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May 2016 Commission Report

The rules are made to be broken by the Blount County Commission.  Enforcement of commission rules is selective to advance the agenda of the political machine and cover-up their actions.

Agenda Committee meeting
Federal Inmates/Prisoners – Commission refuses to take a position
After being prohibited by Blount County Corrections Partnership Vice Chairman (BCCP) Rick Carver from putting a recommendation to stop housing federal inmates in the local jail on the BCCP agenda, I took the matter to the commission.  A majority of commissioners didn’t even want to discuss the matter.  Commissioner Andy Allen objected to the consideration of the question, which means that you don’t want to discuss the resolution.  The motion failed because a 2/3rd majority of 14 commissioners is required to pass this motion.

Those voting against discussing the matter include Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Gary Farmer, Mike Lewis, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett.

Those voting to discuss the matter include Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Dodd Crowe, Jamie Daly, Ron French, Karen Miller and me (Tona Monroe).

Commissioner Kenneth Melton was absent.  Commission Seat 5A was vacant.

All the commissioners except for Akard, Archer, Daly, Miller and I voted to refer this to the BCCP.  Now that the matter has been sent to the to the BCCP, the Vice Chairman Rick Carver can’t stifle it.  However, this was the place to send the matter to die because the BCCP is heavily stacked with people who work for the Sheriff or who are close to him.

What state law authorizes the Sheriff to sign a contract with the US Marshals Service?
The sheriff has said that he has unilateral authority to enter into an agreement with the US Marshals Service to house federal inmates.  I’ve asked to be given that law.  A basis starting point for all those in government is provide proof of authority to act.

It’s possible that the sheriff has this authority, under state law.  It should be simple to show the public this law.

I’ve asked the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) to provide me with the law that authorizes the sheriff to sign a contract to house federal inmates.  However, they have not provided me with the law or an opinion that is specific to the matter of housing federal inmates.

Special called commission meeting
Chairman Moon called a special meeting to appoint a replacement for Jeff Headrick who resigned his commission seat after being appointed by the commission to office of Highway Superintendent.

There were 3 nominees: Chris Arnette, Ed Cherry and Peggy Lambert.  I nominated Chris Arnette, a lady who is active in the community and who has been attending commission meetings because she is concerned about her community and wants good government.  Peggy Lambert previously was appointed to the commission to replace Bob Ramsey who resigned from his commission seat after winning election to the office of State Representative.

The commission chose Peggy Lambert.

  • Those voting Chris Arnette included Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly and Tona Monroe.
  • Commissioners Grady Caskey and Dodd Crowe for voted for Ed Cherry on the first ballot and Peggy Lambert on the second ballot after Ed Cherry was eliminated for receiving the lowest number of votes.
  • Commissioners Shawn Carter, Tom Cole, Mike Lewis and Karen Miller were absent.
  • The rest voted for Lambert.

Lambert has a history or trying to suppress free speech at commission meetings and threatening to sue those that she disagrees with.  She voted to disband the Ethics Committee.  Her brother and husband serve on the Public Building Authority.  She is part of a well connected political family.  She is perfect for the those referred to the good ole’ boys, although there is rarely anything good that they do.

Commission meeting
Commissioners Tom Cole, Mike Lewis and Karen Miller were absent.

New budget form is already causing problems
A few months ago the commission adopted a new budget amendment form.  I voted against the new form.  You can read more on that matter here.

There are now four boxes: transfer, increase, decrease and adjustment.  Adjustment is a nebulous term that obfuscates what is actually happening with your money.

Commissioner Mike Akard proposed amendments to each of the budget amendments that had the adjustment box checked.  I seconded each of his amendments and voted for each of them because they attempted to clarify the true nature of the budget amendments.  Theses were simply clarifying amendments but apparently the majority of commissioners don’t even want the facts clearly stated in budget amendment resolutions.

Schools back for more money
The schools had two budget requests this month.  The first was a request for an additional $30,000 to cover the cost of fixing light poles at stadiums.  The School Board under budgeted what was needed for the project.

The second was a request to appropriate an additional $80,000 to the capital fund because revenues have come in higher than projected.  I tried to table the $30,000 request, which means postpone it until later in the meeting, so that the $80,000 could be approved and then the $30,000 request could be paid for with the $80,000.  The motion to table failed.  There was no good reason for the School Board to request an additional $30,000 when they were being given $80,000 in new revenue to spend.

In hindsight, I don’t think that tabling the matter was even necessary.  The commission should have approved the $80,000 and sent the $30,000 request back to the school board telling them to take the $30,000 out of the $80,000.  That would have sent a message to the School Board to live within their means but the commission doesn’t exercise much, if any, fiscal discipline either.  Only commissioner Mike Akard and I vote no.

Those of you who live in the 4th and 6th School Board districts should give serious consideration to those races.  The school budget is over half of the annual local budget.  Fiscal conservatives are needed on the School Board.

Courthouse security request
There was a $210,000 budget increase for a courthouse security project.  That was all the description said.  See pages 18-19.  No one in the county government offered any explanation for how this money will actually be used.  Furthermore, this amount will almost double the current budget for courthouse and jail maintenance and is more than the recommended budget for the entire upcoming year.  See page 120.

I didn’t know that the courthouse parking lot was being renovated until someone told me about it after reading it in the paper.  It is alarming how little commissioners are actually told about plans for projects in county government.

Cover-up and tyranny continue
Those who comprise the political machine of Blount County have gone to great lengths to suppress debate and freedom of speech surrounding the local jail and criminal justice system.  Actions this month piled higher and deeper on the problem.

I’ve written in the past about my attempts to amend the BCCP minutes, how those amendments failed and how the commission secretary failed to record those amendments in the minutes.  This month I was prohibited from even fully stating my amendment to minutes of the April 18, 2016 called commission meeting.

Chairman Jerome Moon cut me off and declared my amendment out of order before I could even finish stating my amendment.  One could ask how he could have possibly known that the amendment was out of order when I wasn’t even allowed to fully statement the entire amendment.

The amendment was an attempt to document that the chairman cut citizens off and the commission prohibited me from speaking about the jail study in reference to expanding the jail.  It is not out of order for citizens and commissioners to cite sources that support their positions.  Why is the political machine working so hard to stifle discussion on the jail study?

The meetings have become more tyrannical with time.  The tyranny has gone from the amendments being excluded from the minutes of a meeting to not even being able to state the amendment.

I challenged the rule of the Chair.  The clique voted to uphold Moon’s ruling without even hearing the entire amendment.  I then invoked Rule 5 asking to read the proposed amendment as a statement rather than an amendment.  The commission voted against allowing me to offer the statement.

Think about that for a moment.  The commission has now upheld a commissioner not even being able to state an amendment to the minutes.  Freedom of speech of the citizens and the power of each commissioner to be heard and act on issues should be sacred but they have been squashed by the Blount County Commission.

Gary Farmer waves finger in Chairman Moon’s face
During discussion Jerome Moon interrupted commissioners Dodd Crowe and Gary Farmer telling them they were off topic but he let both of them continue.  Favoritism is shown.  They were allowed to continue speaking, but I was not.

Gary Farmer shook his finger in Chairman Jerome Moon’s face and told him that he could continue speaking.  Moon backed down and Farmer spoke as he wanted to.  I have no desire to shake my finger in Moon’s face but I wonder if I could have continued speaking if I had.

I didn’t object to Crowe or Farmer speaking because neither were actually off topic.  Both were making their cases as to why a resolution wasn’t good for Blount County.  I disagree with them but they have been given the power to be heard and to take action on matters.

This is a dangerous place to be.  Commissioners discussing why something is or isn’t a good idea should be able to speak without interruption.  Some commissioners selectively chose to interrupt commissioners like me because they know that the commission will uphold the ruling of the chair, while allowing Dodd Crowe and Gary Farmer to speak at great length and discuss what they want .

Up next
The annual budget.  Hang onto your wallets.

Regarding the budget, here is a question to ponder: Should government “servants” make 2, 3 and 4 times what the taxpayers make?

Happy Memorial Day!

2017 NDAA bill to require women to register with Selective Service

Defense Bill Coming This Week: A Boost for War and Tyranny

By Ron Paul

For many of us concerned with liberty, the letters “NDAA” have come to symbolize Washington’s ongoing effort to undermine the US Constitution in the pursuit of constant war overseas. It was the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 that introduced into law the idea that American citizens could be indefinitely detained without warrant or charge if a government bureaucrat decides they had assisted al-Qaeda or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.” No charges, no trial, just disappeared Americans.

The National Defense Authorization bill should be a Congressional mechanism to bind the president to spend national defense money in the way Congress wishes. It is the nuts and bolts of the defense budget and as such is an important oversight tool preventing the imperial executive from treating the military as his own private army. Unfortunately that is no longer the case these days.

Why am I revisiting the NDAA today? Unfortunately since 2012 these bills have passed the House with less and less scrutiny, and this week the House is going to vote on final passage of yet another Defense Authorization, this time for fiscal year 2017. Once again it is a terrible piece of legislation that does great harm to the United States under the guise of protecting the United States.

Unless some last minute changes take place, this latest NDAA will force young women for the first time to register to be drafted into the US military. For the past 36 years, young men have been forced to register with Selective Service when they turn 18 or face felony charges and years in prison. Under a perverted notion of “equality” some people are cheering the idea that this represents an achievement for women. Why cheer when slavery is extended to all? We should be fighting for an end to forced servitude for young men and to prevent it being extended to women.

The argument against a draft should appeal to all: you own your own body. No state has the right to force you to kill or be killed against your will. No state has a claim on your life. We are born with freedoms not granted by the state, but by our creator. Only authoritarians seek to take that away from us.

Along with extending draft registration to women, the latest NDAA expands the neocons’ new “Cold War” with Russia, adding $3.4 billion to put US troops and heavy weapons on Russia’s border because as the bill claims, “Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.” This NDAA also includes the military slush fund of nearly $60 billion for the president to spend on wars of his choosing without the need to get Congress involved. Despite all the cries that we need to “rebuild the military,” this year’s Defense Authorization bill has a higher base expenditure than last year. There have been no cuts in the military. On the contrary: the budget keeps growing.

The Defense Authorization bill should remain notorious. It represents most of what is wrong with Washington. It is welfare for the well-connected defense contractors and warfare on our economy and on the rest of the world. This reckless spending does nothing to defend the United States. It is hastening our total economic collapse.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2016/may/15/defense-bill-coming-this-week-a-boost-for-war-and-tyranny/

STANDING GUARD OR STANDING DOWN?

http://www.newswithviews.com/Vieira/edwin284.htm

“Misinterpretations of the Constitution with such an undercurrent of animosity towards the Militia could be expected to be broadcast by a certain “poverty” law center, notorious for its rabid opposition to the Second Amendment. Why they keep emanating from the NRA, however, passes understanding. Perhaps it really is true that whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Unfortunately, if allowed to fester much longer this particular madness will destroy, not only the NRA, but the rest of us as well.”

Idaho House Concurs with Senate: Returns to Constitutional Carry

2nd-amendment-1-e1410974639219

photo: TarheelTeaParty.org

by Horatio Bunce

via Breitbart:

On March 18 the Idaho House concurred with the Senate by passing legislation that abolishes the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun in the state.

