US is facing and will begin blaming Washington for pumping up the warfare-welfare state. I believe more Americans will understand the role of the Federal Reserve in facilitating this ocean of debt. We will continue to make progress toward ending the Fed!

While the media loves to tell us all about how the millennials are attracted to discredited ideas like Bernie Sanders’ socialism and the dead-end of cultural Marxism, I believe 2018 will demonstrate that young people are actually attracted to the ideas of liberty more than ever. Liberty is a new idea and a winning idea, while the twin tyrannies of socialism and cultural Marxism should remain in same dustbin of history they were tossed into more than 25 years ago.

In 2018 my Institute for Peace and Prosperity will be reaching more people than ever with plenty of new projects, events, and of course our daily Liberty Report! Yes, we will turn this around. Liberty will prevail!

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2018/january/01/despite-setbacks-liberty-will-prevail-in-2018/

Why Bob Corker Flipped To A ‘Yes’ On Tax Reform In One Simple Chart

chart credit: Mike Mish Shedlock

by Horatio Bunce

via ZeroHedge.com:

“On December 1 Senator Corker made this statement:

“But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations.”

Today Corker Tweets:

Senator Corker denies allegations of the “Corker Kickback”.

Corker initially told IBT that the new provision “sounds totally unnecessary and borderline ridiculous” but later admitted he doesn’t “really know what the provision does to be honest. I would need an accountant to explain it.” Last year, Corker made up to $7 million from real estate pass through companies he owns.

His story, however, hit a snag when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate Majority Whip, told ABC News that the provision that benefits real estate investors was added as part of an effort to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.”

When asked if the provision was added specifically to secure Corker’s vote, Cornyn dodged the question.

Corker Kickback Tweets


2017 Pork Report is Here!!

The Beacon Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee. Every year they publish what’s called “The Pork Report” detailing all the waste of taxpayer funds on the state and local level here in Tennessee. To see the report for 2017, Click Here.

As a side note: The state government has been under Republican control since 2011. You think it might be time to try Libertarians?

Speaking Freely with Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe was a guest speaker on Speaking Freely on 92.3 FM this evening.  She discussed her recent nomination of Scott Williams to replace Doug Overbey in the state senate, her political philosophy, the secrecy in purchasing that occurred with a state law passed last year and scamera and speeding tickets.

Nathan Keeble, Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, Joshua Eakle and Sherry “Voluntary” Clark

County Commissioners Daly, Miller and Monroe given Blount Patriot Eagle Awards at Bill of Rights dinner

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio AM 1470 hosted the 3rd annual Bill of Rights dinner in Alcoa today.  State Senate candidate Scott Williams was the keynote speaker, speaking about the history of states holding conventions to address problems.

Grothjahn presented the three ladies on the Blount County Commission, Commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe, with the Blount Patriot Eagle Award.  Grothjahn told the Blount County Commission last month that only the women on the commission are standing for righteousness in government.  The plaques feature an eagle and are engraved with a scripture from the book of Isiah.

Yet those who wait on the LORD will gain new strength: They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run and not get tired.  They will walk and not become weary.  -Isaiah 40:31

Commissioner Jamie Daly, Harry Grothjahn, Commissioner Karen Miller and Commissioner Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioners Tona Monroe, Jamie Daly & Karen Miller  and state Senate candidate Scott William


16 yes men make yes man Jerome Moon 8th district TN state representative

16 yes men on the Blount County Commission voted yesterday to make Jerome Moon, a yes man, the 8th district Tennessee state representative.  Moon joins Bob Ramsey and Art Swann, who were also Blount County Commissioners, in the state legislature.

Swamp creature and former Blount County Director of Accounts and Budgets (Finance Director), Commissioner Dave Bennett nominated Jerome Moon.  Commissioners Andy Allen, Archie Archer, Dave Bennett, Brad Bowers, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Shawn Carter, Mike Caylor, Tom Cole, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Scott King, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton and Tom Stinnett voted for Moon.

Commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted for James (Jim) Hammontree.  Hammontree was nominated by Commissioner Monroe.

Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.

Moon was asked less than 2 weeks ago by the local paper if he was interested in being considered for the house seat.  It appeared based on his response that he wouldn’t give a yes or no answer.  One has to wonder whether someone refusing to even tell the public and/or press, that close to the meeting, whether he wants to be considered for a position of authority will ever give a straight answer on the important issues that impact life, liberty and property.

Realizing that for the second time this month that the fix is in, Jim Hammontree is now focusing his efforts on replacing Mike Lewis on the commission who is currently a commissioner in the second commission district in Alcoa.  The district includes the Alcoa, Mentor, Oak Street and Pellissippi voting precincts.

Jerome Moon makes the 3rd commissioner out of the original 21 commissioners elected in 2014 (Caskey*, French and Moon were unopposed) who is no longer a member of the Blount County Commission.  The political machine made Jeff Headrick the Blount County Highway Superintendent in 2016 and Commissioner Steve Samples passed away earlier this year.

*Caskey was unopposed in the primary election because the incumbent died before the election.  He did have a write-in challenger in the general election.