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February 2017 Commission Report

Agenda Committee
Spending increase rejected
The commission actually rejected a spending increase request from the schools for tennis court renovations.  This is the first spending request that this commission has rejected.

Commission meetings
State inmate revenue reported incorrectly

After the Tennessee Department of Corrections announced that it would transfer some of its state felons to state facilities, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office started providing the commission a monthly report showing the revenue that the county is receiving from the state for housing state felons.  The county receives $37 a day from the state of Tennessee but the reports have been incorrectly stating that the daily per diem rate is $37.50.  $37 a day is substantially less than the cost to the county for housing state sentenced felons.  Blount County Sheriff James Berrong told the commission last April that the state inmates are only a good deal for the state and that he doesn’t want to keep them.

Highway Department
The commission was asked to approve spending $800,000 of fund balance for the Blount County Highway Department (HD) in a special called meeting.  This request was deemed an emergency by Highway Superintendent (HS) Jeff Headrick, due to trucks being damaged by salt.

The request included 8 new single-axial diesel salt trucks and 4 trailers.  I asked how many salt trucks the HD has.  Headrick didn’t know.  Assistant Superintendent Chico Messer told the commission that the HD has 15.

A common sense fleet management policy would be to replace these trucks at the rate of 1 or 2 a year.  It doesn’t make sense to replace the majority of your fleet (8 of 15) in one budget year.  While this seems to be poor management on the part of the former Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap, it is also poor planning on the part of the new HS.  A slower, more consistent, replacement of the fleet allows for better budget planning and as well as use of the vehicles.

The HD had just purchased 2 new triple-axial trucks in December at a cost of $145,746.80 each.  There was a transfer for $35,000 in January for parts.

At the regular commission meeting, the commission was asked to approve $281,000 to purchase a pug mill and asphalt patching trailer as well as $120,000 for asphalt.  Commissioner Mike Akard asked if the $120,000 for asphalt was an emergency.  Headrick said that it was but no explanation was given as to why it wasn’t included in the special called meeting with the equipment purchase.

Additionally, there was a $13,579.46 request to increase salaries in the Highway Department.  Commissioner Dave Bennett asked for this item to be removed without providing an explanation for its removal.

The requests and purchases for equipment and parts total over $1.4M in less than 3 months.  This was too much too fast.

It makes sense to approve more money for asphalt because the county hasn’t been keeping up with its paving needs.  Headrick said that the $120K will pave an additional 2.25 miles of the 830 miles of local roads.  Additionally, I asked him for a list of roads that will be paved in the next year.  You can read that list here.

Taxpayers footed the lunch bill for the commission, the mayor and his staff and some highway employees for the special called meeting.  Meals paid for by the taxpaying citizens of Blount County have become all too common of a practice.

Ethra funding
The commission was asked to approve the use of local tax money to bail out a federally funded program.  This isn’t the first time that the federal government has failed to fund one of its programs.  Funding was cut and service was to be temporarily halted.  This is a good example of why the federal government shouldn’t be running programs.  There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to fund this program.

There were unanswered questions.  A commissioner who is a part of the courthouse clique said after the meeting that this matter wasn’t explained well to the commission.

As a county commissioner, it isn’t my job to vote to bail out unconstitutional, federal government programs.  Furthermore, not one person from my district called me and asked me to vote for this.  I was the only commissioner to vote no.

Workers compensation (comp) settlement
The commission was asked to approve a workers comp settlement because the settlement was more than $50,000.  The case had been ongoing for over 2 years.  I had asked for records related to the case back in December, primarily because I wanted to know the cost of the legal fees for the case, and was provided with nothing.  Since I didn’t receive anything, I called  Director of General Services Don Stallions and he told me that the legal fees for the case is about $75,000.

I told Mr. Stallions that the commission should, at a minimum, be provided with an annual report on the status of lawsuits and claims against the county, but ideally it should be provided quarterly.  He agreed and said that the information used to be provided in the past when the county had a committee dealing with these matters.  When I mentioned this at the commission meeting, Commissioner Bennett made a statement cautioning against releasing information.  Apparently the status quo of having nothing is acceptable to him, although I doubt he’d run a private business without having this information.

