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Claiborne County voters to determine jail expansion bond issue

ClaiborneCoNoJailExpansion

Sign in Claiborne County

Voters in Claiborne County will determine whether the county should issue bonds for jail expansion in this August 4th election.  A Circuit judge, acting in his private capacity as a citizen, is opposing jail expansion saying the county losses money on its inmates, just as I (Tona Monroe) have been saying here in Blount County.

There has been confusion about the role of the Tennessee Correction Institute (TCI) and the TCI Board of Control.  The TCI inspects local jails.  The TCI Board of Control votes to certify a jail as being in compliance or not in compliance with jail standards.  The TCI and its Board of Control can not shut down a jail for not being in compliance with state standards.

The Blount County Purchasing Agent finally issued the RFQ for jail expansion last week, 12 weeks after the commission authorized it.  With the state inmates being removed, the only thing the county should look at expanding is programs.  If the Blount County Commission pushes for an unnecessary jail expansion, then the citizens of Blount County should be able to weigh in on the issue through a referendum.

Pay supplements aren’t required

At the June Blount County Board of Commissioners meeting, I (Tona Monroe) tried to cut the salaries of Mayor Ed Mitchell, Sheriff James Berrong, Highway Superintended Jeff Headrick and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher to the minimum salaries required by state law.  Only Commissioner Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to cut the salaries to the state minimum.  Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.  Last year, it was just the 3 ladies and Mike Akard who voted to cut the salaries to the state minimum.  All the rest supported these 4 being paid substantially more than we are required to pay them.

At the meeting, Chairman Jerome Moon lead the commission to believe that we had to pay the sheriff an additional pay supplement.  This pay supplement would trigger the mayor being paid more because the mayor is required to be paid 5% above the next highest paid official, which is the sheriff.  I had read the laws governing salaries and didn’t think we were required to pay more.  However, I could of missed something and inquired which law.  Moon didn’t know what law required us to give a pay supplement.  Neither did the sheriff or Commissioner Steve Samples, the longest serving commissioner.

I asked the County Technical Assistance Service for clarification on salary laws because minimum and maximum salaries are referenced.  CTAS failed to respond.  Thus, I sent the same questions to the Tennessee County Commissioners Association and received a response.  We (the county) are not required to pay these additional supplements.  Cutting these discretionary pay supplements would save the taxpayers $91,713 this budget year.

Below is his response and the attachment received is available here.

—–Original Message—–
From: Charlie Curtiss
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 11:27am
To: Tona
Subject: RE: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Tona,

There is not a maximum salary listed in the Tennessee Code, there are a few references but the law they reference was deleted in 1990. The legislature sets the minimum salary based upon a county’s classification. If the county commission wants to pay above the minimum salary that is their choice.

Tennessee code allows that a county commission can pay a sheriff additional salary to administer a workhouse. The law does not require a the county to provide an additional amount, it just allows a county commission to pay more if they chose to do so.

The fact that Tennessee law at one time set a maximum  salary, there is language in several parts of the law that give authority to go above the maximum salary. As I mentioned above, that language in not in the law today but there references are still there and it becomes confusing.

The state law says the county legislative body may pay additional compensation to a sheriff to administer a workhouse but it is not required.

I have attached a word document that has some support information.

Thanks,

Charlie

 

From: Tona
Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2016 5:32 PM
To: Charlie Curtiss
Subject: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Dear Charlie,

Wesley at CTAS has failed to respond to this email, like so many.
Do you know the answer to these questions? Thanks,

Tona

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Tona

Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2016 11:06pm
To: “Robertson, Wesley Ross” <
wrober25@mail.tennessee.edu>, “Robertson, Wesley Ross” <wrober25@utk.edu>
Cc: “Roberts, Robin A” <
robin.roberts@tennessee.edu>
Subject: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Hi Wesley,

State statute 8-24-102 governs minimum salaries for elected officials.  CTAS publishes those minimum salaries, which I have a copy of. 

 

State statute 8-24-103 references a maximum salary for the sheriff. 

 

(3) No sheriff shall claim, hold, or have any interest in such funds for services performed under § 8-24-102, fees paid the sheriff as a witness for appearing in court, the boarding of prisoners at the county jail, ex officio services, or fees from any other source whatsoever, except that this provision and the provisions of subdivision (a)(2) are not intended to prevent the county legislative body from paying the sheriff in such county an amount in addition to the maximum salary allowed by § 8-24-102 for ex officio services as superintendent of the workhouse, if the workhouse in such county is combined with the jail as provided for by title 41, chapter 2.

 

Questions:

1) What is the maximum salary in 103 that references 102?

2) Can a supplement be given for a workhouse if the county does not have a workhouse?

3) For purposes of 8-24-11 and/or any other statute, is the jail considered an ex officio service?

4) Is the commission required to give the sheriff any pay supplement above the minimum (excluding the Court Clerk supplement that requires an additional 10%)?

 

Sincerely,

Tona

‘Jail’ expansion RFQ issued 12 weeks after commission approved it

Do you remember that great sense of urgency when Jerome Moon told commissioners that they had to pass the jail RFQ resolution or they would have to sit through deposition in federal court?  Do you remember that great sense of urgency when the Detention Facility Specialists from the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) told the Blount County Corrections Partnership in March that we needed to look into architectural costs to appease the TCI Board of Control to keep our certification?

Well the RFQ was just issued last week.  This is 12 weeks after Mayor Ed Mitchell called a special commission meeting (they’re not so special anymore because the mayor has been calling a lot of meetings) to pass the ‘jail’ resolution.  It took the purchasing agent 12 weeks to issue the paperwork.  Where was that sense of urgency in issuing the paperwork?

One shouldn’t expect anything different from a purchasing agent who writes a resolution about a jail and fails to mention the word jail in the resolved portion of the resolution.  The project overview in the RFQ is clear though saying, “Blount County Government is soliciting Requests for Qualifications from licensed Architectural and/or Engineering firms for professional services necessary to plan and design a jail expansion for Blount County, Tennessee.”  See page 9 for the quote.  Under Proposal Award it says, “Once an agreement is reached, the Purchasing Agent will then request that the full Blount County Commission approve a multi-year contract.”  See page 16 for that quote.

Should the fireworks ban be repealed?

Fireworks went off all around me in celebration of Independence Day.  A few went off Saturday night.  On the evening before the 4th, the sky was lite up all around me.  At one point, I could see fireworks going off at four houses at the same time.  This didn’t include what was going off behind me that I couldn’t see without turning to span the entire sky.

Several that I have talked with don’t realize that it is illegal to possess and set fireworks off in Blount County.  Do you think the ban on fireworks should be repealed?

Claiborne Co. judge cares about community: Opposes jail expansion

Circuit Court Judge John D. McAfee cares about his community.  He is doing what he can, as a private citizen, to stop what may be an unnecessary jail expansion in his local community by pointing out that the Claiborne County does not have to house felons sentenced to more than a year.

Compare that to the actions of local judges Tammy Harrington and Mike Gallegos, who are non-voting ex-officio members of the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP), who never said anything about the county not being required to house felons.  Additionally, neither mentioned that trial judges have the authority, under state law, to order inmates to be moved to a state facility before the expiration of the normal time frame for removal.

Furthermore, McAfee obtained a letter from legal counsel for the Tennessee Corrections Institute saying that the TCI has no authority to shut down jails or enforce TCI guidelines.  This is the point that I (Tona Monroe) made when Bob Bass and Detention Facility Specialist William Robert Kane appeared to try to bully the BCCP into seeking architectural services to expand the jail.  Tough talk is about all the TCI employees can do.  Why didn’t these TCI employees mention that the county is under no obligation to keep state felons, with a sentence of more than a year, and suggest that the county work with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to have the felons moved to state facilities?

It appears that the jail RFQ resolution, that fails to mention the jail in the be it resolved portion of the resolution, was passed under false pretenses.  I am elated that the state is finally going to do its job by taking its felons.  This may have stopped an unnecessary tax increase.  Additionally, I am happy to learn that a judge cares enough about his community to make the facts known and not indebt future generations to house discretionary state prisoners.

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.

The Tennessee Attorney General (AG) has now opined that jails aren’t required to house state felons sentenced to more than one year of continuous confinement.  It is no longer just my (Tona Monroe) interpretation, as the local paper reported.  It’s also the interpretation of the AG.

For Immediate Release: Commissioner Tona Monroe requests immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.

Contact Tona Monroe
(865) 856-0814
tona@breezeair.net

June 21, 2016

Commissioner Monroe issued the following statement on Tennessee AG opinion 16-21.

The sheriff, mayor and some commissioners have been pushing to spend what could be tens of millions of Blount County taxpayer dollars on jail expansion because the current facility is “overcrowded”. Commissioner Tona Monroe has repeatedly pointed out that the facility is only “overcrowded” because the sheriff insists on keeping a large number of federal inmates that the county is under no legal obligation to take. In addition, the sheriff is housing a large number of state prisoners. It has been shown that both arrangements are a loss to the taxpayers of Blount County. Now a new opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General makes it clear that the county is not obligated to house the state prisoners either.

This eliminates any need to spend huge amounts of money to expand the Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail). Based on the most recent month’s jail population statistics, if the federal and state prisoners were removed, the Blount County jail would be well under capacity.

Commissioner Tona Monroe is calling for an immediate meeting of the Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing the discretionary state and federal inmates from the jail, in order to save tens of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

###

Previous jail summary reports are available here: https://www.tn.gov/correction/article/tdoc-jail-summary-reports

Trial judges can order immediate removal of inmates to penitentiary or branch prison

From LexisNexis         

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-107

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED
© 2016 by The State of Tennessee
All rights reserved

*** Current through the 2015 Regular Session ***

Title 40  Criminal Procedure  
Chapter 23  Execution of Judgment

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-107  (2016)

40-23-107.  Safekeeping of inmates — Transfers to penitentiary.

  (a) In counties where, because of the insufficiency of the county jail, or for any other cause, the court may be of opinion that the safekeeping of the inmates may require it, the court may order the immediate removal of inmates to the penitentiary or to the nearest branch prison, at the cost of the state, before the expiration of the time allowed to remove the inmates.

(b) The inmates shall, as soon as possible after conviction, be safely removed and conveyed by the person appointed by the commissioner of correction for that purpose, to the penitentiary, or to one (1) of the branch prisons.

HISTORY: Acts 1883, ch. 171, § 28; impl. am. Acts 1895 (Ex. Sess.), ch. 7, § 10; impl. am. Acts 1915, ch. 20, §§ 2, 9; Shan., §§ 7240, 7241; impl. am. Acts 1919, ch. 39, § 2; impl. am. Acts 1923, ch. 7, § 42; Code 1932, §§ 11846, 11847; impl. am. Acts 1955, ch. 102, § 1; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), §§ 40-3108, 40-3109.

Tensions and an insufficient jail

Shortly after Sheriff James Lee Berrong told the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control about $1 million being earmarked with a plan for another million, he began sending letters to Mayor Ed Mitchell about tensions in the jail.  Copies of the letters were also provided to Craig Garrett, County Attorney (the office of County Attorney has never been created by a private act of the Tennessee General Assembly) and Blount County Commissioners.

When I say letters, I received copies of two letters, one dated September 9, 2015 and the other dated October 28, 2015.  You can read those letters and the additional info that was included with each here.  Shortly after these letter, I began asking questions about federal inmates and discovered the secret plan for money to expand the jail.

Both letters contain the same statement from Sheriff Berrong.  “As you know, if the problem persists, which we expect it will, the repercussions could be detrimental to not only the Sheriff’s Office, but to Blount County also. We are seeing increased tensions in the facility.”

