by Horatio Bunce
If the commission votes to approve the budget on its agenda next week, the taxpaying citizens of Blount County will be paying $96,717 more in salaries and benefits than the state mandated minimums for four elected officials. Blount County Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher and Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick will make 10% above the state minimums. Sheriff James Lee Berrong and Mayor Marvin Ed Mitchell will both make 32% more than the state mandated minimums. The sheriff’s additional pay of $30,603 could be used to fund an additional deputy or give $1,000 pay raise to 30 employees.
During the last two annual budget discussions, I (Tona Monroe) tried to cut the salary supplements from the budget bringing the pay for these 4 elected officials down to the state minimums. Both times only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to reduce the pay. Last year Jerome Moon argued that the commission had to pay the sheriff more but did not state the law requiring an additional pay supplement. These pay supplements aren’t required.
Meanwhile the mayor, Governor Bill Halsam, Lord of Croynism Randy Boyd and Gentlemen of the Bedchamber Byran Daniels have been busy getting their pictures in the paper for job creation. The local rag is happy to serve as their PR firm.
The Tennessee General Assembly has been largely nonresponsive to reforming salaries that are double, triple and quadruple the average annual salary. Most of them don’t feel your pain. Many voted for the gas tax and most voted for Haslam’s bloated budget.
|Mayor – Mitchell||132,550||must make 5% more than Sheriff||100,416||32,134||6207||38,341||101|
|Circuit Court Clerk* – Hatcher||95,635||other elected officials plus 10% for more than 1 court||86,941||8,694||1716||10,410||101|
|Sheriff – Berrong||105,199||must make 10% more than highest general elected official (CCC)||95,635||30,603||5914||36,517||101|
|Highway – Headrick||105,199||must make 10% more than highest general elected official (CCC)||95,635||9,564||1885||11,449||131|
Figures provided by Angelie Shankle, Budget Manager for Blount County government.
The Beacon Center created a tool to examine school spending and growth rates from 2004-2014.
According to the reported generated by the tool, the Blount County School District saw a 71% increase in administrative costs, an 11% increase in teachers and a 21% increase in administrators from 2004-2014 but the number of students dropped 0.2% during this time.
Are your tax dollars being used wisely?
For comparison during the same time period, Alcoa and Maryville School Districts both had a decrease in administrators while the rest of the data provided, including students, increased.
The debt amount in this report does not accurately reflect the full debt costs of the schools because most of the debt for the schools is paid for out of the Debt Service Fund and not the General Purpose Schools Fund.
Agenda and Commission Meetings
This was a light month for the Blount County Commission. The agenda was short. There was a zoning request that was had no objections and the commission voted to approve its minutes and receive reports.
The only thing of significance that happened was the commission moved the regular meeting time of 7 PM to 4 PM. This was likely because the Republican Party of Blount County scheduled its Lincoln Day dinner for the same night at 6 PM. Commissioner Dave Bennett had the item placed on the agenda for the Agenda Committee but he wasn’t present at the meeting to explain his request. He is the former chairman of the local Republican Party.
Would the all Republican commission change the meeting time for the Blount County Democratic or Libertarian Parties? The Information Technology Committee meeting, which was scheduled for 6 PM the same night, was also canceled. I was the only commissioner present to vote against catering to the local Republican Party.
Paper takes down a story related to jail expansion
Last month I wrote about the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) cutting me off and not letting me do the job that I was elected to do: ask questions and get answers related to jail expansion in order to make an informed decision. This month the paper removed a story from its website that it wrote related to my research and questions about this endeavor.
Blount County Tax Revolt, a local citizens group, asked me to come speak about the BCCP cutting me off and explain what I was prohibited from asking and what I had hoped to learn by asking questions. A reporter for The Daily Times was present at the meeting and a story was written. The story did not appear in the print edition but it was online with a link on the homepage of the paper’s website until the early afternoon when it was taken down.
The Daily Times has twice published that the Purchasing Department had an open meeting related to the jail RFQ. This cherry picked reporting is a disservice to this community. Most of the purchasing process related to the selection of a firm was done in secret because of a new state law. It seems that the paper is more interested in publishing the talking points of the courthouse clique than it is evaluating a new law that made what was formerly an open process largely secret. This law coupled with the actions of the BCCP have made my job more difficult than it should be.
