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

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

From that story,

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

and

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

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

 

Jail RFQ Evaluation Team members revealed?

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  The law was a huge mistake and it should be immediately repealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, the names provided to me are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media bias?
The series of articles has begun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A Better Solution Than Trump’s Border Wall’ – Ron Paul’s Jan. 30th Column

by Ron Paul

Just one week in office, President Trump is already following through on his pledge to address illegal immigration. His January 25th executive order called for the construction of a wall along the entire length of the US-Mexico border. While he is right to focus on the issue, there are several reasons why his proposed solution will unfortunately not lead us anywhere closer to solving the problem.

First, the wall will not work. Texas already started building a border fence about ten years ago. It divided people from their own property across the border, it deprived people of their land through the use of eminent domain, and in the end the problem of drug and human smuggling was not solved.

Second, the wall will be expensive. The wall is estimated to cost between 12 and 15 billion dollars. You can bet it will be more than that. President Trump has claimed that if the Mexican government doesn’t pay for it, he will impose a 20 percent duty on products imported from Mexico. Who will pay this tax? Ultimately, the American consumer, as the additional costs will be passed on. This will of course hurt the poorest Americans the most.

Third, building a wall ignores the real causes of illegal border crossings into the United States. Though President Trump is right to prioritize the problem of border security, he misses the point on how it can be done effectively and at an actual financial benefit to the country rather than a huge economic drain.

The solution to really addressing the problem of illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and the threat of cross-border terrorism is clear: remove the welfare magnet that attracts so many to cross the border illegally, stop the 25 year US war in the Middle East, and end the drug war that incentivizes smugglers to cross the border.

The various taxpayer-funded programs that benefit illegal immigrants in the United States, such as direct financial transfers, medical benefits, food assistance, and education, cost an estimated $100 billion dollars per year. That is a significant burden on citizens and legal residents. The promise of free money, free food, free education, and free medical care if you cross the border illegally is a powerful incentive for people to do so. It especially makes no sense for the United States government to provide these services to those who are not in the US legally.

Likewise, the 40 year war on drugs has produced no benefit to the American people at a great cost. It is estimated that since President Nixon declared a war on drugs, the US has spent more than a trillion dollars to fight what is a losing battle. That is because just as with the welfare magnet, there is an enormous incentive to smuggle drugs into the United States.

We already know the effect that ending the war on drugs has on illegal smuggling: as more and more US states decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses, marijuana smuggling from Mexico to the US has dropped by 50 percent from 2010.

Finally, the threat of terrorists crossing into the United States from Mexico must be taken seriously, however once again we must soberly consider why they may seek to do us harm. We have been dropping bombs on the Middle East since at least 1990. Last year President Obama dropped more than 26,000 bombs. Thousands of civilians have been killed in US drone attacks. The grand US plan to “remake” the Middle East has produced only misery, bloodshed, and terrorism. Ending this senseless intervention will go a long way toward removing the incentive to attack the United States.

I believe it is important for the United States to have secure borders, but unfortunately President Trump’s plan to build a wall will end up costing a fortune while ignoring the real problem of why people cross the borders illegally. They will keep coming as long as those incentives remain.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/january/30/a-better-solution-than-trump-s-border-wall/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Ms. Monroe,

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

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

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

Dear Director Arnette,

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

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

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

Under the classification Assigned is says,  

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

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

Paragraph 13 of Statement 54 says much the same thing.

“Assigned Fund Balance

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

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

 

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

 

Sincerely,
Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioner