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January 2015 Commission Report

Throughout the month, I (Tona Monroe) publish stories on local government matters prior to publication of my monthly commission report.  Some of those articles will be linked to in the monthly reports.  Please be sure to click on those links to read in greater detail matters that I only touch briefly on in these reports.  Thanks for reading!

Agenda Committee
The commission voted down my resolution to hear from the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) consultant hired to do a criminal justice system assessment.  Please read more about that here.

Commission meeting
Commissioner Ron French was absent.

Human Resources (HR) Committee resolution pulled by sponsor
Commissioner Grady Caskey pulled his resolution to expand the membership of the HR Committee without explanation.  Commissioner Archie Archer has expressed concern at the Agenda Committee meeting that the resolution may swing the HR Committee in favor of the schools.

Budget Committee members reappointed
The commission approved the Mayor’s nominees to the Budget Committee.  There are no changes because the same 4 people were reappointed.  These members did not deserve to be reappointed for a variety of reasons.

Last year, this same Budget Committee recommended one the largest property tax increases in history, possibly the largest. This came after the county received a 22% increase in the local option sales tax. To add insult to injury the Budget Committee sent to the commission a resolution to implement a wheel tax, a measure rejected twice by our citizenry. Only one member of the Budget Committee voted against those increases but he has voted for increased spending throughout the year making it hard to reconcile his no vote on tax increases.  Jerome Moon couldn’t even bring himself to vote for the wheel tax, after voting to send the recommendation to the Commission the day before.

You can read my statement on the matter here.  I wasn’t able to finish reading my statement because Robert’s Rules of Order prohibits a member from reading without permission from the body.  This rule is rarely enforced but  members were not happy with me shedding light on the poor decisions of the Budget Committee.  Thus, I continued referring to my notes, without directly reading my statement, and drove home the tax and spend ways of the Budget Committee.

Schools budget requests
There were four budget amendments for the Schools.  Commissioner Steve Samples made a motion to approve all 4 budget amendments in one vote.  I moved to divide the question so that the commission could vote on each amendment separately.  My motion failed and the commission voted on all four requests at once.

One of the requests was to fix the damages resulting from vandalism at Porter Elementary School.  There was no opposition to fixing Porter.  However, ponder the money management of the schools for a moment.  If you were given an $85 million+ budget, would you have to come back midyear for a request for an additional appropriation?  Most citizens would be able to find this money in an enormous budget without asking for more money, but not the government.

The reason that I voted no on all four (because we were forced to vote on them together and not individually) is because of a midyear budget increase request for $475,000.  The Schools received an increase of over $3.5 million in local taxes in their budget this year.  To come back for a nearly half million spending increase is insulting to the taxpayers.  This commission, over all, is very weak.  There is no fiscal discipline as evidenced by the huge property tax increase that followed a huge sales tax increase and repeated approval of increased spending requests.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Karen Miller and I voted no on this huge spending increase.

I wouldn’t run a business this way; therefore, I am not going to spend your money this way.  The Schools, like every other Department/Office, have a budget.  They should live by it.  The commission was willing to give a small increase to cover the Porter vandalism but approving nearly another half million increase, added to a budget that already has a huge increase, is allowing spending to spiral out of control.

The taxpaying citizens of Blount County have already had their budgets cut with repeated tax increases.  The commission should respect the sacrifices that the citizens have made by making Offices/Departments hold the line on their already increased budgets.

The way the paper reported the comments regarding this matter made it look like this wasn’t a budget increase.  When a budget amendment request is submitted, there are two boxes at the top of the paperwork designating the type of amendment being requested: transfer and increase/decrease.  The increase/decrease box is checked.  See page 49.  Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

What did the School Board spend the big budget increase on?
The $3.5 million increase is not an exact number.  Fund 141, General Purpose Schools, increased $3,688,469.  Local tax dollars through sales tax and property tax increased more than $3.5 million while federal money, Fund 142, is budgeted to drop over a million dollars this year.  The four funds related to schools show the schools starting the fiscal year with an increase of $2,509,579.

The adopted FY 2016 budget (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016) shows that the amended FY 15 Schools budget Fund 141 had $81,911,531 in revenue while FY 16 is projected to have $85,600,000 in revenue.  See page 148.  However, sales tax is coming in higher than projected.  What the exact FY 16 revenue will be remains to be seen.

At the time the FY 16 budget was adopted, the Schools were projected to receive a $2,625,000 increase from the local option sales tax.  The Schools were projected to receive a $510,000 increase from property tax plus an additional $1,270,000 from property tax from the newly created capital projects fund for a total property tax increase of $1,780,000.  These are local taxes and don’t reflect state or federal tax dollars.  Additionally, tax revenue projections aren’t actual expenditures.  The School Board could spend less than approved and they can request to use additional fund balance, thereby increasing the Schools budget.

$1,270,000 million of the property tax money is earmarked specifically for capital updates.  It can’t be used for anything else.  This capital fund was created this year, in response to a lawsuit filed in McMinn County based on a state law that allows for capital expenditure dollars to not have to be split with city school systems.  For many years the School Board has neglected the infrastructure of the schools, instead focusing more on keeping people on the payroll.  The capital fund is a good way to ensure that some money is actually spent fixing the schools.

I have requested a list of new hires for the current fiscal year and had hoped to have this information in time for this report.  However, it is now February and I don’t want to delay this report any further.  Hopefully I will have more information to share with you soon.

School Funds 15 Amended 16 Adopted
141 81,911,531 85,600,000
142 6,827,552 5,577,662
143 5,793,000 5,862,000
146 1,628,000 1,630,000
TOTAL 96,160,083 98,669,662

141 General Purpose School
142 School Federal Projects
143 Central Cafeteria
146 Extended School Program
Figures are from the FY 2016 adopted budget available on the county’s website under accounting.

Audit Committee
The first meeting of the Audit Committee was rushed through in a way where few would notice.  Each month the Commission Secretary issues a monthly calendar with all the scheduled meetings.  After the calendar was published, Jerome Moon called a meeting.  A notice was published in the paper but if you don’t get the paper or you don’t read it with an eagle eye you can easily miss the public notices.

There are times when meetings need to be called without having a lot of advanced notice.  However, one would think that the first meeting of the Audit Committee, which is suppose to be all about transparency and accountability in government, would be planned well in advance for citizens to attend.  That was not the case.  After several months of not meeting, it was rushed through when few were paying attention right after the holidays.

Thankfully not much happened.  The Audit Committee elected its officers.  The annual audit was not released in time, so there was no discussion and the meeting adjourned.

Don’t expect much good from the 2 commissioners on the Audit Committee.  One is a local government employee who spends your money faster than a drunken sailor.  The other works for a company that gets government contracts.  Neither should be on the Audit Committee because they could have conflicts of interest.  These two rarely ask questions related to spending your money.

The makeup of an Audit Committee has to be approved by the Comptroller’s Office.  County employees are prohibited from serving but not government employees working for other governments having relationships with Blount County.  People who have business dealings with the county are allowed to serve on the Audit Committee.  Why the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury would approve an Audit Committee allowing government employees or business people with government contracts is beyond me.

Past experiences have left me with little confidence in the Comptroller’s Office.  Other elected officials and citizen watchdogs have expressed to me that they also have little or no confidence that the Comptroller’s Office is looking out for the taxpayers.  Hopefully the citizens on the Audit Committee will step up to the plate to ensure that the taxpaying citizens are protected against waste, fraud and abuse.

Recycling Committee
The time of authorization for the ad hoc Recycling Committee expired last year.  The Committee voted to ask to commission to allow the Committee to continue meeting quarterly to monitor the recycling opportunities.  A resolution was drawn up but it was not presented to the commission.  Chairman Grady Caskey wrote a report on the Committee’s findings.  The report was never reviewed or forwarded from the Recycling Committee members.  A member had volunteered to write the report but I don’t know if he contributed to the report or not.  If not, then Chairman Caskey likely acted unilaterally.

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
The BCCP heard from County Technical Advisory Services (CTAS) Jail Management Consultant Jim Hart.  Hart had previously conducted a jail study.  He was asked to do a staffing analysis for the Sheriff’s Office and he issued a report that brought us up to date on available data and reviewed the his prior study and the ILPP study.

Several recommendations have been made by CTAS and ILPP.  I hope that the BCCP will take these recommendations seriously.  More jail and criminal justice system information is available here.

Information Technology (IT) Committee
The IT Committee met briefly to hear from the Purchasing Agent on the status of hiring an IT firm to oversee the IT needs of the county, using the funds set aside in a rush last month during the special called meeting.  There is more to report on the matter and I intend to write on the matter in the future.

Highway Superintended Bill Dunlap retires
Bill Dunlap retired at the end January.  A wrongful termination lawsuit has been filed by a former Highway Department employee.  The Commission has 120 days to appoint a replacement.

Up next
The commission will vote to choose a replacement for the Highway Superintendent.  The commission will also have to look at refinancing nearly $80 million in variable rate debt, which has 4 swaps attached.  These matters may not be addressed in February but will need to be addressed in the next couple of months.

Lack of Transparency Poll
In order to shed light on Blount County government secrets, I’ve posted an online poll giving you to the opportunity to choose which issue was the most top secret action in local government.  Based on feedback, several people aren’t voting because they find all the options to be bad and can’t choose.  However, I’d still appreciate your participation in the poll.  Next year, an “All of the above option” may be included.

Commission rejects hearing from jail consultant: Mayor praised consultant’s ideas

The Blount County Commission rejected hearing from Alan Kalmanoff of the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP), the consultant paid to do a criminal justice system assessment.  There hasn’t been a word about it in the local newspapers or TV stations.

The final report, commonly referred to as the jail study, was issued on May 31, 2014.  The report was suppose to be sent to the commission and made available to the public pending some requested changes to a couple of data errors.  The motion was made at the July 29, 2014 Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting.  The race statistics were reversed.  The white numbers were actually the black numbers and vice versa (page 8).  There was also a request for clarification about a citation in lieu of arrest policy.  You can watch that meeting here.

There was some discussion by then Chairman Tab Burkhalter about whether the BCCP should hear from the consultant or whether it should be the commission.  Burkhalter felt it best for the full commission to hear the presentation.  The next BCCP meeting took place after the new commission took office.

The new members of the BCCP were told at the October 28, 2014 meeting that the consultant felt that the final report was the final report and that any errors could be noted during the presentation on the findings and conclusions of the study.  As a result, the report had not been fowarded to the commission or made publically available online.

My first motion, after election of officers, as a new member of the BCCP was to send the report to the full commission, thereby making the report readily available to the public because it would be in the commission packet.  I didn’t move to have a hearing from the consultant at that meeting but did so at the next meeting on January 27, 2015.  The motion passed 5-0 with 1 absent.

When the matter was presented to the commission, Jerome Moon complicated the situation.  He wanted the BCCP to hold the teleconference hearing, ignoring the request of the BCCP that the commission hold the teleconference.  I reluctantly agreed to postpone the request and said that the matter could be pulled from the future Commission agenda if the BCCP held the teleconference.

That teleconference never happened.  The BCCP meeting where the teleconference was scheduled, was canceled by BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick.  Headrick did not reschedule the meeting, that he canceled, to hear from the consultant.  His wife is a relative of the Sheriff.

When the matter was back before the commission, the Mayor emerged on the scene with a letter encouraging us to not talk about the matter because the county might sue the jail consultant.  See page 34 for the letter.  The commission fail for this obstructionist tactic, rejecting hearing from the consultant 8-12 with Jerome Moon abstaining.

The Mayor’s position seemed to be at odds with a prior statement on the consultant’s ideas.  Mayor Ed Mitchell was quoted in the Knoxville News Sentinel on page 4A of the May 1, 2014 newspaper as saying, “I think he (Alan Kalmanoff) has good ideas and I liked what he was saying.”  The reporter who wrote that story and later wrote about failure to discuss the report was given a county job, in a field that he had no experience in.