The legislation–Senate Bill 1389–now goes to Governor Butch Otter’s (R) desk…….

…The bill abolishes the permit requirement for Idahoans 21-years and older who want to carry a concealed handgun for self-defense. Carrying a handgun openly in Idaho is already legal, and SB 1389 ensures that people carrying guns will not suddenly be criminalized if their jacket, sweat shirt, or other article of clothing covers their gun….

If Governor Otter signs the bill, Idaho will join Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Vermont, Wyoming, and West Virginia, as states in which the Second Amendment is your concealed carry permit.

Of course, the Constitution does not grant any rights. Rights are inalienable. Constitutions can only acknowledge them and claim to protect them.

And guess what the fiscal note was in Idaho for the state to mind their own business and stop infringing on the innocent, law-abiding people?   ZERO!

How’s that Tennessee Republican Super-Majority working out for you?

Maybe one day the Republicans will make Tennessee as “conservative” as the home of Bernie Sanders instead of ignoring the U.S. Constitution and violating federal law:

18 U.S.C. § 242 : US Code – Section 242: Deprivation of rights under color of law

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

Doug Overbey votes with Democrats and the Police for Profit Class against Constitution

Sen. Doug Overbey with Single Digit Jeb, Common Core promoter - photo submitted to Daily Times

Sen. Doug Overbey with Single Digit Jeb, Common Core promoter – photo submitted to Daily Times

by Horatio Bunce

Sen. Mark Green introduced a “Constitutional Carry” bill (SB1483) last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  This was one of many issues various Republicans promised to address if their party ever gained the majority in the state legislature. Years of Republican majorities later and now with a veto-proof super-majority, the only progress made is you can now drive with your legally purchased arms in your vehicle without a special tax paid to the state. However, you cannot bear your legally purchased arms outside of your home or your personal vehicle without paying a perpetual tax to the state to exercise your “right” to keep and bear arms, pay an exorbitant fee for an additional criminal background check and 8 hours of instruction by the THP carry permit monopoly and submit to fingerprinting – just like an arrested criminal. The original bill was simple: remove the currently unconstitutional infringements on the legal possession and bearing of arms by non-felons that are imposed by the state in the form of perpetual taxation for the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right. The ability to pay a perpetual tax to obtain an unconstitutional “carry permit” for reciprocal use in other states would remain if you so choose.  A criminal background check (background tax and sales tax paid by the buyer) would still be required to purchase any new firearms.

Sen. Green had already acquiesced to amend the bill into “Less Than Constitutional Carry” by adding a requirement for the same mandatory 8 hours of training, currently controlled by the state Police For Profit class, that is required to get your unconstitutional “carry permit” (a.k.a. receipt of tax paid to exercise your “right”) in Tennessee. This, despite the fact that the same department currently is willing to issue reciprocity permits to visiting Alabama residents – where no training at all is required.

This amendment to the bill did two things: 1) It removed any argument by the Anti-Constitutionalists that there was no “safety training” of those bearing arms. Anyone carrying open or concealed would have to produce their state government-approved training certificate upon demand by the Police For Profit class. Again, that returns actually bearing arms to a state-sanctioned privilege controlled by the Police For Profit Class, not a right. However, they would receive the exact same 8 hours of training currently imposed on those obtaining the unconstitutional “carry permit”.  2) It maintained the Police For Profit class revenue source for all that mandatory training, although Sen. Green did dare to add that the training could be provided by the U.S. military. The one revenue stream dislodged would be the exorbitant $72 the Police For Profit class charges for a SECOND background check as they fingerprint you like a criminal for showing up to pay your 2nd Amendment Tax. Remember, that first background check only cost $10 when you purchased the weapon.

With over a half million Tennesseans already forfeiting their 2nd Amendment right to pay $150 every 7 years for the privilege of bearing arms in Tennessee, you can see the Police For Profit Class stands to lose a lot. You do the math on the revenue stream at stake.

You really should take the time to watch the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of this bill.

Note the timidity of judge-selector Brian Kelsey as he “reluctantly” seconds the motion to even hear the already-neutered bill. Hear the “legal opinion” that it is against Tennessee law to be in possession of a loaded weapon without the Police For Profit Class’ explicit permission – but unloaded is ok.  Listen to the arguments made by the Anti-Constitutionalists and the Police For Profit head revenue agent Tracy Trott as they rationalize that while they know the status quo infringements are indeed unconstitutional (and therefore illegal as any real-smart attorney should know), in their opinion, they are not “unreasonable” unconstitutional demands.  Trott is all about maintaining “control” of the revenue, and claiming they provide necessary “constitutional training” regarding use of deadly force to the permit holder.  Apparently, Trott was daydreaming about his next highway robbery asset forfeiture stop of “trucky-trailers” when Sen. Green explained the amendment to the bill required the exact same 8 hours of training they are already providing – except we would not continue to fleece our innocent, law-abiding, already-passed-a-background check neighbors perpetually in order to exercise their constitutionally-protected right.  Like Robot Rubio, head revenue agent Trott can only repeat the same couple of irrelevant lines over and over. The Anti-Constitutionalists have no response to the fact that Tennessee grants reciprocity to Alabama concealed carry visitors – who are not required to have any sort of training by their state (just pay us their money for the privilege of walking into Tennessee). Particularly, Senator Kerry Roberts had the courage to openly argue for your constitutionally-protected rights in support of Green’s bill and made very reasonable points exposing the hypocrisy of our current unconstitutional statutes.

