Archives

December 2014 Commission Report

Commission reports are coming out later than anticipated because the commission meetings can generate more questions than answers.  In an effort to do through reporting, the reports are delayed while seeking answers.  All commissioner were present at the commission meeting.

Animal Shelter
There were three items on the agenda regarding the animal shelter. A couple of people have contacted me in states of confusion about these votes thinking that all three were one issue.  Hopefully this report will clear up any confusion.

The first was a request for a second animal control officer.  Currently there is only one person performing the duties of an animal control officer.  There is a need for another animal control officer.  However, I voted against the measure because the previous director of the shelter worked in the field doing animal control service.  A new director was hired and given substantially more pay than the previous director, yet he does not have the same job responsibilities.  The new director now handles paperwork that was previously done by the Mayor’s assistant.  With the new director getting substantially more pay, he should be on call to fill in for the other animal control officer.  Additionally the last part time employee was made full time this year.

Furthermore, the animal shelter budget has been steadily increasing; rising nearly 37% since FY11.
FY 11 $223,942
FY 12 $263,901
FY 13 $272,625
FY 14 $320,387
FY 15 $355,426 (appropriated)

Thus, with increases in the staff hours, budget and pay for the director I didn’t feel it was wise to add more to the shelter budget.  Government spending can quickly spiral out of control and I didn’t want to add more to a budget which has been growing so rapidly.  Commissioners Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted no.  The rest voted yes.

The second item was a request for $12,000 for a new commercial washer and dryer along with the installation costs.  $6,000 was paid for with donations, the other half with tax money.  The donation account had about $8,200 in it and the director told the commission that he had no plans for the additional donation money.  Thus, I made a motion to amend to use $8,000 of donation money and thereby use $2,000 less of tax revenue.  The common sense motion was defeated 7-14.
Akard – yes  Allen – yes  Archer – no  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – yes  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – no  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The question was asked of me why the Commission would reject this amendment when there was no plan to use this money.  I don’t know but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the director put in a request for a new phone system utilizing the leftover donation money.

The resolution passed 20-1 with my vote for it because the equipment was needed.  However, there was another problem with this request that likely stems from purchasing.  The county only received one bid for the washer and dryer.  There are five employees in purchasing.  There is no reason why these people can’t obtain more bids.  I will work toward more accountability from purchasing.

Furthermore, the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee have been operating as one body for several years.  The purchasing portion of the packets routinely say for “information only.”  The Mayor and commissioners serving on the Purchasing Commission have not been doing their jobs in demanding more from our purchasing employees.  Tell the Mayor that you would like to see more effort from the Purchasing Commission.  273-5700 emitchell@blounttn.org

The third vote approved funds for a shelter vet and vet tech.  The funds were provided by Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation.  The vet will now be a county employee.  I wanted to look at making the vet serve through independent contract labor rather than being a county employee because the county health care benefits are so rich.  However, there wasn’t time this year since the funding will kick in with the new year.  Thus, I voted for it and am looking into regulations for contract labor to see if this idea is feasible in the future.

The hard work and dedication of the volunteers and donors is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Judicial Commissioners – Business as usual
The Commission was back to business as usual, with several commissioners pencil whipping the appointments of Judicial Commissioners.  Judicial Commissioners have great powers including issuing issuing arrest warrants and setting bail, but the county commission takes a lackadaisical approach to these important appointments.

There were no resumes in our packets.  I made a motion to postpone the matter for one month so that we could be furnished resumes.  The motion failed 6-15.
Akard – no  Allen – no  Archer – yes  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – no  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – yes  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The terms of the appointments are for one year and automatically renew unless the commission passes a resolution to stop the automatic renewal.  Amendments to require annual approval by the commission failed.  Previous terms have been 4 years.  Judge Bill Brewer told the commission that the shorter terms were necessary to prevent having to use an ouster suit to remove a non-performing judicial commissioner.  He said that the county almost had to pursue one to terminate a judicial commissioner.  When I questioned him on the matter, he retreated telling me that it wasn’t as bad as he made it sound, that the reason for poor job performance was excessive absences and that the judicial commissioner had quit.  When I asked him who recommended this judicial commissioner to the county commission he gave the convenient answer that he didn’t remember.

The statute governing judicial commissioners says:

No member of the county legislative body of any county to which this subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i) applies shall be eligible for appointment as a judicial commissioner

One of the nominees is a City of Alcoa Commissioner.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to appoint someone serving in a legislative capacity to also serve in another branch of government.

Judge Brewer informed the commission of the training required to be a judicial commissioner.  He also told us that the county attorney suggested that we do the annual appointments and that the judicial commissioners are subject to discipline by the Court of the Judiciary.  There are problems with what he told the commission.  There is no county attorney and the Court of the Judiciary was abolished by the state legislature in 2012.  Honestly, I think Judge Brewer could stagger into the commission room and slur his words and that the Commission would rubber stamp the appointments.  Only Commissioners Cole, Miller and I voted no.

Rules – Petty Politicians
Please read this article about the petty politicians serving on your commission.  Resolutions are now required to go through the Agenda Committee unless at least 2/3 of the commission votes to add the resolution to the agenda of the commission meeting.  The Agenda Committee is still optional per board rules.  I made a motion to amend Rules 12 to fix this.  Chairman Jerome Moon declared my motion out of order.  I challenged the rule of the chair but only 4 other commissioners joined me in following the rules.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe showed respect for the democratic process.  The rest did not.  That wasn’t the only time that chairman Moon cut me off.  He cut my microphone off while discussing the Judicial Commissioners.  He has repeatedly cut my microphone off.   jmoon@blounttn.org

War Memorial
The commission approved plans for updating Blount County War Monuments.  This should be neat to see when it’s completed.

Up next: Budget Committee and Purchasing Committee nominations
It’s high time that we demand more accountability from the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.

Happy New Year!

The 3 most common reasons to spend your money in a rush

At the beginning of each Commission meeting an emergency evacuation notice is required to be read.  It isn’t read by a person and for quite some time I’ve wondered where the voice in the sky is coming from.  Someone recently told me that it’s an audio recording.  It saves time and eliminates the need to make sure that you have the notice handy to read.  It’s easy for the Chairmen to simply push a button and play the notice.

The Commission could save a lot of time if the three most common reasons to rush something through were recorded and played as an audio at the start of each Agenda item instead of having to recognize Commissioners and listen to them give the reasons over and over and over.  There are 3 common reasons employed by Commissioners that work every time.

The three most common reasons to rush passage of Agenda items are:

1) The County is up against a deadline and chaos will ensue if the Commission doesn’t hurry and pass the item.

This reason was given twice at the October Commission meeting.  When I inquired into the age of the equipment that the Commission was being asked to approve, Commission Andy Allen stated that the software reference in the resolution may be about to expire.  He gave no date or supporting information.  That worked because it passed 15-4.

The reason was used again to approve $60,000 for a software that will be used for open enrollment for employee benefits.  The new software Kronos was suppose to fill this need and was used to rush it through (another example of the Commission allegedly having to rush something through) even though the project is behind schedule.  Instead of informing the Commission on the delay, the Commission was asked to approve $60,000 as a one year “stop gap” measure for open enrollment since Kronos will be used next year.

The new HR Director told me that the former HR Director handled this, which means that it was done prior to September when the new HR Director took over.  One would logically ask how the previous HR Director knew in advance that there was a need to seek software from our benefits advisor.  Someone knew that Kronos was not going be implemented in time and sought this software, but never mind that important detail.  The Commission just needed to pass it or chaos would ensue.  This worked because it passed 16-3.

Bottom line: Office holders and Department heads leave the Commission in the dark and the Commission rubber stamps what they want.

2) This isn’t property tax or local tax money

This reason was given by Commission Steve Samples to pass the technology request from Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher because the money came from Court costs.  This works every time because it passed 15-4.

Bottom line: Your money is spent without due diligence.

3) The federal or State government says we have to do this

This reason was employed twice at the October Commission meeting.  Commissioner Andy Allen muddied the water when he told Commissioners that the FCC won’t allow us to turn down tower applications.  No federal law was given and no examples were given as to what circumstances the County allegedly has to approve towers.  He said that an attorney told this to the BZA.  When I asked if there was an attorney opinion, Chairman Moon cut me off and no information was obtained.  This worked because the Commission passed the resolution 11-8.

This reason was also given as an excuse to not have any oversight on reconstruction work on the Childrens Home.  I asked for the federal law that said that the Drug Fund couldn’t be used for renovations.  Guidelines were provided rather than the actual federal law.  That worked because my amendment to require approval for spending over $1,000 failed 10-9 (11 votes are required).

Bottom line: It’s easier to blame something on federal or State governments than it is to actually do your own research.

Solution: In the interest of time, it would be simpler for the Commission to record these 3 reasons and play them at the start of each Agenda item because they always work and the Commission could adjourn quicker.  Due diligence takes a back seat to these 3 reasons.  On the flip side, perhaps I should start using them since they work every time.  ;-)

Seven Reasons to Vote for the Libertarian Party

From Reason:

1. The Libertarian Party supports all of your freedoms, all of the time
2. The Libertarian Party is consistent and principled
3. Voting for old party politicians tells them that you want to keep government big
4. Voting Libertarian is the only clear message you can send
5. Voting Libertarian forces the old parties to take the libertarian positions
6. Because the old parties don’t want you to
7. Voting Libertarian helps your favorite “libertarian-leaning old party politician


For great explanations to each of these reasons, click the link above or here.

 

FBI forces police departments across the US to keep quiet about cellphone spying gear

http://www.blacklistednews.com/FBI_forces_police_departments_across_the_US_to_keep_quiet_about_cellphone_spying_gear/38170/0/38/38/Y/M.html#disqus_thread

Law enforcement isn’t suppose to discuss the use of Stingray cellphone spy equipment.

Although the majority of the December 2012 document is redacted, a paragraph from FBI special agent Laura Laughlin to Police of Chief Donald Ramsdell reveals that Tacoma officers were told they couldn’t discuss their use of IMSI-catchers with anyone.

“We have been advised by Harris Corporation of the Tacoma Police Department’s request for acquisition of certain wireless collection equipment/technology manufactured by Harris Corporation,” the FBI letter reads in part. “Consistent with the conditions on the equipment authorization granted to Harris Corporation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state and local law enforcement agencies must coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete this non-disclosure agreement prior to the acquisition and use of the equipment/technology authorized by the FCC authorization.”

The Feds are trying hard to stop information from being released to the public.

As RT reported recently, the US Marshals Service recently intervened in a dispute between the police department in Sarasota, FL and the ACLU by seizing cell phone records collected by an cop-owned StingRay before the civil libertarians could review them.

This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for Stingray information,” ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed told Wired back in June. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”