There was/is no lawsuit.  In November, I filed a resolution to proceed with hearing from the jail consultant because there was no lawsuit and it makes common sense to hear from the consultant that you paid to do a study.  See page 68 for the resolution.  The commission (Agenda Committee) voted to postpone the matter until January.

This month the commission, rejected hearing from the jail consultant 9-10 with 2 absent.  Commissioner Andy Allen asked Chairman Headrick what the BCCP’s recommendation was on hearing from the jail consultant. BCCP Chairman told the commission that the recommendation was to wait until we heard from the author of a new jail report.  The BCCP made no such recommendation.  In fact, the only recommendation that the BCCP had made was for the commission to hear from the jail consultant.  Apparently it’s acceptable, to some, to completely misstate the actions of a committee to justify your position.  I am left wondering why anyone would trust what some of these commissioners say and do.

Commissioners voting yes: Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Dodd Crowe, Jamie Daly, Ron French, Karen Miller, Tona Monroe and Steve Samples
Commissioners voting no: Andy Allen, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Gary Farmer, Jeff Headrick, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Tom Stinnett.
Commissioners Brad Bowers and Shawn Carter were absent.

With no lawsuit filed commissioners Crowe, French and Samples decided to proceed with the hearing after previously voting no.  Tom Stinnett flip-flopped voting no after previously voting yes and Mr. Abstain Jerome Moon voted no.  The rest voted the same or were absent.

What I have learned from this
Throughout this whole unproductive process I repeatedly tried working with commissioners, reluctantly agreeing to unnecessary delays.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt did not prove fruitful.  The reasons for the delays and obstructionist tactics were nothing more than excuses to avoid public discussion on the study.

What the public needs to know
The taxpayers paid $94,580 for a study on their Blount County criminal justice system.  You were denied a fair public hearing and opportunity for your elected officials to publically question the jail consultant that you paid because some of the powers that be didn’t like what the report said.  That did not stop General Sessions Judge Mike Gallegos from using his position on the BCCP to try to discredit the ILPP study.

Where will the jail crowding issue go from here?
This is an important public safety question that effects your wallet and one that you should be paying close attention to.  My diligence on hearing from the jail consultant should not be taken as an endorsement of every word contained in the ILPP report.  I don’t agree 100% with the report.  However, it does provide a good framework for us to use in reforming our criminal justice system and reducing our jail population.

The BCCP just heard form County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS) Jail Management Consultant, Jim Hart.  He had previously conducted a study on the Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail) and had written a report.  He was asked to do a staffing analysis.  He followed that with a report on his report and the ILPP report.

Hart’s report provided an update on jail numbers since the ILPP report.  This is good information to have.  However, it would have made sense to hear from the ILPP consultant before hearing from Hart.  It’s as if some thought the ILPP report was written in Chinese and that they needed an interpreter, to explain the report to them by doing a report on the report.

Hart encouraged the BCCP to follow some of the ILPP report recommendations.  Hopefully the BCCP will get to work discussing and recommending adoption of some the recommendations from the Hart and ILPP studies.

Some possible good news
The State of Tennessee is planning to open a new male prison that will have around 2,500 beds.  This is good news because Blount County typically holds over 100 state sentenced inmates.  I’ve been told that Blount County is near the top of the list for relief due to overcrowding in our local jail.  The state hasn’t given me anything saying that but hopefully we will see a reduction soon in the state sentenced male inmates. The state is also currently renovating a facility to house state sentenced female inmates.  The state is culpable in some of the overcrowding issues throughout the state; therefore, the state should be working with local jails to reduce their inmate populations.

For more information on the history of the BCCP, see my November 2015 Blount County Commission Report.

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

December 2015 Commission Report

Commission canceled meeting – Mayor calls one anyway, ramrods 20 resolutions through during Christmas season
Ordinarily commissioners place resolutions on the agenda of the Agenda Committee, where the committee will discuss whether to send the resolution(s) forward to the monthly commission meeting.  For two of the last three months, resolutions have not gone through the normal double vetting process.

In October, the mayor decided that he wanted to control the agenda of the commission by calling a special meeting the same week as the regularly scheduled commission meeting.  Commission Chairman Jerome Moon canceled the regular commission meeting because there was no need to have two meetings in the same week.  This allowed the Mayor to set the agenda for the Commission instead of the Commission setting its own agenda.

With unanimous consent, the County Commission canceled its December meetings (Agenda Committee and Commission) but the Mayor disrespected the choice of the commission by calling a special meeting to ramrod 20 resolutions through, including the creation of an IT fund using $1.3 million of your tax money.  This move allowed the mayor to set the agenda again.

Under the state law, the mayor can call special meetings of the Blount County legislative body.  There is rarely a need to call a special meeting because the commission meets regularly, once a month.  However, the mayor has decided to abuse the process in recent months.  A special meeting should be called when an urgent need arises to deal with an important matter.  Special meetings shouldn’t be called to avoid the Agenda Committee process or to ramrod large agendas through during the holiday season when few people are able to attend meetings and/or are paying attention.

Commission meeting
Commissioners Mike Caylor and Karen Miller were absent.  The other 19 were present.

20 resolutions – no fiscal discipline
There were 20 resolutions on the special called meeting and all 20 passed.  While seven of the resolutions were to amend the budget to reflect the funds that the County received to recoup expenses related to the CSX train derailment and one was to allow for safe passage of a visitor from the North Pole there were twelve more resolutions that should have gone through the usual vetting process.  This is a sorry way to conduct business.

If you are upset with the omnibus spending bill that congress just rammed through, you’ll want to pay closer attention to your local government that just rammed through 20 resolutions in a rush right before the Christmas holiday season.  There is a Washington, DC, Blount County, Tennessee parallel.

Property Assessor cut health benefits and then wanted it back and more
The Commission was asked to vote on a budget amendment to increase funding for health care benefits for the Property Assessor’s reappraisal employees.  The Commission was asked to appropriate an additional $35,500.  Interestingly, most of this amount was in the budget last year.  See page 18 for the FY 15 and 16 health insurance amounts.  The cost centers are 205 and 207.  When I inquired why money had been cut from these cost centers, no one from the Property Assessor’s Office was present to answer the question.  No one from the Property Assessor’s Office attended the Budget Committee to explain this either.

$1.3 million IT Fund – IT expenses $4.1 million without approval of IT Committee
Information Technology (IT) expenses are projected to have a 5 year cost exceeding $4.1 million.  Remarkably, none of these expenses have been recommended by the IT Committee.

Finance Director Randy Vineyard is the driving force behind many of these expenditures.  He appears to be the defacto leader of the courthouse, rather than Mayor Ed Mitchell.

The costs include:

  • $2.3 million for Kronos, over a 5 year period
  • $9,300 for the first year and $3,400 each year there after for software used by the Election Commission
  • $579,064 Spillman software purchase for Sheriff’s Office
  • $1,348,942 million IT Fund to update infrastructure and purchase new equipment

The Commission was not presented with the Election Commission software purchase because the Election Commission budget was already so bloated that it did not take an increase to purchase the software.  The IT Committee sent this item to the Budget Committee on the condition that the Administrator of Elections show up and explain the purchase.  The Administrator did not attend the IT Committee meeting and did not provide any explanation to the IT Committee as to why the new software was needed.

The Election Commission had previously been using in-house software.  The IT Director said the new software requested by the new Administrator of Elections Susan Hughes will actually take more time to use than the old system.  Why anyone would want to spend money on software that takes more time to use than an in house system is beyond me.  To add insult to injury, when Hughes inquired whether she needed to present the software request to the Commission, the Mayor responded saying, not unless you are a glutton for punishment.

The Kronos payroll, time keeping and H.R. software was a top secret project.  The lead volunteer on the project is no longer overseeing the project and the payroll portion is 3 months behind schedule.

The Spillman software purchase last month was another big expense.  All but $100,000 of it was funded with court costs.  You can read the contract here.

The IT Director, John Herron, left earlier this year to go to work for Blount County Schools.  He kept the County’s IT system afloat on in-house software and by modifying software purchased many years ago.  This saved the County large sums of money that is and will be spent on more modern software programs.  While many of us in the private sector make due without having state of the art everything and live within our budgets this apparently wasn’t good enough for our Finance Director.  More than one County employee shared with me that the Finance Director wanted the IT Director gone.  Rather than working with the IT Director while he had the chance, the Finance Director waited until the IT Director left and seized the opportunity to go on a spending spree after already getting a $2.3 million software system the year before.

The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an IT company for the newest IT project was sent out on December 4th, before the Budget Committee and Commission met.  This should tell everyone that the Mayor and Finance Director considered this issue a slam dunk with the Budget Committee and the Commission.  It should alarm the taxpaying public that your Commission allows the Mayor and Finance Director to take us for granted.  The legislative body is suppose ensure that important matters aren’t rushed through irresponsibly and that taxpayer money is spent wisely on priority items not long wish lists.

In October, I reported that the IT Committee heard a presentation from Net3 regarding the IT needs of the County.  You can read the report here and view the presentation here.

The IT Committee sent the report to the Budget Committee but made no recommendation based on the report.  When the IT Committee voted to send the report on, I stated that I hoped that before the Budget Committee made any budget
recommendation that the IT Committee be given the chance to make recommendations.  That didn’t happen.

The Budget Committee decided to fund the entire estimated costs (over $1.3 million) listed in the report and recommended putting it into a capital projects fund.  The Budget Committee asked very few questions on the matter.

The Commission addressed the $1.3 million request at the special called meeting.  We were told that the IT Committee had recommended it and that the Sheriff’s Office couldn’t proceed without this fund, neither of which are true.  Creating the fund isn’t actually appropriating money for specific purchases.  The purchases could be made without the fund and still have to go through normal purchasing protocols.

Motions were made to postpone the matter until February, which didn’t make a lot of sense since the matter needed to be prioritized rather than just delayed, to reduce the amount to $700,000 and to send the matter back to the IT Committee.  All 3 motions failed.

Commissioner Mike Akard has written about the matter on his Facebook page.  Rather than me writing basically the same thing here, please read what he has to say here and here.

There are two things that jump out at me regarding the $1.3 million placed in the capital fund.  Some of the estimates seem high.  For example, monitors are listed at an estimated cost of $168.30 each (see page 54) but any of us could walk into an office supply store and get a better off the shelf price, with no prior planning.  The same is likely true for the desktop pcs, even though the individual specifications aren’t listed.  Furthermore, there are two capital costs listed as unknown (see page 53).  I hope this doesn’t cause this latest IT project to exceed its budgeted costs.

The money will come out of the General Fund.  Now that the funds are available, there is little, if any, incentive not to spend the funds.

All of this has taught me that it is a bad policy to forward anything from the IT Committee to the Budget Committee without a specific recommendation.  The IT Committee needs to thoroughly examine everything before sending anything on without a recommendation.  I will be insistent on this in the future.

More mistakes by Finance Director and staff
Last month I wrote about mistakes made by the Finance Director and/or his staff.  The mistakes continued this month.  Last month the Commission was asked to vote on a budget amendment for the donations to the Animal Shelter.  This month we were asked to vote on an amendment to undue last months amendment because we didn’t need the amendment after all.

The Commission was asked to vote to amend the budget to appropriate an additional $578,611 for workers compensation because of an omission by the Finance Director.  It is not that difficult to calculate workers compensation.  Situations can arise that would necessitate a small increase but a competent Finance Director wouldn’t miss the mark this much.

Funding workers compensation isn’t an optional budgetary expenditure.  While I voted for this amendment, in hindsight I wish that I hadn’t.  Could it be that this was under budgeted, to make the budget look smaller than it actually was, knowing that funding it isn’t optional?  It’s much easier to come back during the middle of the fiscal year for a huge budget increase on an expense that isn’t optional than for one that isn’t.  I intend to monitor this situation more closely in the future and will likely only support amendments that are minor necessary adjustments, not huge increases (‘mistakes’) like this.

Competitive sealed bid threshold raised from $10,000 to $25,000
In January, the Commission rejected having the same people serve on the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee at the same time.  In March, the Commission approve the Mayor’s appointments to the newly separated Purchasing Commission.  I voted no on the appointments for several reasons, the most important being that I didn’t see anyone in the nominees that I could be sure would look out for the taxpayers.  Unfortunately, based on the first action of the new Purchasing Commission,
my concern is now justified.

It should be noted that this is also one of the first things that the new Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham an attorney, pushed for.  The Purchasing Commission approved 4 to 0 with 1 absent to raise the competitive sealed bid threshold from $10,000 to $25,000.  Now the Purchasing Department will only need to try to get 3 bids before awarding purchases up to $25,000.  Special deals were just made easier in Blount County.  Only Commissioners Akard and I voted no.

Election Commission members given pay raise
We live in a time where the idea that public servants should actually serve the public, rather than themselves, seems trite, if not nonexistent.  I take my job as a public servant very seriously, to the point that I am willing to serve without compensation.  So many today get in positions in government to enrich themselves while giving lip service to the notion of public service.

The Blount County Election Commission meets once a month.  In a non-election year, the meetings can be brief, some lasting less than an hour.  The current pay is $300 a month for each member except for the Chairman who is paid $400.  The members will now be paid $400 a month starting in February.  Where else can you get paid $400 for an hour or two of work each month?

During an election year there is more work for the Election Commission but that is public service.  My wish for the new year is for those who claim they want to serve to examine whether that is really what is in their hearts and minds.  While 4 Commissioners voted no on the resolution to increase the pay, only Commissioners Akard and I voted no on the transfer that made the pay increase possible.

The majority of Election Commissioners were on the Election Commission when it voted to not count the ballots of Keith and Karen Miller in 2010 because they had requested paper ballots.

$1 million ear mark for jail
I have long maintained that our local government operates far too secretively.  That point could not be clearer than the recent revelation that Mayor Ed Mitchell and Finance Director Randy Vineyard earmarked one million for the jail without telling the commission or the public.

When asked for a comment, the Mayor lacked the integrity to even respond.  Failure to respond to a request for comment has become the norm for the Mayor.

The Finance Director said that he had a transition facility in mind when he earmarked the money without telling you, the taxpaying public.  A Sheriff’s employee recently told me that he also wanted a transition facility.  Blount County may benefit from a transition facility but something this important should be discussed openly for the benefit of the public, not behind closed doors with secret earmarking.

The Finance Director serves as a non-voting member of the Blount County Corrections Partnership but he did not bother to inform the BCCP, the Commission or the public about this money.  After the Budget Committee meeting, where I questioned the Finance Director about this money, he yelled at me after the microphones were turned off and the press had left the room.  With this type of behavior and secrecy and the volume of financial mistakes, I am convinced that the taxpaying citizens of Blount County deserve a better Finance Director and Mayor.

With all the big spending by this Commission, Mayor and several office holders, I think the best investment this County could make is to hire a new Finance Director who will be open, better informed, live within the budget and stop making so many mistakes.  My November 6th email to the Finance Director on the nearly $80 million in variable rate debt that will need to be refinanced in 2016 remains unanswered.

Up next
The resolution that I filed in November to have a hearing on the nearly $94,580 jail study was delayed until January.  Interestingly the Sheriff’s Office has already followed the advice given in the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) report regarding renegotiating per diem rates for housing federal inmates.  The ILPP report recommended hiring a company with expertise in rate negotiations to renegotiate the rates.  The Sheriff’s Office took this advice and received a rate increase.

The BCCP unanimously (5-0 with one absent) recommended that the Commission have a hearing on the jail study.  The Commission chose not to because of the Mayor’s false threat of a lawsuit, against the jail consultant, to silence discussion.  There is no lawsuit.  It’s time to hear from the consultant.

The NMA Holiday Travel Checklist: NMA E-Newsletter #362

Record numbers of Americans are expected to hit the road this holiday season. Couple that with the inevitable bad weather and overbearing traffic enforcement, and we thought it made sense to provide this holiday travel checklist—NMA style.

Be Prepared: Pack a roadside safety kit in case you find yourself stranded, especially in bad weather. Pick one up premade or put together your own with a few basic hand tools, jumper cables, flashlight, tire inflator, blankets, first aid kit, etc. Check here for a full list of recommended items.

Plan Ahead Part 1: Staying safe means anticipating road hazards. Check www.speedtrap.org and www.roadblock.org before you leave to see where to expect stepped-up enforcement along your journey. Beyond speeding, police will be working overtime (thanks to federal grants) looking for things like seat belt violations, DUI and distracted driving infractions.

Plan Ahead Part 2: Speaking of distracted driving, cell phone and texting laws vary widely. What is permissible in one state will result in an expensive ticket in another. Check here to get an idea of the laws in the states you plan to visit.

Weather the Storm: Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy and ready for the conditions. Check things like the battery, tires, fluid levels, wiper blades, etc. Here’s a full list.

Take a Deep Breath: Heavy traffic, bad weather and the stresses of the holidays bring out the worst in drivers. Be patient on the road, leave plenty of space between your vehicle and others and …

Spread Some Holiday Cheer: Practice Lane Courtesy and make everyone’s trip a little more enjoyable.

Have a Contingency Plan: Despite your planning and diligence, you still find yourself along the side of the road with a cop looking to fill his federal grant-driven holiday enforcement quota (oops … performance measure). What do you do? Look here for some great tips on how to minimize the damage and get back on your way as soon as possible.

Speak Up: Using the phrases “Am I free to leave now?” and “Am I being detained?” during a traffic stop or roadblock could extract you from further harassment. Also, by exercising your civil rights you can protect yourself should the situation turn more serious and lead to future court proceedings.