End result: In the Republican-stacked committee (7-2), alleged Republicans Doug Overbey and John Stevens sided with the Democrats and the Police For Profit Class against the law-abiding citizens and the US Constitution. Republican Todd Gardenhire abstained, apparently believing restoring constitutionally-protected rights is a “bad bill”. Bill Fails to pass committee 4-4-1.

Yeas : Mike Bell, Janice Bowling, Brian Kelsey, Kerry Roberts

Nays : Doug Overbey, John Stevens, Sarah Kyle, Lee Harris

Present Not Voting : Todd Gardenhire

Do We Need To ‘Rebuild The Military’?

Written by Ron Paul

The Republican presidential debates have become so heated and filled with insults, it almost seems we are watching a pro wrestling match. There is no civility, and I wonder whether the candidates are about to come to blows. But despite what appears to be total disagreement among them, there is one area where they all agree. They all promise that if elected they will “rebuild the military.”

What does “rebuild the military” mean? Has the budget been gutted? Have the useless weapons programs like the F-35 finally been shut down? No, the United States still spends more on its military than the next 14 countries combined. And the official military budget is only part of the story. The total spending on the US empire is well over one trillion dollars per year. Under the Obama Administration the military budget is still 41 percent more than it was in 2001, and seven percent higher than at the peak of the Cold War.

Russia, which the neocons claim is the greatest threat to the United States, spends about one-tenth what we do on its military. China, the other “greatest threat,” has a military budget less than 25 percent of ours.

Last week the Pentagon announced it is sending a small naval force of US warships to the South China Sea because, as Commander of the US Pacific Command Adm. Harry Harris told the House Armed Services Committee, China is militarizing the area. Yes, China is supposedly militarizing the area around China, so the US is justified in sending its own military to the area. Is that a wise use of the US military?

The US military maintains over 900 bases in 130 countries. It is actively involved in at least seven wars right now, including in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and elsewhere. US Special Forces are deployed in 134 countries across the globe. Does that sound like a military that has been gutted?

I do not agree with the presidential candidates, but I do agree that the military needs to be rebuilt. I would rebuild it in a very different way, however. I would not rebuild it according to the demands of the military-industrial complex, which cares far more about getting rich than about protecting our country. I would not rebuild the military so that it can overthrow more foreign governments who refuse to do the bidding of Washington’s neocons. I would not rebuild the military so that it can better protect our wealthy allies in Europe, NATO, Japan, and South Korea. I would not rebuild the military so that it can better occupy countries overseas and help create conditions for blowback here at home.

No. The best way to really “rebuild” the US military would be to stop abusing the military in the first place. The purpose of the US military is to defend the United States. It is not to make the world safe for oil pipelines, or corrupt Gulf monarchies, or NATO, or Israel. Unlike the neocons who are so eager to send our troops to war, I have actually served in the US military. I understand that to keep our military strong we must constrain our foreign policy. We must adopt a policy of non-intervention and a strong defense of this country. The neocons will weaken our country and our military by promoting more war. We need to “rebuild” the military by restoring as its mission the defense of the United States, not of Washington’s overseas empire.

Copyright © 2016 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

Read online: http://bit.ly/1U5mlsd

February 2016 Commission Report

2 special called commission meetings
The Mayor called two commission meetings this month.  Mayor Ed Mitchell has decided that his role is to cut ribbons and attend every breakfast and dinner that he can rather than running the courthouse.  He has entrusted too many things to his Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, who is not even a good finance person, let alone qualified to run the courthouse.  This has lead to poor management decisions, which have been costly to the taxpayers.

1st meeting to offer a new insurance plan
The first called meeting was to offer a new health care plan to county employees because the state deemed the current plan to be inferior to the state plan.  The state provides some funding for health insurance for teachers.  The local plan has to be as good or better than the state plan or the county can lose those funds.

The problem is that the state offers several plans while the local government offers only one plan.  The comparison wasn’t done to all state plans, which I was told would have likely showed that the single plan overall is just as good as the state plan and costs substantially less.  The broker shared that the state has miscalculated its costs and is actually going to have to significantly raise employee costs next year.

The new plan isn’t much different than the old plan.  You can see them both on page 2 here.  This situation was bureaucratic red tape and the people who went to Nashville seemed hopeful that the state won’t require unnecessary hoops to jump through next year.

I took the opportunity to ask the Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, to provide the commission with a monthly report on the financial status of the self insurance fund.  He wasn’t happy about that and told the commission we could look the numbers up in the general ledger if we wanted them.  The Finance Director didn’t realize why the fund was losing large sums of money until state auditors pointed it out to him.  A good quality financial person would be tracking this and providing regular updates on the fund to the board.

2nd meeting to hire an IT consultant
Commissioners Archie Archer and Gary Farmer were absent.

A meeting was called in December, after the commission canceled its scheduled meeting, to ram through the creation of a $1.3M Information Technology (IT) capital fund.  This month an IT consulting firm was rushed through in a called meeting.

Blount County has several IT needs.  It is why I sought to be added to the IT Committee.  However, after serving on the IT Committee for over a year, I am left wondering why we have an IT Committee.  The Mayor and his Finance Director have no respect for the authority of the IT Committee.  They have bypassed the IT Committee for all major IT decisions.

The Mayor’s Finance Director got the cart before the horse.  He pushed for Kronos before upgrading the county’s IT infrastructure.  A good analogy is that the Mayor and Finance Director went out and bought the most expensive wheels that they could find and put them on a car with engine problems.

The Kronos software project is likely the largest and most costly IT project in county history.  Read more about that project here.  It has been mismanaged and is behind schedule.  It is generally not a good idea to start more IT projects when your current project is behind, but that doesn’t seem to concern the mayor and finance director who are proceeding full steam ahead with your money.

When the Kronos project was first presented to the commission in 2014, then commissioner Jim Folts warned of the problems that would happen if Vineyard was allowed to proceed with the Kronos project as planned.  One of his biggest concerns was that a volunteer from the Sheriff’s Office, an attorney, would be in charge of the project.  The attorney quit the project, early into it.  Folts’ concerns have been realized.

Vineyard realized that attempting a major IT project without a dedicated manager/director was a big mistake but has failed to acknowledge that he was forewarned of the problem.  His solution for upcoming IT projects is to hire expensive consultants to manage the projects.  However, there are problems with this approach as well.

The county had a good IT Director who ran the county’s IT Department on a shoe string budget while using old technology.  John Herron had managed the IT Department for 30 years.  He left last year to work for Blount County Schools.

The county has been operating with an Interim IT Director since August.  I was stunned when the Interim Director told me that the mayor isn’t looking to hire an IT Director.  Instead the mayor (and finance director) sought to employ an IT consulting firm to manage the county’s IT projects.

Mindboard Inc. was presented to the commission.  The Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, chose this company based on the scores of a team that she chose to evaluate prospective companies and because of their references.

The evaluation team consisted of select members of the IT Committee.  I am on the IT Committee and she never told me that she was going to choose member of the IT Committee.  She did not invite me to listen to the interviews either.  It would have taken her about 1 minute to send me an invitation by email.   She smugly told me that the meeting was advertised in the paper.  Apparently she thinks that county commissioners should have to subscribe to the newspaper to know what their government is doing.  One of the people she chose was Jimmy Cox from the Highway Department.  I asked her what his IT experience is.  She told me that she didn’t know.

In Mindboard’s response to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ), they give 5 references.  Only one of those lists a project budget over $60,000.  The capital fund (budget) is over 22 times this amount.  With a capital fund containing over $1.3 million, having only one project with a budget anywhere close to this is not very assuring.

This company, and some of its employees, are currently being sued.  The representative (Principal) for the company said the suit is frivolous.  I hope for the sake of the taxpayers that none of the allegations are true.

The company has applied for several H1B visas to employ foreign workers.  These are good paying jobs that could be going to workers who are not US citizens.  Blount County government should not be taxing citizens making minimum wage or living on social security checks to pay foreign workers far more than the taxpayers are making and living on.

The agreement (contract) looked like a boiler plate document that hadn’t been reviewed by an attorney because of obvious mistakes that should have been fixed.  However, the agreement was actually reviewed by two attorneys, who apparently don’t pay close attention to details.

The agreement lists Blount County government as a company rather than a county.  The principal office line in the first paragraph was blank in our packets.  These two items are what made me think it was a boiler plate document.  It turns out that it is.  The Purchasing Agent told me that the agreement was written by Mindboard with input from the county.  Apparently the county gave so little input that it didn’t even request to be called a county or have its address typed into the document.

There is no mention of software in the agreement.  Article 5 defines work product but does not mention software.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is the blank page in the contract.  Page 13 is blank.  Usually pages that are blank say they are intentionally left blank.  Frankly, the taxpayers should ask for their money back from attorney Craig Garrett who supposedly reviewed the agreement for form.

The resolution refers to him as the County Attorney but there is no official position of County Attorney.  That office/position has never been created.  Commissioner Karen Miller made a motion to correct the description of Craig Garrett but her motion failed.  Apparently the commission is OK with someone misrepresenting who they are.

The Purchasing Agent should not be given a pass for these errors either.  She is an attorney.  This agreement was reviewed by two people who are attorneys.  There is no excuse for such poor quality work.

The agreement does not give actual project expenses.  All it gives are hourly rates.  The Finance Director said that we don’t have the actual costs because we don’t know how much these projects will cost.  We’re suppose to turn these consultants lose at hourly rates exceeding $100 so that they can provide us with the costs.  The Purchasing Agent told us that Mindboard thinks it will take about 2 months for them to analyze the county’s IT needs.

In the private sector, if a financial person came to a board and said we don’t know what this will cost, give us some time with some expensive consultants and we’ll figure it out, he/she would be laughed out of the room and possibly offered a mental health evaluation on the way out.  I felt like I had entered the land of Oz with Vineyard as the man behind the curtain, listening to this nonsense.

The former IT Director had actually provided a list of capital needs in 2014 but it was not acted upon.   The county paid an IT consulting firm to examine the county’s IT needs last year.  The Mayor’s Finance Director described that study as the 10,000 foot view.  What was the point of that study, if we’re going to have to pay consultants big hourly rates to study the situation again?

The contract manager said he will be moving to Blount County for a couple of years.  He will be one of the $100+ an hour consultants.  If he works full time at 40 hours a week, that one position could cost over $450,000 over a 2 year period.  There are too many unknown variable with this agreement and capital fund.

Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I (Tona Monroe) voted no.  These are the commissioners watching out for you the taxpayers.  It’s a short list but an important list.  Share these names with the people you know because these are the commissioners worth reelecting.

Commissioner Archie Archer voted no on the creation of the capital fund in December but he was absent for this vote.

The better approach – hire an IT Director
The better approach for the county would be to hire a top notch IT Director.  I suggested to the commission that an IT Director be hired on a salary and that he/she be given a bonus, along with the staff, for successful completion of IT projects that are on time and under budget.

Some of the IT projects will still need to be outsourced.  However, an IT Director who plans to stay with the county for several years would be motivated to see that things are done correctly.  Additionally, outside consultants may end up doing things that an IT Director may not find useful for the county.  It boggles the mind that Blount County has embarked upon over $4 million in IT projects without an IT Director to lead the way.

Commission Meeting
Commissioners Archie Archer and Gary Farmer were absent.

Nominations finally where they should be
At the January commission meeting, I spoke against the practice of putting important nominations under the consent calendar to rush the process through with little discussion.  The consent calendar is suppose to be for non-controversial items that require no discussion.  The commission has been doing a great disservice by putting these names on the consent calendar and offering no discussion.  This practice has allowed the commission to vote on the people being nominated, appointed or elected before public input is allowed.  You can see the order of the agenda here.

For several months I have been trying to get Agenda Committee Chairman Steve Samples and Commission Chairman Jerome Moon to place appointments and confirmations to important boards under the correct agenda item where they belong.  I am pleased to announce that the appointments were on the agenda in the correct place this month, under Elections, Appointments and Confirmations.  The public can now offer comments and concerns about elections, appointments and confirmations during the time for public input on the agenda.

Federal grants
I attended commission meetings for several years before being elected to office.  While I was aware that the county applied for and received many federal grants, I didn’t realize just how many grants the county received until I took office.

The first thing that I did was raise my right hand and take an oath to support the constitutions of Tennessee and the United States of America.  The subject matters of most of the grants are not found in the delegated powers given to the federal government in the constitution.  Congress does not have authority to spend money on most of these projects and programs.  Therefore, in order to remain true to my oath of office I have and will continue to vote no on these unconstitutional grants.

Furthermore, many grants have strings attached.  The commission is given little, if any, information about the conditions that come with these grants.  While many talk about the 10th amendment and the power of the states, that talk quickly goes out the window when federal money is involved.

Cost of feeding inmates is higher than the numbers the sheriff gives
One of the selling points for keeping federal prisoners is the low cost of feeding the inmates.  The Sheriff told the Blount County Corrections Partnership at its November meeting that it costs $2.50-3 a day to feed an inmate.

The adopted food budget for the jail is $430,000.  The Sheriff’s Office requested a $250,000 increase which would bring the food budget total to $680,000.

The average daily inmate total for 2015 was 528.  At $2.50 a day, with an extra day for the leap year the cost of feeding 528 inmates a day would be $483,120.  The cost at $3 a day is $579,744.

Both of these numbers are less than $680,000.  At 528 inmates per day, the cost would be about $3.52 a day.  Food costs are rising.  $3.52 is not an unreasonable price but it should no longer be said that the inmates are being fed for $2.50-3 a day.

Budget amendments form updated
Last month, there was some confusion about the actual impact that budget amendments had on the budget.  Each time a budget request is made throughout the year, after the annual budget is adopted, a form has to be filled out explaining the amendment.  The form had two boxes to check, one for transfers and one for increases and decreases.

A new form was presented providing four options: transfer, decrease, increase and adjustment.  The example that the Finance Director gave for an adjustment was actually an increase because it would spend more of you local tax money.  The description given, on the new form, for an adjustment says, “(correction to adopted budget due to “grant award” or “budgetary adjustment”).”  An increase, using local tax money, should not be recorded as an adjustment; therefore, I moved to strike the words budgetary adjustment and replace them with the word reimbursements.  An example of a reimbursement is the money that the county received from CSX for work done during the train derailment.  It is technically an increase to the budget, but it is not an increase in the use of tax dollars.  My amendment failed.

Commissioner Mike Akard said the changes still leave the water muddy.  I agree.  Allowing increases in spending of your local tax money should not be classified as adjustments.  The commission could have fixed this but didn’t when it rejected my amendment.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Brad Bowers, Karen Miller and I voted no.

Chairman Moon allows return to old, bad ways
In the past, it was common for commissioners to blurt out call the question, without being recognized, in order to shut debate down.  Commissioner Steve Samples did that this month.  Chairman Moon told him that he would recognize him if he would turn his light on.  Samples turned his light on and Chairman Moon recognized him, even though there was a commissioner who was had been waiting to speak.  This is a dangerous practice to return to, allowing a commissioner to blurt out call the question to end discussion and ignore those who have been patiently waiting their turns.

Up next:
A meeting has been called for the commission to appointment a replacement for Roy Crawford who recently passed away.  Roy was the only elected official in the courthouse who did a good job, would give you a straight answer and actually deserved to be reelected so many times, like he was.  Richard Hutchens gave him the first Statesmen Award.  He will be missed.

The commission will also be tasked with finding a replacement for Bill Dunlap who retired at the end of January.

Is Congress Declaring War on ISIS…or on You?

by Ron Paul

Passage of Senator Mitch McConnell’s authorization for war against ISIS will not only lead to perpetual US wars across the globe, it will also endanger our civil and economic liberties. The measure allows the president to place troops anywhere he determines ISIS is operating. Therefore, it could be used to justify using military force against United States citizens on US territory. It may even be used to justify imposing martial law in America.

The President does not have to deploy the US military to turn America into a militarized police state, however. He can use his unlimited authority to expand programs that turn local police forces into adjuncts of the US military, and send them increasing amounts of military equipment. Using the threat of ISIS to justify increased police militarization will be enthusiastically supported by police unions, local officials, and, of course, politically-powerful defense contractors. The only opposition will come from citizens whose rights have been violated by a militarized police force that views the people as the enemy.

Even though there is no evidence that the government’s mass surveillance programs have prevented even a single terrorist attack, we are still continuously lectured about how we must sacrifice our liberty for security. The cries for the government to take more of our privacy will grow louder as the war party and its allies in the media continue to hype the threat of terrorism. A president armed with the authority to do whatever it takes to stop ISIS will no doubt heed these calls for new restrictions on our privacy.

Following last year’s mass shooting in California, President Obama called for restricting the Second Amendment rights of any American on the “terrorist watch list.” The president also used the attacks to expand the unconstitutional gun background check system via executive action. Can anyone doubt that President Obama — or a future anti-gun president — will use the absolute power to do whatever is necessary to stop terrorism as a justification for imposing new gun control measures? Using the war on ISIS to justify more gun control will be particularly attractive since even many pro-gun politicians will support gun control measures if they are marketed as part of the war on terror.

As the American economy faces continued stagnation, and as challenges to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency mount, an increasingly authoritarian government will impose new restrictions on our economic activities and new limits on our financial privacy. In particular, our ability to move assets out of the country will be limited, and new reporting and other requirements will limit our ability to use cash without being treated as criminals or terrorists. Those who carry large amounts of cash will find themselves at increased risk of having the cash confiscated by government agents under civil asset forfeiture laws.

If Senator McConnell’s declaration of perpetual war passes, presidents could use the war on ISIS as a justification to impose new restrictions on our use of cash and our financial privacy via executive action. After all, they will say, the government needs to make sure cash is not being used to support ISIS.

The only way to protect both liberty and security is to stop trying to impose our will on other countries by military force. The resentment created by America’s militaristic foreign policy is ISIS’ most effective recruiting tool. Adopting a non-interventionist foreign policy that seeks peace and free trade with all would enable the government to counter legitimate threats to our safety without creating an authoritarian police state.

Copyright © 2016 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

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“Expect a surprise on Monday”

EvilLucyby Horatio Bunce

Don’t do it Charlie Brown. Lucy is telling you she IS going to pull away the football again.

Have you noticed the change in the big show this week? The conservative “news” is currently prepping you on a few fronts:

1. The “news” knows a secret. They tell you to expect a “surprise” on Monday. They won’t tell you what the secret is. I warned you there would be hijinks. They even trotted out Santorum and asked “remember how you won Iowa in 2012, we were so surprised!”. They barely remembered that they had dutifully reported that Romney “won” for a few weeks as the GOP lied about the results long enough for the tide to change into the New Hampshire primary. So, something “unexpected” has been pre-announced for you. How do you think they know that?

2. As of this week you are now being sold that Iowa Caucus goers are so unstable that many of them change their minds at the last second right there in the voting booth. This is to prep you to believe the “surprise” coming Monday that the “news” already seems to know about. Now, I am going to ask you to apply a little logic to this scenario. If the Iowa folks are so wishy-washy, can’t make up their mind, last second kneejerk voters, would the Iowa results have any real meaning to them? Are they even statistically valid? Wait and see what the “news” tells you about the “message” sent by Monday’s results from these same voters. It will “mean something” and you will be informed of who are now “losers” and you should jump ship soon.

3. Donald Trump is being called “childish”, “petulant”, “afraid of the voters”, “doing a disservice to the voters” etc. for not being willing to appear in the varsity debate tonight on Fox and for not taking up Cruz on his hair vs. hair (oh, wait that was a different Trump episode) $1.5M-for-the-veterans-one-on-one debate. For my Single Digit Jeb theory to prove true, Trump must crash. This tit-for-tat with “I’m an attorney” Kelly was set up months ago with their earlier spat – knowing the debate schedule – knowing she would be moderator just before Iowa – and give another nail in the Trump coffin. As CNN put it, you couldn’t ask for a better SET-UP *ding*ding*ding*ding*ding*. Laying out of this debate is just terrible and will surely affect the Iowa voters we are told……but at the same time the “news” seems to ignore that laying out of the last j.v. debate seemed to promote Rand Paul to prime time for this one didn’t it? Remember back to Lamar Alexander’s last primary campaign? Remember how he was too chicken to debate Joe Carr, acted like it was a waste of his time, beneath him or whatever? Where was all this “candidates owe it to the voters”, “don’t shy away from robust debate” talk from the “news” back then? Sorry, I’m not buying it.

4. You also have the recent endorsement of Trump by Sarah Palin. I believe this was done to hurt his general election polling numbers. This is also an indicator to me that Trump’s campaign is ultimately contrived. Palin was selling you her “Going Rogue” book, playing the anti-establishment game while simultaneously campaigning for John McCain – allegedly her arch enemy she was “going rogue” against… then later traveling to TN to go all Pay-triot for a $100k speaking fee to the Tea Party ™. So if Palin = Tea Party, shouldn’t she be endorsing Cruz? After all, the “news” informed us months ago he is the “darling of the tea party”.

5. Single Digit Jeb is now touted as moving into 2nd place in New Hampshire polling (ok one poll)….and his ads have changed from attacking Rubio to praising his own leadership qualities (but consistently neglect to mention his whole-hearted support of Common Core for some reason). This poll also purports to confirm the effect of Palin endorsing Trump.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason for the former Florida governor’s sudden surge…

Boy, it sure is! I mean, “nobody” could see that coming…

6. Glenn Beck endorses Ted Cruz and claims he (Glenn) is a “constitutionalist” now and we need to be wary of “anger” and “angry men” because that is not going to bring us success and isn’t very Christlike (because Glenn’s whole anti-establishment GOP Blaze thingy is supposed to appeal to the anti-establishment GOP/evangelical crowd – but never actually suggest any alternative to the GOP). I guess Glenn forgot all about endorsing Pre-Emptive Nuke Iran Santorum last time around. Now Glenn is a “constitutionalist” and we have to vote for the dual-citizenship Canadian for the sake of our children. I wonder why Glenn doesn’t know about the Constitution Party

Why were federal inmates removed from the Blount County jail?

The Blount County Adult Detention Facility has been housing federal inmates for over a decade.  We have been told that the reason for doing so is because the county “makes money” housing the inmates because the county receives a per diem from the federal government.  In the last year, the rhetoric has changed from making money to offsetting fixed expenditures.