For almost a year, I have been trying to get records and information from Stallions regarding the status of law suits, claims and settlements.  To date he has provided me with nothing.  This lengthy delay is not out of sort.  A former commissioner shared with me that Mr. Stallions stalled him for 2 years on a request.

Jail RFQ purchasing meeting
After I publically criticized the secrecy created by a new purchasing law, the Purchasing Department held a meeting open to the public so three companies chosen in secret could give presentations as to why their company is the best to look at jail expansion or construction of a new facility.  No decisions were made at the meeting.  The selection of the company was done behind closed doors, to protect the integrity of the process, according to Purchasing Agent (PA) Katie Branham Kerr.  This means that the Tennessee General Assembly and the Purchasing Agent think that the public lacks the integrity to allow her to select a company openly.

The Evaluation Team/Screening Committee consisted of 4 of the 5 people that I named here.  Laurie Bell did not participate at the meeting.  Commissioner Mike Caylor missed two of the three presentations.

Presenters for Michael Brady Incorporated (MBI) said that Blount County has a better jail that most in the state and that Monroe County would love to have what we have today.

When asked what the county needs a presenter for Barber McMurry (BMA) said he didn’t know.  This affirms what I have been saying, that Blount County got the cart before the horse.  The Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) and the commission never identified what the county needed.

A presenter for Cope Architecture said he suggested a jail committee that would meet weekly during planning and construction.  His suggestion for the makeup of the committee is essentially what exists now with the BCCP.

Upon request, PA Branham Kerr informed me that MBI was chosen.  This is the same company that the schools are using that came back with a $66M proposal after originally estimating $40M.  The public wasn’t allowed to express concerns about a company that went way over what was originally estimated.  We’re told that your comments would have corrupted the integrity of the process.

It’s not surprising that MBI was chosen.  They’ve been watching this for years.  Roy Latham, an employee of MBI, has been attending commission meetings for years.  Commissioners receive a chocolate bar for Christmas from MBI.  Allowing them to be chosen in secret makes me wonder if MBI was a shoo-in all along.

Up next: “All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”  Indian Proverb

Blount County is facing two big renovation/building project: the 2 high schools and the jail.  These two matters could become very expensive, quickly.  Pay close attention to these matters.

The Purchasing Agent will make her recommendation for MBI to the BCCP on March 28th at 5:30 in room 430 at the courthouse.

2 of chairman’s picks for records committee work for local government

Last night the Blount County Commission voted to create an ad hoc committee to write an open records policy for Blount County government.  The committee will consist of 5 members: 3 appointed by Commission Chairman Jerome Moon and 2 appointed by Mayor Ed Mitchell.

Jerome Moon has chosen himself and Commissioners Grady Caskey and Mike Caylor.  Both Grady Caskey and Mike Caylor are local government employees.  Grady Caskey works for Blount County Schools and Mike Caylor works for the City of Maryville.  The 5 member committee will have at least 2 members who may have a tendency to favor the government over the citizenry.

Accessing entire commission meeting packets

The county recently purchased a new software system called Granicus to organize local government meetings.  Meeting packets use to be available on the county’s website as one file, for each meeting, that was indexed by individual items.  The new system divides documentation by agenda item and breaks the information down even further by document type.  However, it’s still possible to download the entire commission packet for those desiring the simplicity of the structure of the old system.

To access an entire commission meeting packet:
Visit https://blounttn.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx
Click on Meeting Details for Board of Commissioners.
On the new screen click, next to Attachments, click on Information for Commission Meeting Scheduled for (date)

Right now, the commission meeting is the only meeting that has an entire packet available without having to click on each agenda item separately.  Hopefully more committees will make entire meeting packets available in the future.  In the meantime, you can read the information available for each agenda item by clicking on the individual links.

 

 

Jail RFQ Evaluation Team/Screening Committee meeting Thursday at 8:30 AM

The jail evaluations will meet in the commission room on February 23rd at 8:30 AM to interview the 3 architectural firms that were chosen based on scoring of written qualifications.  These written qualifications and scores are currently secret due to a change in Tennessee purchasing law last year.  The public will still not be able to comment on the firms.  Purchasing Agent Katie Branham wrote of the interviews, “They are open to the public for observation only.”

Paper fails to mention that Comptroller’s Office doesn’t recognize $2 million in assignments

The article in today’s paper (Feb. 15, 2017) fails to mention that the Comptroller’s Office doesn’t recognize the assignments totaling $2 million related to the jail.  One would think that the paper would want the public to know this considering last year on September 7, 2016 the paper reported on the front page that the funds were assigned and not committed, trying to distinguish accounting terms.

From that story,

“’Assigned — not committed,’ Commissioner Chairman Jerome Moon said.”

and

“Vineyard said during Tuesday’s Blount County Budget Committee meeting. ‘I have assigned $1 million to public safety for the commission and this body to address whatever they need to address toward jail overcrowding.’”

The mayor and “management” don’t have the authority to express the county’s intent in assigning funds.  The paper should distinguish who has authority to express the county’s intent through assignments in the General Fund.

 

Jail RFQ Evaluation Team members revealed?

The local government purchasing procedures evaluating specialty/professional services was a reasonably open process until a change to state law last year which allows all local governments to close evaluation processes.  The law was a huge mistake and it should be immediately repealed.

Some of the comments that I have received related to the members of the jail Request for Qualifications (RFQ) Evaluation Team/Screening Committee members being secret include:

  • I feel like I am living in a communist country.
  • I can’t believe that they think the electorate shouldn’t be able to talk to the team members.
  • I can’t see any good in this law.

The week before last an article in the paper confirmed that a “citizen” is indeed serving as an evaluator.  I wrote about the delay due to a search for a citizen here.  This appears to deviate from the RFQ that was issued.  Page 16 says that the Screening Committee will consist of members of the county legislative body and Sheriff’s Office.

“The proposals will then be given to a Screening Committee consisting of members of the county legislative body and Sheriff’s Office. This committee will evaluate the proposals and determine the top proposals.”

The theory behind the new secret government law is that keeping the evaluators insulated through secrecy protects the integrity of the process by preventing undue influence.  However, this process surrounding the jail never had any integrity to begin with.  Furthermore, if the evaluators are so weak as to be influenced by some comments from the public and architectural firms then better, stronger people need to be selected.  Weak choices don’t justify secret government.  Purchasing Departments aren’t the CIA.

The Tennessee Senate sponsor of this new law, Senator Ken Yager, has chosen to block me on Twitter rather than return my phone calls and listen to the reasons why the law should be repealed.  Yager refuses to even have a discussion on the matter.  Thus, in protest of the law and to provide transparency to a secret process, I am releasing what I believe to be the names of the Evaluation Team.

It is possible that these aren’t the evaluators and that I was given bad information.  If not, some much needed sunshine is now being added to a issue that has been far too secretive.

Without further ado, the names provided to me are:

Blount County Commission Mike Caylor
Blount County Deputy Chief Chris Cantrell
Blount County Director of General Services Don Stallions
Blount County Purchasing Technician Lori Bell
Blount County Citizen C. Sterling

For those that are fairly new to the issue, please take the time to become informed.  Read the articles provided below.

On the manufactured overcrowding crisis and keeping state felons
Are counties required to keep felons sentenced to more than a year?
Commissioner Tona Monroe calls for immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.
Tennessee AG opinion 16-21

Sheriff signed a contract to house federal inmates without commission approval
Tennessee Comptroller’s Office says it can find no specific statutory authority for a sheriff to sign a contract to house federal inmates without commission approval

$2 million jail/public safety assignment never approved by the commission
Comptroller’s Office says it doesn’t recognize assignments totaling $2 million in funds for jail
Audit report says Blount County Commission has the authority to assign General Fund

Tennessee Corrections Institute can’t shut the jail down
http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/TCIAuthorityLetter.pdf

TCI employee bullies public and pushes counties into building
Bob Bass of TCI tells press and citizens to turn cameras off: Shows them video already on YouTube
March 2016 Commission Report

A 30 year emergency that the legislature fails to address?
Tennessee General Assembly often nonresponsive to needed and responsible reforms

Fire Marshall on inmate classification
Types of inmates don’t influence State Fire Marshal’s decision to shut jail down

Cost to house federal inmates
Purchasing Agent & Director of General Services chose $65K consultant over $18.5K option
Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have form used to determine inmate costs

Can we believe anything that is said?
Sheriff Berrong said he doesn’t want to keep state prisoners and they’re only a good deal for the state
Is someone not telling the truth?