Hide the Presents: If you’ve got presents in your vehicle, keep them out of sight. You don’t want any Grinches stealing your Christmas, especially if you’re traveling to New Haven, Connecticut, where police have been stealing valuables from unlocked cars, just to teach their owners a lesson. No kidding.

Go Cashless: Civil forfeiture is always a danger, and the cops will look for any excuse to pick your pocket, even if you’re only carrying a few hundred bucks. Carry as little cash as possible.

Give Back: Consider a year-end donation to the NMA Foundation, which may be tax deductible.

Finish up your Holiday Shopping: Giving a NMA gift membership to someone on your list is easy, inexpensive and always appreciated. Call us at 1-800-882-2785.

https://www.motorists.org/alerts/the-nma-holiday-travel-checklist-nma-e-newsletter-362/

TCI Board of Control member: Blount County could use a nice 100,000 person jail

After the September 2, 2015 Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control (TCIBC) minutes revealed that the Mayor had set aside $1 million without telling the public, the September 12, 2012 minutes reveal another alarming statement.  On page 3 of the TCIBC minutes, board member and Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes said:

“Unfortunately, they (Sheriff and staff?) don’t have a commission that will build them a nice 100,000 person jail but they could use it.”

A nice 100,000 person jail?  Blount County can use a facility that large?  Are some wanting to turn the peaceful side of the Smoky Mountains into the next Brushy Mountain Penitentiary?

With rhetoric like this, I think it is time for us to question the quality of people serving on the Board of Control and look at reforming its membership.  Have some become numb to the incarceration process and the huge costs associated with it?  Only one member of the TCIBC does not work in the criminal justice system and that member is a Mayor.

Note: The first page of the 2012 TCIBC minutes is giving an error message but pages 2-3 should open for viewing purposes.

November 2015 Commission Report

Agenda Meeting
In October of 2013, the Commission voted to spend over $94,000 to conduct a study on the jail overcrowding.  The Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) Criminal Justice System Assessment Report (commonly called jail study) was issued May 31, 2014.  The County Commission has yet to hear from the jail consultant because the Mayor chose to obstruct progress by having his attorney write a letter to the commission asking us to not talk about the report because the county might sue and discussion could damage the County’s legal position.  This was just a tactic to shut down discussion on the report.  Over 7 months later, there is no lawsuit.

I filed a resolution to have a hearing on the jail study.  The Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) unanimously recommended that the Commission hear from the Jail consultant at it’s January meeting.  Commissioner Rick Carver said that he didn’t understand my resolution since it didn’t come from the BCCP.  He should have understood it because he was the one who seconded my motion at the January BCCP meeting to recommend having a hearing on the study.

The facts were inconvenient for Rick Carver and the rest of the water boys for the Sheriff.  They made excuse after excuse about not hearing the findings and conclusions of the taxpayer funded study.  The matter was again postponed to the January meeting.  If these commissioners put as much time and effort into solving problems as they have in avoiding the problems we would see the kind of criminal justice reform needed for the betterment of society.

Commission Meeting
The Commission approved purchasing a new software system for the Sheriff’s Office that will allow deputies to be more mobile, improve record keeping and help with inmate classification in the jail.  The expenditure was mostly funded by court costs for technology.

For the second month in a row Accounting and Budgeting either wouldn’t answer or didn’t know the answer to my questions regarding budget amendments and the HR Director failed to provide requested information regarding the Evergreen Employee Compensation and Classification Study.  After the Evergreen Study was adopted as the pay scale for the General County, excluding the Highway Department, employees had the opportunity to go through an appeals process if they weren’t happy with their classification and/or pay.  I submitted questions regarding the outcome of this process to the HR Director in early September but she failed to answer my questions.

A complicated budget transfer request was in the Commission packet to appropriate amounts needed to satisfy the appeals process.  The figures are available on page 25 of Commission packet.  There were a couple of problems with this.

First, I inquired how it was possible that the re-appropriates were exactly zero.  If you have an appeals process, it seems highly unlikely that the appeals process will result in the changes to pay for employees being exactly zero.  The final results showed that the Commission approved $36,917.75 more for wages than was needed.  If the appeals process shows that the commission over budgeted by this amount, then why wasn’t this item a budget decrease instead of a transfer that resulted in neither an increase or decrease to the budget?  The answer I was given did not sufficiently explain this.  The HR Director did not attend the Agenda Committee meeting or the Commission meeting to answer questions.

Additionally, I inquired why re-appropriations that we were asked to vote on did not match the Change/Difference column figures resulting from the appeals process.  For example, the appeals lead to salary increases of $36,205.63 in the Circuit Court Clerk’s budget, but $60,366 for salaries was transferred to this Office. No sufficient answer was given for this either.

With no clear answers, from the Finance Department or HR Director, this budget transfer didn’t pass the common sense test to me.  Only Commissioners Karen Miller and I voted no.

Recycling Committee
The Ad Hoc Committee to Study Recycling expired this month without taking any action except approving a request for an extension of time from the County Commission.  Discussion was short because some people didn’t make it to the meeting.

Blount County Corrections Partnership
Sheriff James Berrong and Chief Deputy Jeff French resorted to petty attacks against me.  Commissioner Jamie Daly asked the men to put egos aside and be adults but French attacked me again after her request.

Five months since last meeting
At the Agenda meeting Commissioner Jamie Daly asked the BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick how many times the BCCP had met this fiscal year.  He didn’t give a number, because he knew the answer was zero.  The last meeting occurred in June which was the last fiscal year.

The only two agenda items at the June meeting were the TCI presentation and the setting of the next meeting.  After the TCI presentation the Chairman declared that he would set a meeting date.  He drug his feet for four months before setting a meeting date.  On the day of the meeting the members of the BCCP received an email from the Commission Secretary saying that the Chairman wanted to know if we would be attending the meeting.  Chairman Headrick was probably looking for a reason to cancel the meeting as he has done multiple times in the past.

At the April meeting, I asked that our next meeting after the TCI presentation include discussion of housing federal inmates.  When the November meeting public notice was issued, it excluded this agenda item.  I had to call the Commission Secretary to get it added to the public notice.  A new public notice had to be reissued the next day.  At the meeting the Chairman said he had nothing to hide but there are too many things like this to dismiss as innocuous.