Some of the federal inmates were removed from the Blount County jail in 2015.  The question remains: why?

On November 11, The Daily Times reported Deputy Chief Jarrod Millsaps saying, “We’ve had to decrease our population in the facility in regards to federal inmates just because of the overcrowding issue.”  However, at November 30th Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting, I (Tona Monroe) asked Sheriff James Berrong why some of the federal inmates had been removed.  He refused to tell me saying that was between him and them (the US Marshals Service).

The reason that I asked is because Commissioners Tom Stinnett and Rick Carver have stated publically that the jail consultant that the county hired to do a criminal justice system assessment called Washington DC to have the federal inmates removed from the jail.  Did these two parrot what the Sheriff told them?  It appears to me that the Sheriff was trying to sour them on the jail consultant, possibly to get them to vote no on hearing from the jail consultant on his findings and conclusions about the study that we taxpayers paid him to do.  The consultant Alan Kalmanoff said he did not call Washington DC to have the federal prisoners removed.

The sheriff also said at the November BCCP meeting that the inmates could have been removed because I called Washington DC to have them removed.  I did not.  I did call the US Marshals Service Knoxville office after some of the inmates were removed to inquire why they were removed.

The man I spoke with told me that he couldn’t tell me because their agreement was with the Sheriff.  He told me that the US Marshals Service conducts its own jail inspection and that the inspection was not subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

More questions emerge from this situation.  Should such secrecy exist?  Should the sheriff be allowed to contract with the US Marshal’s Service without approval from the commission and mayor?  Should federal inmates be housed if the population exceeds the bed capacity?  Why were some of the federal inmates removed but not all?

If it is just due to the overcrowding issue as Deputy Chief Millsaps said, why didn’t the Sheriff just say so when I asked him?  Why would the US Marshals Service refuse to say that it was overcrowding?  If it is overcrowding, is there a number above bed capacity that triggers removal of federal inmates?

The Sheriff mentioned people calling Washington DC more than once at the Nov. 30th BCCP meeting.  Based on his response to my questions, it’s easy to speculate that someone called Washington DC to have the federal inmates removed.  However, I don’t know too many people who can pick up the phone and easily make things move with the federal government.

It’s not exactly clear exactly how many inmates (prisoners) were removed.  A letter from the Sheriff’s Office to the Tennessee Corrections Institute says that the federal government removed 47 inmates but the US Marshals Service told me that 36 inmates were removed.  One possible explanation given was the way the US Marshals Service accounts for inmates going to court.  The US Marshals Service said that was possible but didn’t deny or confirm that as an explanation for the difference.

headbashwallIs there something more to this story?  I don’t know.  The Sheriff and the US Marshals Service have refused to say and everyone else that I have talked with doesn’t know anymore than I do.  I have tried to find out but I’ve hit a wall of secrecy and the head banging is unproductive.

What would be productive is for the state legislature to limit the risks to the county associated with housing discretionary inmates in an overcrowded facility by prohibiting anyone from having unilateral authority to make this decision.  The state legislature should require that any such contract be approved by the legislative body of the county and should prohibit a facility exceeding capacity from housing discretionary inmates.

For more information read these posts:
December 2015 Commission Report
TCI Board of Control member: Blount County could use a nice 100,000 person jail
November 2015 Commission Report
Jail and Criminal Justice System Info

Congress is Writing the President a Blank Check for War

by Ron Paul

While the Washington snowstorm dominated news coverage this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was operating behind the scenes to rush through the Senate what may be the most massive transfer of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in our history. The senior Senator from Kentucky is scheming, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, to bypass normal Senate procedure to fast-track legislation to grant the president the authority to wage unlimited war for as long as he or his successors may wish.

The legislation makes the unconstitutional Iraq War authorization of 2002 look like a walk in the park. It will allow this president and future presidents to wage war against ISIS without restrictions on time, geographic scope, or the use of ground troops. It is a completely open-ended authorization for the president to use the military as he wishes for as long as he (or she) wishes. Even President Obama has expressed concern over how willing Congress is to hand him unlimited power to wage war.

President Obama has already far surpassed even his predecessor, George W. Bush, in taking the country to war without even the fig leaf of an authorization. In 2011 the president invaded Libya, overthrew its government, and oversaw the assassination of its leader, without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval. Instead of impeachment, which he deserved for the disastrous Libya invasion, Congress said nothing. House Republicans only managed to bring the subject up when they thought they might gain political points exploiting the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.

It is becoming more clear that Washington plans to expand its war in the Middle East. Last week the media reported that the US military had taken over an air base in eastern Syria, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US would send in the 101st Airborne Division to retake Mosul in Iraq and to attack ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Then on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if the upcoming peace talks in Geneva are not successful, the US is prepared for a massive military intervention in Syria. Such an action would likely place the US military face to face with the Russian military, whose assistance was requested by the Syrian government. In contrast, we must remember that the US military is operating in Syria in violation of international law.

The prospects of such an escalation are not all that far-fetched. At the insistence of Saudi Arabia and with US backing, the representatives of the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace talks will include members of the Army of Islam, which has fought with al-Qaeda in Syria. Does anyone expect these kinds of people to compromise? Isn’t al-Qaeda supposed to be our enemy?

The purpose of the Legislative branch of our government is to restrict the Executive branch’s power. The Founders understood that an all-powerful king who could wage war at will was the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why they created a people’s branch, the Congress, to prevent the emergence of an all-powerful autocrat to drag the country to endless war. Sadly, Congress is surrendering its power to declare war.

Let’s be clear: If Senate Majority Leader McConnell succeeds in passing this open-ended war authorization, the US Constitution will be all but a dead letter.

Copyright © 2016 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

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