At the March BCCP meeting, Purchasing Agent Katie Branham Kerr said that she would have to refer to her notes when I asked her who she had contacted in Loudon County when consulting references for the architectural firm Michael Brady Inc. (MBI). I requested a copy of her notes and all communications records that she had with other governmental entities related to MBI. Kerr informed me that she has no communications records related to MBI.
She says that she did contact someone at Loudon County regarding MBI but can’t remember who she spoke with or what office/department this person works in. I checked with the Loudon County Mayor’s Office to see if anyone had any recollection of speaking to Kerr or anyone from Blount County related to MBI. Anita Green with the Loudon County Mayor’s Office responded with, “I have spoken with several department heads and none have any recollection of speaking with anyone from Blount County.”
I’ll likely write more on this in the future.
Spectra Recycling Center to close
Blount County has been fortunate to enjoy having recycling services provided free of charge by a private company. Spectra will be closing its recycling center on May 1st. Spectra has provided recycling services free to city and county residents for 17 years.
While some recycling materials are profitable others are not. The demand for glass is low and many governments that provide recycling services have stopped collecting it during garbage pick up.
In 2015, I served on an ad hoc committee that looked at recycling options for Blount County. You can read the report issued by the chairman of that committee here.
If the county were to provide recycling, there will be costs associated with that service. We had a valuable service being provided by a private business. I don’t know if that service could have continued but I do wish that possibility had been fully explored before looking to provide a new county service. Do you support using your tax dollars for the county to provide recycling?
Open Records Policy
The commission will soon vote on an open records policy. Those who are interested in open government and obtaining or inspecting records will want to pay close attention to this.
Written by Ron Paul
“I love Wikileaks,” candidate Donald Trump said on October 10th on the campaign trail. He praised the organization for reporting on the darker side of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was information likely leaked by a whistleblower from within the Clinton campaign to Wikileaks.
Back then he praised Wikileaks for promoting transparency, but candidate Trump looks less like President Trump every day. The candidate praised whistleblowers and Wikileaks often on the campaign trail. In fact, candidate Trump loved Wikileaks so much he mentioned the organization more than 140 times in the final month of the campaign alone! Now, as President, it seems Trump wants Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sent to prison.
Last week CNN reported, citing anonymous “intelligence community” sources, that the Trump Administration’s Justice Department was seeking the arrest of Assange and had found a way to charge the Wikileaks founder for publishing classified information without charging other media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post for publishing the same information.
It might have been tempting to write off the CNN report as “fake news,” as is much of their reporting, but for the fact President Trump said in an interview on Friday that issuing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange would be, “OK with me.”
Trump’s condemnation of Wikileaks came just a day after his CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, attacked Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service.” Pompeo accused Assange of being “a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”
Pompeo’s word choice was no accident. By accusing Wikileaks of being a “hostile intelligence service” rather than a publisher of information on illegal and abusive government practices leaked by whistleblowers, he signaled that the organization has no First Amendment rights. Like many in Washington, he does not understand that the First Amendment is a limitation on government rather than a granting of rights to citizens. Pompeo was declaring war on Wikileaks.
But not that long ago Pompeo also cited Wikileaks as an important source of information. In July he drew attention to the Wikileaks release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, writing, “Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down?”
There is a word for this sudden about-face on Wikileaks and the transparency it provides us into the operations of the prominent and powerful: hypocrisy.
The Trump Administration’s declaration of war on whistleblowers and Wikileaks is one of the greatest disappointments in these first 100 days. Donald Trump rode into the White House with promises that he would “drain the swamp,” meaning that he would overturn the apple carts of Washington’s vested interests. By unleashing those same vested interests on those who hold them in check – the whistleblowers and those who publish their revelations – he has turned his back on those who elected him.
Julian Assange, along with the whistleblowers who reveal to us the evil that is being done in our name, are heroes. They deserve our respect and admiration, not a prison cell. If we allow this president to declare war on those who tell the truth, we have only ourselves to blame.
by Horatio Bunce
Silly peasant taxpayers….don’t you know that party comes before principles? Especially when your precious party has a super-duper majority. It would really be embarrassing if your party didn’t “win”.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville with his finger in the wind regarding Haslam’s Gasolinazo:
Williams did not announce the results of the straw poll, and said that the goal is to make sure members don’t have a (sic) to make a politically difficult vote on a bill that might not pass.
“If we know that the bill is having trouble, it’s my job as the caucus chair to make sure you don’t vote on something that will fail,” he said. (bolded for emphasis)
by Horatio Bunce
State Representative Susan Lynn has an email newsletter called the Weekly Wrap. She has recently taken time off from selling Gov. Haslam’s re-branding of Common Core in Tennessee to selling Gov. Haslam’s massive fuel tax increases called the IMPROVE Act, while ignoring the $2 BILLION surplus in over-taxation the state is currently burdened with. Rep. Lynn engages in some….interesting….mathematics in justifying Haslam’s fuel tax increase to declare it “pocketbook neutral”. Meanwhile the Transportation Department is, like the Common Core tactic that worked so well, simply renaming the massive tax increase measure the “Tax Cut Act of 2017“.
As Rep. Lynn insults our intelligence to a slightly lesser degree than “Boss” Doss, I’ll give her a pass as she is from The North™ and possibly thinks us dumb hillbillies would actually use Common Core Math. Since she asked, here’s my calculation on the “Tax Cut Act of 2017”. From her Weekly Wrap:
“Improve Act Close to Floor Vote
The House is close to voting on the Improve Act – I want to know what you think. Please email me to let me know.
“The Improve Act is revenue neutral and now pocketbook neutral for most people. It will lower the sales tax on food a full percent or $1 for each $100 you spend at the store. It will also lower the Hall Income tax and the Franchise and Excise Tax on factories. It will raise the gas 6 cents or if you have a 15 gallon tank – or .90 cents a fill up. If you don’t drive a gas vehicle, it will raise the a (sic) diesel tax and impose a $100 annual registration fee for an electric vehicle.”
So as long as gas prices do not increase and you spend 3:1 food vs. fuel, then it is “pocket book neutral” as long as “most people” maintain this ratio of course. I think “most” still means more than 50% even in Common Core Mathspeak. Of course, if you are buying diesel and need 15 gallons, it will cost an additional $0.12/gallon or $1.80. Oops, there went that pocketbook thingy. I guess I need to buy another $90 in groceries so I can “save” $0.90 to keep your fuel tax increase “neutral”?
But who cares about diesel anyway? What? Oh. The truck drivers. You mean the ones that deliver just about everything you buy at the mega-lo-mart, corporate welfare queens Amazon and FedEx……and the grocery? Yeah, those diesel trucks. Gee, I wonder what that 71% increase in the diesel fuel tax will do to that $100 grocery bill you used to have? Hint: they generally have larger than 15-gallon fuel tanks and lower fuel mileage than your personal car. What will the additional 33% increase in the gasoline tax mean for your grocery budget? I am wondering if the “leadership” Republicans are really this short-sighted or if they are only counting on you being easily fooled?
Conveniently left out of the discussion are the huge cuts to the Hall Income Tax ($102.1M) and cuts to Franchise Taxes ($122.3M), which when combined with the forecast reduction in sales tax on food give a total cut of $279.2M. In other words, the proposed $1 savings on your groceries sales tax only amounts to 19.6% of the “cuts” that we have to pass massive fuel tax increases to make “revenue neutral”.
Then we move on to use of the term “user fees” instead of that bad word “taxes” and explain that “user fees” should be paid by those using the roads, but then despite her photo at the top of the newsletter with “No Socialism” prominently displayed, we are taught that Some Socialism is acceptable when it comes to taxes (or they are not good Republican principles – kind of hard to tell which):
“Why lower some taxes while raising other taxes? Government uses fund accounting. Some taxes go into the General Fund and other taxes go into the Highway Fund. The taxes in the Highway Fund are all user fees – so if you drive – you pay for the roads, and you pay for them in proportion to how much you use them.