Federal Inmates
The County Commission has never approved the contract to house federal inmates.  The Sheriff acted unilaterally when he signed the agreement.  The are many risks associated with housing federal inmates but the matter hasn’t been voted on by the Commission or signed by the Mayor.

For many years, the Sheriff’s Office has promoted the notion that the County makes money keeping federal inmates.  The ILPP report, that the establishment has been avoiding public discussion on, says on page 26, “The only way for the jail to make any money from Federal or State per diems is to crowd it.”

On page 42 the report says:

“ILPP believes that the County is subsidizing the Federal Detention contract and mistakenly believes the County profits from the federal contract. The perceived profits are at expense of staff and inmate conditions. Understaffing and overcrowding results in a distorted view of the profit margin. Providing adequate housing accommodations and sufficient staffing compared to the inmate population will result in substantial loss of County funds. When building cost and staff costs are included, the Federal contract is insufficient to cover real costs.”

The ILPP report recommends that the Sheriff’s Office hire a firm to renegotiate the federal per diem rate.  The Sheriff’s Office has acted on this recommendation and the rates are being renegotiated.  That renegotiation itself suggests that current per diem rate is insufficient to fully cover operational costs of housing federal inmates.

Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Office billed the private sector $35 an hour for security services provided for the recent Luke Bryant concert.  The federal government is billed $14 an hour for transportation services for federal inmates.  The Sheriff told me that I was playing games when I asked him why this rate was less than half the private sector rate.  He said that the concert pay was overtime but Chief French acknowledges that deputies could be on overtime pay when transporting federal prisoners.  Even if the deputies aren’t on overtime, $14 an hour doesn’t cover the costs associated with transporting these inmates.

Commissioners Tom Stinnett and Rick Carver have both said that the ILPP consultant called Washington DC and caused the US Marshalls Service to remove some of the federal inmates from the jail.  I asked the Sheriff if federal inmates had been removed, why the were removed and how many.  He said that either I or the ILPP consultant had called Washington DC and implied that one of us had caused it.  He asked me if I had called.

After hearing the two Commissioners allege that the federal inmate reduction was due to the jail consultant, I placed a call the US Marshalls Service to see if they would tell me why the number of inmates was reduced.  The called was placed near the Thanksgiving holiday so I wasn’t able to speak with anyone who could answer that question.

I asked the Sheriff if he was given a reason why the US Marshalls Service removed the federal prisoners.  He said that he was given a reason.  When I asked what that reason was, he said that it was between him and the US Marshalls Service.

The US Marshall’s Service returned my call after the BCCP meeting and told me that 36 inmates were removed from the jail but refused to tell me why they were removed saying that the contract was between them and the Sheriff’s Office.

The revenue projection for this fiscal year already projected keeping 30% less federal inmates than the prior year.  The budget was put together several months before the US Marshalls Service removed the federal inmates.  When you are told that we are losing revenue because some of the federal prisoners were removed, keep in mind that the budget only projects an average of 52 inmates a day while there are over 80 inmates after the US Marshalls Service removed the 36 inmates.

Information is not provided
The BCCP is not given copies of the TCI jail inspection reports.  The BCCP is not given a copies of the Plan of Action when updated.  The BCCP is not given any information from the Probation Department.  The BCCP is not given any information from the Program Director of Recovery Court (formerly called Drug Court).  The BCCP is not given any information from the District Attorney’s Office.  The BCCP is not given any information from the Public Defender’s Office.  The BCCP has been not given a copy of the Sheriff’s Office agreement with the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee since I’ve been on the BCCP.  If a member wants this information, they have to request it.

BCCP is not hearing from many parts (“stakeholders”) of the criminal justice system
Since I’ve been a member of the BCCP, we have not heard from the citizens serving on the Jail Inspection Committee, Probation Department, DA’s Office or the Public Defenders Office.  What we have heard regarding the Recovery Court has come from Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington.  When I asked that the BCCP be provide with data regarding how many people in the court system would be eligible for Recovery Court programs so that we could look at the possible need to expand it, she was quick to tell me that she didn’t have time to provide that data.  My request wasn’t for her specifically to provide the information but rather for the Program Director or her staff to provide the data.  Harrington encouraged a request for increased funding which I supported on the condition that we be provided data about Recovery Court and the possible need to expand it.  Five months after the budget increase, the BCCP has been given no data from Recovery Court.

We can do better
The BCCP has been dysfunctional and unproductive.  The problem lies squarely on the shoulders of Chairman Jeff Headrick. He is more interested in catering to the establishment than serving the community.

A Chairman who wanted to achieve progress wouldn’t cancel meetings because one or two people, who aren’t voting members, aren’t going to attend.  A Chairman who wanted progress wouldn’t allow five months to pass between meetings.  A Chairman who wanted to achieve progress wouldn’t parrot a statement like, do you want to meet just to meet (yes he said that) knowing that there are many topics that have never been discussed by the BCCP.  A Chairman who wanted progress would work diligently to make sure that the BCCP was getting all the criminal justice system information available.  A Chairman who wanted progress would be inviting each of the Offices/Departments involved in the criminal justice system to come speak to the BCCP.

The BCCP should be meeting monthly and be given either monthly or quarterly reports from each component of the criminal justice system.  Each month one or more of person involved in the system should be speaking to us about what they are doing and what they need to be doing their job better.  These are the requests that I would have been making had the Chairman not hindered the BCCP from meeting on a regular basis.

County Technical Advisory Service Jail Management Consultant Jim Hart issued a review on the jail studies, the one that he did and the ILPP study.  He actually recommends meeting with the people involved in many components of the criminal justice system.  It is my hope that the BCCP will take these recommendations seriously.  Regular meetings with all involved is what the BCCP is suppose to be doing in order to make recommendations to reform the criminal justice system.

Role and effectiveness of government
It has been said that I am against the Sheriff and the Sheriff’s employees.  The same is said about the Schools and their employees.  This is ridiculous.

The Schools and budgets under the Sheriff comprise the majority of the budget; therefore, there is usually move to evaluate than with other departments.  The majority of Sheriff’s employees have been polite to me and have answered my questions.  My interaction with school employees has been less because the committees that I serve on don’t have a lot of involvement with the schools.

It is my job to critically evaluate the effectiveness of government and ensure that its role be to assist in the protection of our rights.

The Declaration of Independence says:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let us never forget that the purpose of government is to secure these rights.  Some in government have lost sight of this role.

Up next
The Commission will not meet in December and I have no meetings scheduled.  Therefore, I hope to utilize the time to offer more in depth discussions on the county debt, jail and criminal justice system.  My November 6th email to the Finance Director with questions regarding the refinancing of nearly $80 million has not been answered yet.

Jail and Criminal Justice System Info

Federal Inmates Agreement between Office of the Federal Detention Trustee and Blount County Sheriff’s Office

Tennessee Corrections Institute Jail Inspection Reports July 2012-June 2015

CTAS 2013 Jail Presentation by Jim Hart

Institute for Law and Policy Planning 2014 Criminal Justice System Assessment

The Summerill Group federal inmate rate renegotiation

2015 Updated Plan of Action

CTAS 2015 Jail Studies Review by Jim Hart

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control September 12, 2012 minutes see page 3

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control September 2, 2015 minutes see page 7

Warrant statistics supplied by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office

2011 – Entered 7,245…Served 6,994

2012 – Entered 7,400…Served 7,051

2013 – Entered 6,677…Served 6,838

2014 – Entered 6,134…Served 5,237

2015 – Entered 5,603…Served 5,226 as of November 30th

Tona Monroe’s comments in support of Criminal Justice System Assessment Report hearing

Thank you Mr. Chairman. The situation before us is not uncharted territory. The jail was overcrowded before and the county was forced to build, leaving us with debt that we are still paying on. We should all be able to see where the current situation is headed.

The overcrowding wisely lead the commission and sheriff to commission a study from a national firm who has studied over 400 counties across this country to provide us with options to address our jail and criminal justice system.

The Sheriff has recently started sending us letters telling us that he expects the jail overcrowding to persist. He has been telling us that tensions are increasing. The Sheriff is actually making the case for why the time for us to act is now.

The next step is to hear from the jail consultant. It will cost us nothing further to hear from the consultant. 13 of us were not on the commission when the final report came out. It would behoove us too listen to the findings.

Let the Sheriff tell us what he is seeing in the jail. Let the consultant tell us what his recommendations are. Let everyone be heard. If we continue to ignore the situation then as the Sheriff said in his October 28th letter, “the repercussions could be detrimental to not only the Sheriff’s Office, but to Blount County also”.

Here are some of the situations we could find the county in if we remain inattentive. We could be closed down by the state or the courts. We could be sued and face allegations of our jail being unconstitutional. We could be sued by inmates because of overcrowding conditions in the jail. We could lose control of the jail to inmate riots from the overcrowding. We have a pill problem and some are warning of heroine being a public safety issue. The consultants recommendations may be helpful to our public safety, budget and very fabric of our wonderful community.

Many Counties in Tennessee are in similar situations and are acting while we are not. National media is publishing the stories. We will be next in the national headlines if we don’t get to work now.

I had to go back to 2006 to find a jail report that didn’t show serious overcrowding. A plan of action was issued in 2012. How much more longer can we afford to wait?

The Comptroller’s website lists Blount County’s FY 2014 debt as the 8th highest county debt in the state. It would be a tragedy for us to add to that financial burden when the county has already been down this costly road before. We should be proactive not reactive.

We as the funding body will have to make the tough financial decisions for the jail. It is not a tough financial decision to have open discussion on what we can do to reduce our inmate population and thereby reduce or eliminate the repercussions that the taxpaying people of Blount County will face if we sit back and let the problem continue.

Therefore, I urge you to join me in voting to move forward and have a hearing on the study that we commissioned two years ago and has been out for a year and a half. Thank you.

November 10, 2015 Agenda Committee meeting

Note: The jail has 350 beds.  The March 15, 2007 jail report showed only minor overcrowding of 2 inmates (see page 147) while the rest of the 2007 showed serious overcrowding.  The December 2006 jail inspection report listed 349 inmates (see page 81), which is 1 below capacity, and the last time these reports showed the inmate population being below the bed capacity.

Troy Ball’s comments on Jail Study Hearing

My comments will address Item G4 which calls for a long awaited and much needed hearing by the full commission on the jail study. There are 4 verses in Proverbs that address the situation before us.

Proverbs 23 verses 1-4:
1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

Commissioners, I ask you where else does the Bible tell you that it would be better to put a knife to your throat and commit suicide than to fall for the deceitful ways of government officials? Today we call rulers leaders, politicians, commissioners, mayors and sheriffs. Sometimes we mistakenly call those in government servants but government officials are very much our rulers, dominating our lives, spending our money and telling us nearly every move to make.

The Mayor’s deceit with the jail study is obvious. There is no lawsuit. For those of you who voted no it’s time to realize the deceit and move forward. You have a chance to correct this deceit.

The Sheriff’s deceit with the jail study is obvious. The county does not make money keeping federal inmates and the report says that. The only way to make it appear like the county is profiting off the federal inmates is overcrowding the jail, packing the inmates into the jail like sardines in a can.

For those saying we need to keep the federal inmates for money, heed the words labour not to be rich, cease from thine own wisdom. Jails do not make money. The taxpayers foot the bill regardless of the level of government funding.

The next federal inmate that you sit back and allow to be brought into the jail to add to public treasury could be the one to files the lawsuit that brings the whole matter into the federal court. Then you will find out how wise it is keep federal inmates when a federal judge tells you every move to make. When you get the bill for the new jail pod then you will wish you hadn’t been given to appetite and fallen for the deceitful meat of the Mayor and Sheriff or sought the riches of federal money.