If this is true, why doesn’t the sheriff have the federal inmates and the state sentenced felons, with a sentence of more than a year, removed?  The county is under no obligation to keep either.  State law says counties do not have to house felons with sentences longer than one year in their local jails.  The sheriff himself, signed a contract with the US Marshals Service, without commission approval to house federal inmates in the local jail.  I’ve never been shown what law gives the sheriff authority to sign the contract instead of the mayor.

State law authorizes the sheriff to have the inmates removed to another jail, if the jail is insufficient.  There is an Attorney General opinion on the matter.  See answers to questions 5 and 6.  Considering that the sheriff is voluntarily housing inmates, then he should be taking action to move inmates out of the jail if he thinks the repercussions of his actions, to house discretionary inmates, could be detrimental to the Sheriff’s Office and Blount County.

From LexisNexis

Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-4-121

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED
© 2016 by The State of Tennessee
All rights reserved

*** Current through the 2015 Regular Session ***

Title 41  Correctional Institutions and Inmates  
Chapter 4  Jails and Jailers

Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-4-121  (2016)

41-4-121.  Safekeeping of prisoners — Sufficient jails. 

 (a) The sheriff has the authority, when the jail of the county is insufficient for the safekeeping of a prisoner, to convey the prisoner to the nearest sufficient jail in the state.

(b) In all cases where it is shown to the committing magistrate, judge or court that the jail of the county in which the commitment should be made is insufficient for the safekeeping of the prisoner, the commitment shall be by mittimus or warrant stating the fact to the nearest sufficient county jail.

(c) In all cases where the jail in which a prisoner is confined becomes insufficient from any cause, any circuit or criminal judge, upon the application of the sheriff and proof of the fact, may order the prisoner, by mittimus or warrant, to be removed to the nearest sufficient jail.

HISTORY: Code 1858, §§ 5402-5404 (deriv. Acts 1809 (Sept.), ch. 126, § 4; 1817, ch. 17, § 1); Shan., §§ 7380-7382; Code 1932, §§ 11989-11991; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), §§ 41-1123 — 41-1125.

Is the ‘Jail’ RFQ resolution ambiguous?

At the April 18, 2016 special called Blount County Commission meeting, a citizen named Fred Anderson spoke during public input saying that the wording of the public notice is ambiguous and that he didn’t think it complied with state law.  You can read the public notice and the resolution that the commission voted on here.  The meeting was called to rush through a resolution to look at expanding the jail and/or programs to appease the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control.  No solution Commissioner Mike Caylor called it buying time.

Anderson’s comments motivated me to reread the public notice and resolution.  After reading both, I noticed that neither the title nor the be it resolved portion of the resolution mention the jail.

The title of the resolution reads:

“RESOLUTION OF THE BLOUNT COUNTY LEGISLATIVE BODY AUTHORIZING THE PURCHASING AGENT TO SOLICIT A REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS FOR ARCHITECTURAL PLANNING AND/OR DESIGN SERVICES AND/OR PROGRAMMING SERVICES FOR BLOUNT COUNTY, TN”

The resolved statements of the resolution read:

“Now therefore be it resolved by the Blount County Legislative Body assembled in special session on the 18th day of April 2016, to authorize the Purchasing Agent to solicit a Request for Qualifications for architectural planning and/or design services and/or program services.

Be it further resolved that this resolution take effect from and after its passage, and that any proper resolution to the contrary is hereby declared null and void, the public welfare requiring.”

There isn’t a word about the jail or what type of design and/or programs services are to be solicited in either the title or the resolved statements of the resolution.  The only place that the jail is mentioned in the resolution is in the whereas statements.  While the whereas statements describe the situation and show intent and reasons for taking action, it is the resolved statements where the commission takes formal action.

The action(s) should be precise in what the commission is attempting to do.  Without any mention of the jail, the resolved statements in the resolution appear to be so broadly written as to authorize the purchasing to solicit a RFQ for architectural planning, and/or design services and/or program services for anything.

Was the resolution even necessary?
The Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, told the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) that under the Purchasing Act of 1957, a state law, that she could issue the RFQ if the BCCP wanted her to, without commission approval.  Tough talking bully Bob Bass, of the TCI, pushed the BCCP to do it as did William Robert Kane, who puts false statements in the note section of the TCI inspection reports.

Who wrote the resolution?
Here’s the real kicker.  It turns out that the Purchasing Agent wrote this resolution.  She is an attorney, turned Purchasing Agent.  To make matters worse she wrote that the mayor’s attorney (she called him the County Attorney) reviewed the resolution.  Two attorneys reviewed this resolution.  Yet, the resolved action statements don’t mention a jail or program services related to the jail and criminal justice system.  Scary, but par for the course from the court house clique.

This makes me wonder why the Purchasing Agent has been so slow to issue the RFQ.  How hard is it to write a resolution pertaining to the jail and programs for the criminal justice system?  How hard is to the issue the RFQ?  Is there something more going on here?  I don’t know, but I sure am wondering about the competency of the people running the courthouse and justice center.

“There is no such thing as secret money” but there are secret plans for your money

Some of the people who have contributed to Blount County’s fiscal woes are in a tizzy because I dared to mention the secret actions taken to assign $1.5 million for possible jail expansion.  The paper has been doing what it can to excuse the political machine (misnamed good ole’ boys, when there is little good that they do) with repeated stories downplaying the actions taken by Mayor Ed Mitchell and Finance Director Randy Vineyard.

At the Agenda Committee meeting on June 7th, I put forward an amendment to the annual budget resolution that the would prohibit any monies collected by the county that exceeds projected revenues from being designated for any purpose without commission approval.  The sheriff referred to the $1 million that was set aside as an earmark and told the TCI Board of Control, last year, about a plan for another million.  At the June TCI Board of Control meeting that there would be about another half a million this year, which is half a million less that what he told the Board last year.

The accounting term for this $1.5 million is that it is assigned.

From the Governmental Accounting Standards Board:

Assigned Fund Balance

13. 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.

Notice the intent for the use of this fund balance for a specific purpose.  The Blount County Corrections Partnership was not told about this assignment even though it is the body charged with making recommendations on the jail and criminal justice system.  The commission and public weren’t told about this assignment.  The public learned about the matter shortly after I did, after I read about the secret plan in the minutes of a state body.

Gary Farmer said, “There is no such thing as secret money.”  The money itself may not be a secret but there was a secret plan with intended use of this money.

No solution Mike Caylor asked if the money could be spent without commission approval.  It can’t.  Any commissioner who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be a commissioner.  This was his attempt to cover for the Mayor, Finance Director and Sheriff who would rather plan their actions in secret rather than discuss the matter in public with the Blount County Corrections Partnership.

The jail has been and remains an important issue in Blount County.  Local government officials should be working diligent to address the needs of our criminal justice system, for the betterment of society.  Instead the Blount County Corrections Partnership only meets a few times a year, information is withheld, meeting minutes don’t fully reflect motions that are made, the Commission Chairman cuts citizens off for referencing the jail study, Mike Caylor calls a point of order when I try to discuss ways to avoid jail expansion and money is assigned in secret.  The public trust has been broken by these actions.

Statement to TCI Board of Control on June 1, 2016

Here is my statement for the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting on June 1, 2016.  Due to the five minute time limit, I wasn’t able to complement my remarks.

Thank you. My name is Tona Monroe. I am a county commissioner representing the 7th district in Blount County and am a member of the Blount County Corrections Partnership.

I come to you today frustrated, as I am sure that you are at times as well. My frustration runs deep, as it does with the people that I represent. Let me share some of the reasons for our frustration.

There was a secret plan to set aside $2 million to expand the jail. The public and I did not know about this until I called the TCI and began asking questions related to jail inspections and certification and obtained and read the Board of control meeting minutes from September 2 of last year.

I did suspect that money was being set aside to build because the revenue projection for housing federal inmates was cut in the current budget. When I asked if it was expected that the number of federal inmates being housed in the Blount County Adult Detention Facility would be reduced, I was told no. The forthright thing would have been to tell the commission and the public that amount of money being appropriated was being reduced so that the additional monies could accumulate for the purpose of addressing needs without our criminal justice system.

The taxpayers funded a study conducted by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning to examine the reasons for overcrowding. The study was a holistic look at the criminal justice system. Rather than embracing what the system can do to improve, several took offense to the assessment. As a result, the conclusions, findings and recommendations have largely been ignored or criticized without a fair hearing on the matter. There has been no hearing from the author on the final report. I tried to get the commission to set a date for a hearing but the Mayor threatened to sue the consultant to silence discussion. There was no lawsuit.

The people of Blount County don’t understand why a few people have worked so hard to avoid direct discussion on the report that over $94,000 of their tax money was spent on.  Then to further stall the matter and avoid direction communication with the consultant, Jim Hart of CTAS was asked to review the ILPP study.

The people are frustrated because they don’t want to live in a prison county. One of my constituents asked me why are we in the prison business, referring to housing federal inmates. The people understand that the ILPP report that some have worked so hard to silence discussion on says that the county does not make money housing federal inmates. They don’t understand why the sheriff continues to house federal inmates when our jail is over crowded.

A citizen recently expressed her frustration to me by asking how the state could threaten to decertify our jail if we don’t look at building, when the state has so many sentenced inmates in our jail that it refuses to house in its prisons. We’ve been told that we have to keep the state sentenced inmates. However, my reading of the state law says otherwise.

TCA 41-8-106 (a) says “No county shall be required to house convicted felons sentenced to more than one (1) year of continuous confinement unless the county, through the authority of its county legislative body, has chosen to contract with the department of correction for the purpose of housing certain felons.”

I asked our Finance Director whether the county has a contract to state sentenced inmates and he said no. Thus, I am wondering why we’re being told that we have to house these state prisoners when the law says otherwise. Furthermore, the county legislative body has not approved the contract to house federal inmate either.  If the county commission hasn’t approved housing these state sentenced felons or federal inmates, why are they there crowding our jail?

According to the data provided by our Jail Administrator, the average daily count of sentenced felons with at least 1 year left to serve during the last year is 174.  If you couple that with the federal inmates in the jail, and removed them, our jail population decreases to below the 350 beds that we have. For example, in March the local paper reported that there were 517 inmates in the jail.  76 were federal and 142 were sentenced inmates awaiting beds in a state facility. If the federal inmates and state sentenced felons were removed the population in the jail on that give would have been 299 inmates, which is below the 350 bed capacity and below the 90% capacity of 315 inmates. People are asking me why we are keeping these state sentenced felons and federal inmates when eliminating them means we wouldn’t be overcrowded. Our citizens can do they math. They know that these discretionary inmates are what are causing the overcrowding.

Another frustrating matter is the false statements in the note section of the recent TCI inspection report.  The report says, “The results were submitted at the April 29, 2014 CCP meeting and reviewed the findings during monthly meetings.”

The statement would partially read true if the first part read, “The preliminary results”.  The final report was not released until May 31, 2014. As for reviewing the findings during monthly meetings, the BCCP does not have monthly meetings.  That has been one of the great frustrations, that I haven’t been able to get the BCCP to meet monthly to discuss the report. The BCCP only met 4 times in 2015.  One of the meetings that was canceled by the chairman was to hear from the author of the ILPP report to discuss the findings.  That meeting was never rescheduled.  Instead Jim Hart did a report on the ILPP report, which brings me to the next statement in the note section of the jail inspection report.

“The County commission has also acquired JIM Hart of CTAS conduct a Feasibility Study for the facility that was discussed during the January 19, 2016 CCP meeting.”