Does lawful authority mean anything?
Purchasing Agent explains her duties when it suits the machine
Comptroller’s Office says it doesn’t recognize assignments totaling $2 million in funds for jail
Tennessee Comptroller’s Office says it can find no specific statutory authority for a sheriff to sign a contract to house federal inmates without commission approval

No answers?
Why were federal inmates removed from the Blount County jail?

Observations and suggestions ignored?
Former Sheriff’s Chief Clerk wrote letter to the Mayor on jail overcrowding

Media bias?
The series of articles has begun

Conflicts of interest on the Blount County Corrections Partnership
March 2016 Commission Report

Making money keeping inmates?
Sheriff Berrong said he doesn’t want to keep state prisoners and they’re only a good deal for the state
Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have form used to determine inmate costs

Blount County debt and liabilities
$228,646,423 in total liabilities according to the 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (page 24)

Secret purchasing procedures
Interview on new RFQ/RFP exemption to Tennessee Open Records Act
Two wrongs don’t make a right: State RFP purchasing process shouldn’t be secret either
New secret purchasing law

Urge the Tennessee General Assembly to repeal the secret purchasing laws governing state and local purchasing procedures.

“Ken Yager” <sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.paul.bailey@capitol.tn.gov, “Mae Beavers” <sen.mae.beavers@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.mike.bell@capitol.tn.gov, “Janice Bowling” <sen.janice.bowling@capitol.tn.gov>, “Richard Briggs” <sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.rusty.crowe@capitol.tn.gov, “Steven Dickerson” <sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.todd.gardenshire@capitol.tn.gov, “Mark Green” <sen.mark.green@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.dolores.gresham@capitol.tn.gov, sen.ferrell.haile@capitol.tn.gov, sen.thelma.harper@capitol.tn.gov, sen.lee.harris@capitol.tn.gov, sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov, “Ed Jackson” <sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov>,  “Jack Johnson” <sen.jack.johnson@capitol.tn.gov>, “Brian Kelsey” <sen.brian.kelsey@capitol.tn.gov>, “Bill Ketron” <sen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.sara.kyle@capitol.tn.gov, sen.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov, “Becky Massey” <sen.becky.massey@capitol.tn.gov>,
lt.gov.randy.mcnally@capitol.tn.gov, sen.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov, “Mark Norris” <sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov>, “Doug Overbey” <sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.kerry.roberts@capitol.tn.gov, “Steve Southerland” <sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.john.stevens@capitol.tn.gov, sen.reginald.tate@capitol.tn.gov, sen.jim.tracy@capitol.tn.gov, sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov, sen.jeff.yarbro@capitol.tn.gov

rep.raumesh.akbari@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.beck@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harry.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sheila.butt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov, rep.karen.camper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dale.carr@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, rep.glen.casada@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ray.clemmons@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jim.coley@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barbara.cooper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.crawford@capitol.tn.gov,
rep.michael.curcio@capitol.tn.gov, rep.martin.daniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barry.doss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.dunn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.eldridge@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jeremy.faison@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andrew.farmer@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joanne.favors@capitol.tn.gov, rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.forgety@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.gant@capitol.tn.gov, rep.brenda.gilmore@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tilman.goins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.marc.gravitt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ga.hardaway@capitol.tn.gov, speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.hawk@capitol.tn.gov, rep.patsy.hazlewood@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gary.hicks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.timothy.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.matthew.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.holsclaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bud.hulsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.darren.jernigan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sherry.jones@capitol.tn.gov, rep.roger.kane@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kelly.keisling@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sabi.kumar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.william.lamberth@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mary.littleton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.lollar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harold.love@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov, rep.susan.lynn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.pat.marsh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.judd.matheny@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.matlock@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bo.mitchell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.debra.moody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.antonio.parkinson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.pitts@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.pody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.powell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.powers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ragan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jay.reedy@capitol.tn.gov, rep.courtney.rogers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov, rep.cameron.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jerry.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.eddie.smith@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.sparks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.rick.staples@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.stewart@capitol.tn.gov, rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bryan.terry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.towns@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.travis@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnnie.turner@capitol.tn.gov, rep.micah.vanhuss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sam.whitson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tim.wirgau@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.zachary@capitol.tn.gov, tracey.vance@capitol.tn.gov,

January 2017 Commission Report

Commission meeting
The agenda was light this month.  The same Budget Committee members were reappointed for another year.  Members include Commissioner Mike Caylor, Sharon Hannum, Commissioner Mike Lewis, Mayor Ed Mitchell and Commissioner Jerome Moon.  These are the same people who presented a “balanced” budget to the commission by upping the revenue projections for housing state inmates rather than reducing spending.  The current budget is funded with a property tax rate that is 16% higher than it was two years ago and a local option sales tax that that is 22% higher than it was 2 years ago.

The commission got its first official meeting experience with the new IT system.  The old system was much simpler to use.  We’re told this will make it easier for the county to do business in the long run.

Information Technology (IT) Committee meeting
The IT Committee meeting was canceled.  I still haven’t received the IT timeline that I asked for many months back.

Up next
The mayor has called a commission meeting to be held in the training room of the Highway Department at the Operations Center on February 6th at noon.  The Highway Superintendent is requesting approval to spend $800,000 of fund balance for an “Emergency Purchase” of 4 equipment floats and 8 dump trucks.

The jail evaluations will meet in the commission room on February 23rd at 8:30 AM to interview the 3 architectural firms that were chosen based on scoring of written qualifications.  These written qualifications and scores are currently secret due to a change in Tennessee purchasing law last year.  The public will still not be able to comment on the firms.  Purchasing Agent Katie Branham wrote of the interviews, “They are open to the public for observation only.”

Audit report says Blount County Commission has the authority to assign General Fund

Page 57 of the recently released audit for fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016) says that Blount County Commission has the authority to assign the General Fund and that the School Board has the authority to assign the General Purpose Schools Funds Fund.  There is no mention of the Director of Accounts and Budgets, commonly referred to as the Finance Director, or the Fiscal Administrator for Blount County Schools having or sharing the authority to assign fund balance.

“Assigned Fund Balance – includes amounts that are constrained by the county’s intent to be used for specific purposes, but are neither restricted nor committed (excluding stabilization arrangements). The County Commission and the Board of Education are authorized bodies to make assignments for the primary government and the School Department, respectively. Assigned fund balance in the General Fund and the General Purpose School Fund consists of amounts assigned for encumbrances at June 30, 2016.”

Paper reported that Blount County Animal Shelter has about 250 active volunteers

According to the paper, there are about 250 active volunteers who donate their time at the Blount County Animal Shelter (BCAS).  When you add these 250 volunteers to the approximately 1,800 people on local probation, 700 on state probation and 300 inmates in the local jail (excluding federal inmates), that brings the total to about 3,000 people that the BCAS can look to obtain workers from.  It becomes nearly impossible for anyone to believe that the BCAS can’t find 2 people amongst 3,000 to clean the kennels.

Two wrongs don’t make a right: State RFP purchasing process shouldn’t be secret either

One of the points that some will make in defending the recent change to the open records law, exempting qualifications and proposals while they’re being evaluated by a secret screening committee, is that the state has been operating that way.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Here is a good example of a controversial issue that has been shrouded in secrecy.  The state should open its purchasing procedures to the public.  The fact that the state has been operating in secret is not a good reason to justify allowing local government purchasing procedures to operate in secret.

The Yager/Calfee exemption law should be repealed.  The law allowing secret state purchasing procedures should also be repealed.

Contact Senator Ken Yager sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov and Representative Kent Calfee rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov to repeal the secret purchasing practices.

 

Comptroller’s Office says it doesn’t recognize assignments totaling $2 million in funds for jail

Regarding the jail we’ve learned of a secret $2 million plan, a contract signed without commission approval, inmates filling our jail that we don’t have to keep, a company being paid 3.5 times more than the lowest offer, a purchasing agent writing a resolution about the jail that failed to mention the word jail in the resolutionthe inspecting authority (TCI) having no authority to shut the jail down but pushing the county to build and its Corrections Partnership Coordinator bullying people attending public meetings.  Now we learn that the $2 million in assignments for the jail are not recognized by the Comptroller’s Office (see below).

Is there anything regarding the jail that can be trusted?  The public trust has been broken.  The public has good reason to be very skeptical and cautious of anything presented to it regarding the jail, regardless of what the courthouse clique calls it (i.e. Transitional Facility).