Paying for government by use of user fees is a good Republican principle. Much of government is not user fees but subsidized through the General Fund taxes because some things cannot be paid for by use of user fees. For instance, K – 12 education – most families could never pay all of what it costs to educate their children. TennCare too is a subsidy to the recipient – because the poor cannot pay for their care. Higher education is part user fee and part subsidized – students pay tuition (user fee) but they pay less than half of what their education actually costs – the tax payers through the General Fund subsidize the rest, and they also subsidize the buildings and maintenance for the buildings.”
Wow, for a second there, I thought a sacred cow was getting slaughtered. No, I guess not everyone can afford $10,000 each for their 1.8 kids to go to “free” government school when the average household income is less than $50k and 25% or more of us qualify for food stamps. But maybe we could figure out how multiple private schools provide an education for 40% less, rather than using the super-inflated “free” schools’ price to justify another tax increase. Here’s a little food for thought. Let’s say the “free” schools could cut only half the difference in price to a mere $8000/student/year : $2000 * 1,000,000 public school students = $2,000,000,000 EVERY YEAR.
And the higher education language…students pay less than half of what education costs. Gee, after 13 YEARS (plus any pre-K) of “free” education why should they start paying for it at all? This is more divide-the-people obfuscation since of course everyone paying for tuition (or not) is a taxpayer paying for higher education (and their 20% inflation rates). Even when the students graduate, they pay taxes the rest of their lives in Tennessee. Now that community college is “free”, just wait to see how much it costs!
“So the Governor hopes to lower several taxes in the General Fund thus eliminating the surplus and effectively shifting the surplus to the Highway Fund by raising the user fee taxes. The plan is for all of this reduction and shifting to be as revenue neutral as possible to as many tax payers as possible.
Truly, every person and family will have their own calculous (sic). So please, take out a pencil and paper and do your own math.”
After justifying this massive fuel tax increase with people buying $100 in groceries and not being able to afford public school costs, the lion’s share of the tax breaks are the Hall Income Tax and Franchise Tax folk. Is that really helping “most people” or “as many tax payers as possible”? Because the rest of you dupes will be paying more for your fuel AND more for the same groceries, which means….your grocery sales tax cut is ALSO REVENUE NEUTRAL.
STOP WITH THE LIES ALREADY! IT’S A TAX INCREASE ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT!
I’m attaching 3 reports and the explanations are listed below. This week the legislative process peaked out and has started to slow down.
Report “A” shows 11 bills in C&R that have not been put on notice, 70 bills on the move next week and 1 Senate bill scheduled for C&R 4/20/17.
Report “B” shows 46 bills have passed, 10 bills have failed and 8 bills have been withdrawn.
Report “C” shows 52 Senate bills have been placed in General Sub, 28 House bills have been take off notice, 5 bills have been deferred until next year, 7 House bills have been placed behind the budget, 3 House bills are waiting for a special committee, 4 bills have been recommended for summer study and 1 house bill has been set for the last calendar for Finance sub..
The bills that are in General Sub could be put on notice any day and the House bills that are off notice can be put on notice any day except the bills assigned to committees that have been shut down.
Thanks and have a great weekend,
The commission recently started voting to receive reports and minutes from committees and entities that provides us with information because of the new software system that the commission started using in January. Prior to the new system, these records were available in the commission packet as information without a vote. I (Tona Monroe) pointed out that some of the meeting minutes were drafts and subject to being changed by their respective bodies. The draft minutes were postponed until April so that the commission can figure out how to properly handle voting on minutes being received in the future. The matter shows how most commissioners operate on auto pilot during the meetings and how little thought most put into the process.
Commissioners Mike Akard, Mike Caylor, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly and Tom Stinnett were absent.
Evergreen pay study for Highway Department
The Evergreen Solutions salary study pay increase request for the Highway Department was back on the agenda after being pulled by Commissioner Dave Bennett last month without any explanation for it being pulled. The request increased from $13,579.46 to $15,346.13.