We have a couple of other county commissioners here today (Commissioners Karen Miller and Jamie Daly also attended the Board of Control meeting).  Ask them if they acquired Jim Hart of CTAS to conduct a feasibility study. This was not a commission decision. I wonder how many commissioners even knew about the Hart study, until it was used as an excuse to delay talking about the ILPP study.

“The CCP Committee has continued to send in monthly process reports.”

What progress reports?  If you are receiving monthly reports, they aren’t coming from the BCCP because it doesn’t meet monthly. I have obtained copies of what the Sheriff’s Office is submitting to you. However, the BCCP didn’t get this information, or even a copy of the Plan of Action, until I started requesting it. The Chairman of the BCCP even told the commission secretary to not provide us with a copy of the January 2016 jail inspection report at our January meeting. I didn’t even know that the jail had already been inspected this year and failed its inspection until Bob Bass told us at the January meeting. The BCCP wasn’t given a copy of that inspection report until the March meeting.

The last sentence of the note makes a recommendation. It says, “I strongly recommend that the CCP Committee look at all types of alternative sentencing and pre-trial release as well as reducing the number of discretionary/contracted inmates.”

Please know that the Vice Chairman, who served as acting Chairman of two BCCP meetings during the Chairman’s absence, prohibited me from placing the recommendation to stop housing federal inmates on the BCCP agenda. Here the jail inspector is recommending that we look at the matter and the Vice Chairman won’t even let me put it on the agenda.

Furthermore, the commission secretary who writes the meeting minutes for the BCCP has failed to record two motions that I made at BCCP meetings. One time she didn’t even mention that I made a motion and the second time she mentioned that I made a motion but failed to record what the motion stated. The other members of the BCCP did not seem concerned that motions were left out the meeting minutes.

One member of the BCCP said at the most recent BCCP meeting that the county needed to issue an RFQ to look at jail expansion to buy some time. Buy time for what exactly? Instead of buying some time, the people of Blount County deserve answers, not obstructionism. The people deserve action, not stalling or buying time. The people deserve to know what their local government is planning in open meetings, not by reading TCI meeting minutes.

At the called commission meeting in April to address issuing an RFQ related to the jail, those referencing the ILPP report were cut off when the report was germane to the matter. Citizens were also concerned that some commissioners were told that if they didn’t vote to authorize the RFQ they would be sued.

With all these questionable matters, it is no wonder that that the people are frustrated. I understand and share their frustration.

If you certify the jail today, please do so with the following conditions:

There will be no more stifling of discussion.

No BCCP member will be prohibited from adding items to the agenda.

The BCCP will meet regularly and frequently.

The BCCP will be given all important information in a timely manner.

The BCCP minutes will accurately state all motions made at the meetings.
There will be no more secret plans with taxpayer money.

The commission and public will be told what law authorizes the sheriff to sign a contract with the US Marshals Service to house federal inmates in the local jail.

The commission will be given an explanation from the state as to why state sentenced felons with sentences over one year are still in jail when the state law says that county doesn’t have to keep them.

And last but not least, the citizens will not be shut down during public input for referencing studies that support their positions.

Note: Former BCCP Chairman Tab Burkhalter spoke to the BCCP, after he left office, about the history of the BCCP and the ILPP study.  He shared that the author of the report was willing to have a teleconference with the BCCP on the final report and the findings and conclusions of the study.  That teleconference never happened.  The discussion that took place between the author of the report and the BCCP at the April 2014 meeting was on the draft report.

More info:

March 3, 2016 TCI re-inspection report for Blount County Adult Detention Facility  This was given to me with a cover letter dated February 12, 2016, even though the re-inspection was March 3rd.

Consultant service costs to renegotiate federal inmates/prisoner per diem rate

CTAS jail staffing analysis by Jim Hart

Federal inmate contract with US Marshals Service

Previous jail information is available here.

Are counties required to keep felons sentenced to more than a year?