What we see now is that there are essentially two sets of books: the lawful set of books recognized by the state and a second set of books by the courthouse clique.  How many other slush funds are there in the courthouse clique’s 2nd set of books?

This all makes the case of why one more layer of secret bureaucracy through the Purchasing Department should not be tolerated.  The evaluation process of qualifications should not be done in secret and the Yager/Calfee exemption law should be repealed.

Contact Senator Ken Yager sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov and Representative Kent Calfee rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov to repeal the secret purchasing practices.

 

Here is my correspondence with Jim Arnette, the Director of the Division of Local Government Audit in the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury.

—–Original Message—–
From: “Jim Arnette” <Jim.Arnette@cot.tn.gov>
Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2017 2:07pm
To: “tona@breezeair.net” <tona@breezeair.net>
Cc: “Justin Wilson” <Justin.Wilson@cot.tn.gov>, “Bryan Burklin” <Bryan.Burklin@cot.tn.gov>, “Mark Treece” <Mark.Treece@cot.tn.gov> Subject: RE: Who authorized assigning this $2 million?

Ms. Monroe,

We found no documentation that the county commission has adopted a resolution or policy clearly giving management the authority to assign fund balance for external reporting purposes. Therefore, we have not recognized these assignments in the financial statements in the annual financial report that we issue with our audit opinion. Although we do not recognize the authority for management to assign fund balance for external reporting purposes, this would not necessarily preclude management from recognizing assignments on their internal records as a management planning tool.

Jim Arnette, CGFM, CISA
Director
Comptroller of the Treasury
Division of Local Government Audit
1500 James K. Polk Building
Nashville, Tennessee  37243-1402
615.401.7841 

From: tona@breezeair.net [mailto:tona@breezeair.net]
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2016 12:57 PM
To: Jim Arnette <Jim.Arnette@cot.tn.gov>
Cc: Justin Wilson <Justin.Wilson@cot.tn.gov>
Subject: Who authorized assigning this $2 million?

Dear Director Arnette,

Last year, I learned about a secret plan by Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell and Sheriff James Lee Berrong to set aside $2 million, $1 million last year and another $1 million this year, through contact with and in records of the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI).  The September 2, 2015 meeting minutes of the TCI Board of Control are attached for your review.  The part relevant to Blount County is found on page 7.  

“Since that time, the mayor is on board 100 percent and called the sheriff the previous day and told the sheriff that one million dollars had been escrowed and earmarked for a new jail and plan to do the same thing next year.”   

When I inquired about whether $1 million had been set aside by the Mayor without telling the public or the Blount County Commission, Blount County Finance Director Randy Vineyard informed me that yes $1 million had been assigned.  He provided me a paper copy of the March 2009 Governmental Accounting Standards Board Document referencing Statement 54.  That document is found here:  http://www.gasb.org/cs/BlobServer?blobkey=id&blobwhere=1175820452832&blobheader=application/pdf&blobcol=urldata&blobtable=MungoBlobs  

Under the classification Assigned is says,  

“Assigned fund balance comprises amounts intended to be used by the government for specific purposes. Intent can be expressed by the governing body or by an official or body to which the governing body delegates the authority. In governmental funds other than the general fund, assigned fund balance represents the amount that is not restricted or committed. This indicates that resources in other governmental funds are, at a minimum, intended to be used for the purpose of that fund.”

The words “or by an official or body” are underlined because they were underlined on the copy provided to me. 

Paragraph 13 of Statement 54 says much the same thing.

“Assigned Fund Balance

  1. Amounts that are constrained by the government‘s intent to be used for specific purposes, but are neither restricted nor committed, should be reported as assigned fund balance, except for stabilization arrangements, as discussed in paragraph 21. Intent should be expressed by (a) the governing body itself or (b) a body (a budget or finance committee, for example) or official to which the governing body has delegated the authority to assign amounts to be used for specific purposes.

What I want to know and hope that your office will tell me is when did the governing body delegate the authority to assign these funds to the Mayor and/or Finance Director?  Please let me know if there is a state statute that allows for this.  If there is no state law, when did the Blount County Commission delegate this authority to the Mayor and/or Finance Director.

 

I await your response and wish you a happy new year.

 

Sincerely,
Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioner