Recipient of last year’s Eagle Award, then Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, will be the speaker at the 4th annual Truth Radio Bill of Rights Banquet on Tuesday December 18th. The topic of the speech will be Proof of Authority and the Proper Role of Government: The Foundation of a Constitutional Republic.
A dinner will be held at 7 PM at RJ’s Courtyard located at 3749 Airport Hwy, Louisville, Tennessee 37777. Book your meal by calling WBCR at 984-1470.
by Horatio Bunce
Will Bill Lee also join the ranks of Washington DC corporation Achieve Inc. like Haslam and Bredesen upon assuming office? Do they have all the board members and national co-chairs they need or is there any pimping of our children left to do?
The big government, gas tax increasing, oil baron, Republican governor of the great state of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, better known as Milquetoast the Cockroach for the strong resemblance and less than principled stances, has received a D rating from the Cato Institute for fiscal policies.
8 years of the anti-liberty, big spending roach has been more than enough. I look forward to him no longer infesting the governor’s mansion in the great state of Tennessee.
— Sal the Agorist (@SallyMayweather) November 2, 2018
— Sal the Agorist (@SallyMayweather) October 30, 2018
— Sal the Agorist (@SallyMayweather) October 31, 2018
— Sal the Agorist (@SallyMayweather) October 30, 2018
— Sal the Agorist (@SallyMayweather) November 1, 2018
As a follow up to the previous post about a voter being given the wrong ballot, Susan Hughes, Blount County Administrator of Elections, says nothing can be done to correct the voting error that occurred as a result of a voter being given the wrong ballot.
From: “Susan W Hughes” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, July 27, 2018 1:10pm
Cc: “All Elections” <email@example.com>, “Mark Goins” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
Subject: Re: FW: County Commission District
There is nothing that can be done to “correct the votes”. Once the “Cast Ballot” button is pressed, the voting is done. Again, we apologize for this mistake.
On Thu, Jul 26, 2018 at 11:54 AM, <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Dear Ms Hughes,
Thank you for the prompt reply and explanation. How do you intend to correct the votes that ______ cast in 10th district races and allow him to vote in the 7th district races?
Glad to see this. This law should be repealed. It was/is all about the $$$ money, as is the drivers license. This case talks about a right to drive. It’s worth reading this law review article on the right to drive.
Some have been touting how wonderful Blount County government is because of receiving three “clean” audits in row. That does sound good but as was recently pointed out here, audits don’t reflect assets well managed or monies well spent.
After discussion with a Polk County Commissioner, who shared with me that the state Comptroller’s Office has been using the same auditors for several years in Polk County, I reviewed Blount County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) and found that the same thing has occurred with Blount County’s audits.
Utilizing the same auditors for more than a decade is unacceptable. Familiarity between auditors and those being audited is not in the best interest of the taxpayers. Relationships can develop and those being audited learn what specific auditors are looking for and possibly more importantly what the auditors aren’t looking for.
To address that matter, I (Tona Monroe) have filed a resolution requesting new auditors for Blount County’s fiscal year 2018 audit. Audit reports for Blount County are available on the Comptroller’s website here.
A review of the audit reports from 2004 through 2017 shows that one auditor has participated in all 14 years of audits, another 13 out of 14 and another 9 out of 14 years. The situation in Polk County is similar to Blount County. 2 of the auditors have participated in all of the audits for the past 13 years.
Furthermore, the state legislature passed a law making the job performance evaluations of Comptroller’s Office employees confidential. The job performances of those tasked with looking out the taxpayers are secret. You aren’t allowed to know the quality of work they are doing. This open records exemption needs to be repealed.
Another problem that needs to be addressed is allowing Comptroller’s Office auditors to become local finance directors. Former Blount County Finance Director Dave Bennett worked for the Comptroller’s Office before working for the county. The same thing happened in Hamblen County with Joey Barnard. It’s not in the best interest of the taxpaying citizens to allow someone to be in charge of keeping your local government’s books when they could be friends with the state’s auditors, because they’ve worked with them in past. The positions of county finance directors and state auditors should not be a revolving door.