The $15,346.13 will be used to increase the pay of 14 employees. Shortly before this, one employee was about 2/3’s of this amount in one year. Certain people get huge page raises while many get small ones. According to the 2015 payroll, Assistant Superintendent Chico Messer made $71,999.98. According to the 2016 salary list, Chico Messer’s salary increased to $82,801 on August 25, 2016 (see page 42). In 2014, Messer’s annual salary was $66,000.06. It’s interesting that Messer sought and received certification from the state to run for the position of Highway Superintendent but chose not to seek the postion. Could the big pay increase be a deterrent to Messer running in 2018?
In 2015, the Blount County Commission voted to adopt the recommendations of the Evergreen Solutions employee classification and compensation study for all county departments except the Highway Department and the Schools. This request adds the Highway Department to the rest of the General County government pay scale.
You may remember that one of my objections at the time was that the report wasn’t even finished when the commission was asked to vote to adopt its recommendations. The final study was not made public until 7 months after the commission had voted on the matter. Well this new study wasn’t in the Agenda Committee packet. When I asked why, I was told by the Human Resources Director that she had just received the report that day. That raises the question of why it had been put on the agenda last month when the report wasn’t finished. Do these people ever learn? Do they even care?
Furthermore, the previous study only compared Blount County to one other county. The rest of the comparisons were to schools, even though Blount County Schools didn’t participate, cities and other entities. This new study only compared Blount County to cities. Not one county was included in the study. It wouldn’t be that hard, particularly when you’re only looking at one department, to obtain the payrolls for other counties and analyze comparable positions. Commissioners Karen Miller and I were the only no votes.
A couple donated $10,000 to the county for the purchase of a service dog. Blount County currently has 7 service dogs and will soon have 10.
State legislation has been filed that would add the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS) to the list of government entities that would sunset and have to be renewed by the Tennessee General Assembly after a review process. All of the status quo, courthouse clique commissioners signed onto a resolution that opposed this legislation.
If enacted, an Evaluation Committee would review the objectives of CTAS. TCA 4-29-105 says:
The Evaluation Committee shall have as its objectives:
1) The review of present programs and strategies of entities to determine the quality, efficiency, and success of such programs and strategies in implementation of legislative mandates.
What’s wrong with a regular review of CTAS? CTAS can be political and is cliquish, picking their favorites.
On at least two occasions that I have asked CTAS questions, the local government consultant for this area, Wesley Robertson, has called Commission Chairman Jerome Moon and given him the answer to my questions rather than calling and giving the answers to me.
I’ve talked to local elected officials in several counties around the state. Those who are principled reformers receive similar treatment. A commissioner in another county shared with me that she has quit contacting CTAS because as soon as she inquires about anything, her CTAS government consultant calls her county mayor to inform him of what she is inquiring about. Another elected official in a different county told me that we should get together and ask the Tennessee General Assembly for some real help, since we aren’t getting it from CTAS. She shared with me how another lady she knows in local government is treated poorly by CTAS. It seems that CTAS has a history of treating women who oppose the status quo, poorly. However, I have talked with men in local elected office who don’t consult with CTAS either because they consider them to be part of the problem within the bureaucracy in government.
CTAS is a part of the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service (IPS). IPS blocked me on twitter after I posted tweets critical of CTAS. Amazingly, the IPS unblocked me the day before the commission voted on this resolution and is now following www.twitter.com/bcpublicrecord.
A thorough review of CTAS might be just exactly what it needs to provide better service. It makes no sense to oppose a review process of your tax dollars at work; therefore I voted no. Only Commissioner Karen Miller joined me in voting no. Commissioners Akard and Daly, who were absent from the commission meeting, voted against putting this item on the agenda, at the Agenda Committee meeting.
Open records policy
The state legislature enacted a law requiring local governments to have open records policies by July 1st. This should have been a law many years ago. However, the law is not as specific as it should be and will probably require changes to it in the future.
As an elected official, I thought that it would be easier to obtain information but that is often not the case. It can be difficult obtaining records needed to make important public policy decisions. I’ve had to go to the Office of Open Records Counsel for assistant several times in obtaining records from Blount County government. Several people have shared with me how difficult it can be to obtain help from the Office of Open Records Counsel. Thus, a clear policy is needed.
Commissioner Jerome Moon chose to place himself and Commissioners Grady Caskey and Mike Caylor on the ad hoc committee that will write the open records policy. Both Grady Caskey and Mike Caylor work for local governments and tend to favor government. Hopefully the policy to be written will serve the people of Blount County well.
Lack of discussion
Other that the normal course of speaking required for the chairman to run a meeting, I was the only commissioner to discuss anything on the agenda that was put to a vote. Many have said that these meetings are a done deal before the commissioners get there. With no discussion except from me, I see why so many conclude this.
Commissioner Dodd Crowe’s only statement of the night came at the end of the meeting to inform those in the audience that the IT Department was working to ensure that all of the commissioners and their votes appeared on the screen displaying the votes. All of the commissioners, and their votes, had not been showing on the screen because of an issue with the new software system.
Blount County Corrections Partnership
The Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) is a charade that exists to appease the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) to keep the jail certified. Certification by the TCI Board of Control (BOC) is pretty close to worthless. Jail standards are good but the TCIBOC has and continues to certify jails that are not in compliance with the standards because they jump through hoops.
One of those hoops is having the BCCP. Part of the charade even includes TCI employees Detentions Facility Specialist (DFS) Robert Kane, who inspects the jail, and the Corrections Partnership Coordinator Bob Bass. DFS Robert Kane makes false statements in his jail inspection report such as the March 3, 2016 report that gives the BCCP credit for things that it doesn’t do such as submitting monthly progress reports to the TCI. It doesn’t, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office does that. He says that the BCCP meets monthly and discusses the findings of the ILPP report. The BCCP met 4 times in 2015. You can read more about the report here.
CPC Bass serves as the bully for the TCI. He comes to some of the meetings to talk tough to the BCCP about how the jail could be decertified if the county doesn’t build. Talking tough is about all he can do, other than educate us in meetings with videos available on YouTube. He once popped off to me about shutting the jail down but he and the TCI lack the authority to shut the jail down. All he can do is go to the State Fire Marshal’s Office like the rest of us can and speak against the jail getting a nearly worthless certification from the TCI.
TCI certification is voluntary but many don’t know that. Certification is used as a red herring for the TCI’s lack of authority to shut a jail down. Jails that aren’t certified operate without being shut down. Increased insurance rates can be a consequence of decertification, but this will not likely impact Blount County significantly because the county is self insured. Read this letter from the legal counsel for the TCI on its certification and authority regarding shutting a jail down.
We are currently looking at architectural and engineering firms because Bob “the bully” Bass and Robert Kane came in and talked tough. That was the excuse the political machine needed to start the expansion process. Reality is that little to nothing would have happened if Blount County hadn’t solicited a firm because certification is a voluntarily process.
The only person to speak during public input was Commissioner Karen Miller. She expressed how disappointed she is that the BCCP hasn’t actually examined the possible solutions that have been given in the studies that have been done and instead is wanting to pay an architectural firm to look at what the BCCP should be looking at.
Purchasing Agent Katie Branham Kerr spoke briefly about the jail RFQ process and how Michael Brady Incorporated (MBI) was chosen for jail renovation and/or expansion. She was quick to say that the interviews for 3 of the companies that submitted qualifications were public but failed to mention that most of the process, including the decision making, was done in secret. The Tennessee General Assembly last year decided that you the taxpaying citizens might some how corrupt the integrity of the process and made most of the purchasing process sealed. Yes, state legislators thinks that you lack the integrity to interact with the Purchasing Agent and the evaluators that she selects until she has chosen a company and they made a law to stop you for interacting. However, the names of the Screening Committee/Evaluation Team were published on this website before she made the names of the evaluators known.
MBI employee Jay Henderlight and John Eisenlau with TreanorHL gave a presentation on what they can and have done related to jails. Eisenlau would work with MBI throughout the process. I asked them if they were considering a new facility at a new location and was told that they haven’t considered that and didn’t think it would be necessary. This is important because of what happened in Loudon County.