These issues involving auditors, finance directors are the Comptroller’s Office are ripe for reform to protect the people of Tennessee. Instead the Tennessee General Assembly went the other way by adding more secrecy when it sealed the performance evaluations from public view. One of Blount County’s state lawmakers, Representative Bob Ramsey, was the House sponsor of the legislation. Senator Ken Yager was the Senate sponsor. These two are waterboys for the Comptroller’s Office. It looks like we the people need to reform our state legislature by sending better lawmakers to Nashville.
2 called commission meetings to appoint state representative and state senator
Two commission meetings were called to meet in special sessions this month to fill state lawmaker vacancies. Doug Overbey resigned his Tennessee Senate seat to become the US Attorney of Eastern District of Tennessee.
A majority of commissioners chose Representative Art Swann. I (Tona Monroe) nominated Scott Williams. You can read more on that here.
Since Swann had to resign from his Tennessee House seat to become the new state senator, this created another vacancies to fill. 16 yes men on the Blount County Commission chose Commission Chairman Jerome Moon. I nominated Jim Hammontree, who has decided to run for Blount County Commission against three term incumbent Mike Lewis.
Neither of these were surprising because I had been told months in advance that the courthouse clique/GOP establishment/political machine of Blount County had this plan in the works.
Resolution urging repeal of fireworks ban
The commission approved a resolution urging state lawmakers from Blount County to repeal a private act that prohibits the possession, sale, manufacture, storing and use of pyrotechnics (fireworks) in Blount County. Read more about that in the November 2017 Commission Report.
Recommendations to Blount Memorial Hospital following embezzlement scandal
The Blount County approved a resolution making recommendations to the hospital following the Blount Memorial Foundation embezzlement scandal that revealed that foundation had not had a full audit for close to a decade. The recommendations that the commission adopted came from the Audit Committee. The recommendations include:
1. That the Blount Memorial Foundation have an annual audit every year going forward and this audit be conducted by a different firm than the firm that conducts the audit for Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc.
2. That the Blount Memorial Foundation and Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc., each have separate and distinct Board of Directors and that no members on one Board serve as a member of the other Board.
3. That Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc. obtain a different auditing firm to conduct their audit than the auditing firm that has been conducting their audits for the last several years and that they do so by seeking proposals through “Requests for Proposals”. Upon the proposals being received, the Blount County Audit Committee have input regarding who is to be chosen as the auditors for Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc.
There are other areas of concern with the hospital, such as its variable rate debt that Blount County’s taxpayers would be on the hook for if the hospital were to default on its debt. The hospital left much to be desired with the lack of information and the short time frame to make a decision in 2016 about extending the existing debt structure. Read more about that here.
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.
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.
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.
The agenda was lengthy this month, containing 17 items under new business (one added at the last minute) as well as items under the consent calendar and elections, appointments and confirmations. Some of the items won’t be covered in this commission report but you can ask any questions that you may have about those items in the comments section below. Commissioners Dave Bennett and Gary Farmer were absent.
The consent calendar contained a resolution titled “A RESOLUTION HONORING ALL VETERANS AND THE EMPLOYEES OF THE BLOUNT COUNTY VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE FOR THEIR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS.” In the September 2017 Commission Report, I explained why I frequently vote no on these resolutions honoring people. I abstained on this vote, which is something I rarely do. Many of our veterans are worthy of honor, which is why I abstained rather than voting no.
While the veterans are listed first in the title of the resolution, they are barely mentioned in the resolution. The resolution is mostly about the staff of the Blount County Veterans Affairs Office. This resolution really diminishes our veterans. Once again politicians were using their political office to honor government employees.
Some speak highly of Veterans Service Officer Nathan Weinbaum. That’s good that there are people who are happy with the job he is doing. However, he is being well paid for this job. His salary is substantially more than the average taxpayer in Blount County. Furthermore, he works in air an conditioned building and has great fringe benefits. He is already being rewarded by the taxpayers with the generous salary and benefits that he receives which exceed more than the majority live on. The people of Blount County are free to honor him anytime they so chose, without the Blount County Commission telling them to.
Donation for employee recognition
Item F4 on the agenda was a resolution to approve spending $1,500 donated to pay for a recognition luncheon for Blount County Sheriff’s Office employees. This is a much better way to honor those who people feel are doing good for the community, than the resolutions that the county commission passes. Actions like this speak louder than the commission’s words on paper.
Highway Department employee handbook – who has authority to approve it?
The commission was asked to approve updates to the Blount County Highway Department Employee Supplement Handbook. I questioned why the commission was voting on this when Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick has authority under TCA 5-23-103 to adopt a policy without commission approval.
“Any county official whose employees are governed by the base personnel policies adopted by the county legislative body shall have the right to adopt separate base personnel policies applicable to the employees of such official’s office by filing approved base personnel policies with the county legislative body in the same manner as set out in subsection (a), at the following times.”
Blount County government appears to have an authority problem. The sheriff did not bring the federal inmates contract to the county commission for approval before signing the contract. Yet, the commission is approving policies that state law says office holders have the authority to adopt without commission approval. If state law says an office holder has the authority to act, then commission should leave the responsibility to the office holder.
Fireworks ban repeal request
The possession, sale, manufacture, storing and use of pyrotechnics (fireworks) was made illegal in Blount County under a 1949 private act. Punishment can be severe, with fines ranging from $50-400 and/or jail time ranging from 30 days to 11 months and 29 days.
You can legally buy fireworks in Loudon County but you can’t bring them into Blount County legally. People routinely do this and the law isn’t being enforced. As such, the law either needs to enforced, repealed or amended to something more reasonable.
A letter from Blount County Sheriff James Berrong explains that the main complaint his office receives from fireworks is related to noise. Berrong’s suggestion is for the fireworks ordinance be rewritten to prohibit the use of fireworks between the hours of 11 PM through 7 AM.
The resolution requests that the Tennessee General Assembly repeal the private act. Chairman Moon declared that a 2/3rds majority of 14 votes was needed, and the resolution was postponed because of the uncertainty of whether a simple majority or a 2/3rds majority is required for a resolution requesting repeal of a private act. One has to wonder why Ron French, who questioned the number of required votes, didn’t know the answer since he is in the 4th year of his 4th term as a county commissioner.
Commission Mike Caylor topped himself this month by flying off the handle and pointing at Mike Akard after Akard spoke in favor of the resolution. Unfortunately that the commission video doesn’t zoom in close enough for the citizens to see Caylor’s disrespectful actions.
Purple Heart Highway
The commission passed a resolution supporting the designation of US Highway 321 through Blount County the Military Order Purple Heart Highway. The title of the resolution shows how sloppy the wording of resolutions can be.
The title reads, “RESOLUTION NAMING U.S. HIGHWAY 321/LAMAR ALEXANDER PARKWAY FROM LOUDON COUNTY/BLOUNT COUNTY LINE NORTH TO BLOUNT COUNTY/SEVIER COUNTY LINE THE MILITARY ORDER PURPLE HEART HIGHWAY.” The commission wasn’t actually renaming the 321 but rather showing support for the designation. The title of a resolution should reflect what the commission is actually doing. The title should have used the word requesting or supporting instead of making it read that the road would actually be given a new name.
Interlocal agreement between Blount County and the City of Friendsville
Item F14 is a resolution to approve an interlocal agreement between the county and Friendsville. The City of Friendsville is in my commission district but no one from the City of Friendsville contacted to discuss this matter before bringing it to the commission. I learned of the agreement when I read the Agenda Committee packet.
The agreement requires the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to enforce city ordinances that will be adjudicated in Blount County General Sessions Court. The agreement says, “this agreement shall extend until such time as the City requests and expresses their intent pursuant to the applicable statutes that their designated municipal ordinance is no longer to be prosecuted by the Sheriff and General Sessions Court.” This only mentions what happens if the city wants out of the agreement.
The resolution says, “this Interlocal Agreement is necessary and required by T.C.A. § 12-9-401 to provide for the appropriate court costs and costs of enforcement.” The fines collected go to the city, according to state law. The court costs are $177 for each city ordinance violation and are paid into the county’s general fund, except for processing fees collected by the clerk.
I inquired what would happen if the county needed to increase its costs for enforcement. No answer was provided. As such, I didn’t think it wise to approve something saying that the county would do something until Friendsville no longer wanted to continue, without knowing how the county could increase court costs if needed to cover its expenses.
Duty to report law
The county commission approved a resolution requesting that the Tennessee General Assembly enact legislation “to require a person to report a person in distress by calling 911 or a first responder.” This resolution is dangerous to liberty for many reasons.
While the resolution doesn’t mention the word crime, this is a request to make anyone who doesn’t call 911 (the government) or a first responder a criminal. A law without a penalty is usually just a suggestion. We need to be very careful about what we allow government to require us to report or be penalized if we don’t. If you see something, say something resulted in this family’s dog being killed by government.
Distress isn’t defined in the resolution. Thus, the commission didn’t know precisely what it asking the state legislature to outlaw.
Without a clear definition of what constitutes distress, it’s possible to envision a scenario where you’re driving down the road one day minding your own business and harming no one, pass a car on the side of the road and find yourself charged with a crime a few days later because you didn’t report the person inside the vehicle who was distressed. You could have been recorded with a government surveillance camera or an I-phone and you would then have to explain to a judge why you didn’t call 911.
The second whereas clause says, “a person who knows that another person is exposed to great physical harm and in need of assistance, and can give assistance without danger or peril to himself, should report the person in distress by calling 911 or a first responder.” This doesn’t appear to address those instances where the person rending aid is successful in resolving the problem. Why should someone who is rendering assistance be required to report their own help if it successful without further medical intervention?
What if someone is fearful of the government or medical practitioners? Is it right to report someone’s problem to 911, government or emergency responders if they don’t want their situation reported? What if the person being required to report is fearful of those they would be required to report to? Not everyone views assistance from the police, government and allopathic medicine practitioners as being productive or amicable. What if someone doesn’t think that reporting a distressed person to 911, government or emergency responders is the best course of action? This appears to request that individual judgement be criminalized.
This matter stems from the disappearance of Eric Ashby, a former Tennessee resident who moved to Colorado to hunt for a “chest containing treasure fit for a pirate,” that is thought to be buried in New Mexico. It is bizarre that the Blount County Commission was being asked to vote on a resolution asking for state law in Tennessee because someone from Tennessee moved to Colorado to hunt for a modern day pirate’s treasure that may be in the state of New Mexico.
Ashby disappeared after his raft capsized in the Arkansas River. Those with Ashby on the treasure hunting trip made it safely back to land but Ashby did not. None of those who returned safely reported Ashby’s emergency. Thus, the commission was asked to support the enactment of a new law because those with Ashby didn’t call police for help.
However that isn’t the whole story. It turns out that a bystander who witnessed the incident did report it to the police. Thus, it seems likely that the law Ashby’s family and friends are requesting would not have saved his life, unfortunately. I offer condolences to Ashby’s family and friends for his tragic loss of life but we don’t need to pass another law that could make criminals out of Tennesseans when it likely wouldn’t have saved Ashby’s life if it had been the law in Colorado.
The commission will be filling the Tennessee Senate seat vacated by Doug Overbey who was appointed the U.S. attorney for East Tennessee.
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
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.
Blount County Commissioners Andy Allen, Dave Bennett, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Scott King, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Tom Stinnett voted to replace Doug Overbey who recently resigned from the Tennessee Senate with (now former) Representative Art Swann. Swann was nominated by Commissioner Carver.
Commissioner Tona Monroe nominated Scott Williams. Commissioners Archie Archer, Karen Miller and Monroe voted for Williams.
Commissioners Mike Akard, Brad Bowers, Tom Cole and Jamie Daly were absent from the meeting.
Only Commissioners Miller and Monroe spoke during the discussion portion of the meeting with both sharing why they were voting for Williams. Monroe shared that Williams served his country through military service, is a gentleman and a class act. She said Swann had never returned any of her emails about concerns she had related to state laws and matters impacting local governments.
After the meeting, Jim Hammontree, who has picked up a petition to run for the seat currently held by district 2 Commissioner Mike Lewis, shared with BC Public Record and the local paper that the commission took a do nothing state representative and turned him into a do nothing state senator.
No surprise here. Overbey’s comment on the matter was reported here on BC Public Record a month ago.
Hopefully now we’ll finally be rid of him from the Tennessee General Assembly.