Loudon County Justice Center: Expansion and renovation vs a new facility
In the letter of engagement from MBI to the Loudon County Purchasing Agent, under Project Information the proposed improvements/use says “Expansion and Renovation of Existing Justice Center.” The site location reads “12680 Highway 11 W., Loudon, TN” which is the location of the current Loudon County Justice Center.
Loudon County had previously paid MBI about $16,000 to see if the current location of their justice center was suitable for expansion. After it was determined that the existing location is suitable for expansion, the Loudon County Corrections Partnership (LCCP) voted to move forward with expanding the existing facility in August of 2015. However, that changed after the Loudon County Commission approved paying MBI up to $60,000 to provide options to expand the justice center at its current location.
MBI provided several expansion and renovation options but the recommendation that came from the LCCP in 2016 was the construction of a new facility at a different location. While the LCCP was considering building at a new location, the Loudon County jail was decertified by the TCIBOC. Who and/or what caused the change in plan from expansion of the existing facility to the construction of a new facility isn’t entirely clear. What role, if any, MBI played in this isn’t clear either. Who caused the deviation from expanding the existing facility to building a brand new facility at a different location?
Since MBI touts their work in Loudon County and PA Katie Kerr recommends MBI, both should be able to explain to the BCCP and the commission what happened in Loudon County. I asked PA Kerr who she spoke to at Loudon County when evaluating MBI. She said she would have to go back and look at her notes. Even if she couldn’t recall the name of the person that she spoke with she should have been able to recall the conversation but she didn’t offer anything specific about her conversation with Loudon County.
Exactly how much research did Kerr do into MBI prior to recommending them? Kerr has taken 11 months to complete the process of selecting a company. Kerr’s office took nearly 3 months to issue the RFQ, despite her saying that 30 days should be sufficient time to issue the paperwork.
Furthermore, Kerr deviated from the jail RFQ issued by her office. The RFQ says that the Screening Committee selected to evaluate the firms that submitted proposals would be county commissioners and employees Sheriff’s Office (see page 16). 2 of the evaluators were neither county commissioners or employees of the Sheriff’s Office.
I continued with my efforts to learn exactly what happened in the change of course in Loudon County but was prohibited from questioning Kerr further on the matter. Chairman Rick Carver said that my questioning was out of order. I challenged the rule of the chair and the rest of the voting members voted against allowing me to continue.
The people of the 7th district elected me to ask the though questions. The BCCP voted to prohibit me from asking the necessary questions to make informed decisions the protect the taxpayers of Blount County and are in the best interest of the community. We were there to decide whether to recommend the company chosen by the PA to the Blount County Commission. I was prohibited by the BCCP from doing what I was elected to do.
What is point of attending these meetings if I am not going to be allowed to do my job? The people deserve to know exactly what happened in Loudon County and how much research that PA Kerr did on MBI but I was prohibited from finding out.
When a new justice center was recommended to the Loudon County Commission, the matter died for a lack of motion.
MBI is the same company that was chosen for the renovation proposals for the high schools that was original estimated at $40M and has now ballooned up to $66M. Given that the same company has been recommended for and involved in two important, and very costly proposals the people deserve answers that Commissioners Dave Bennett, Rick Carver and Mike Caylor and Blount County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff French and Jail Administrator John Adams prohibited me from obtaining.
This is a farce. Nothing about the jail can be trusted.
I have requested Kerr’s notes related to MBI for the jail and high school renovations. We’ll see what I get.
Chairman Rick Carver email@example.com
Commissioner Mike Caylor firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Commissioner Dave Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Tona Monroe email@example.com
Chief Deputy Jeff French firstname.lastname@example.org
Jail Administrator John Adams email@example.com
Finance Director Randy Vineyard firstname.lastname@example.org
General Session Judge Mike Gallegos email@example.com
Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington firstname.lastname@example.org
Agenda Committee Chairman Steve Samples email@example.com
Commission Chairman Jerome Moon firstname.lastname@example.org
Up next: The commission will be considering MBI for work related to the jail and expansion and renovation of the high schools. Some have contacted me about these matters. If you want answers, you’re going to have to help me as I’ve been stonewalled by the courthouse clique.