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

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

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

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

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  The evaluation process of qualifications should not be done in secret and the Yager/Calfee exemption law should be repealed.

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

 

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

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

Ms. Monroe,

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

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

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

Dear Director Arnette,

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

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

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

Under the classification Assigned is says,  

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

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

Paragraph 13 of Statement 54 says much the same thing.

“Assigned Fund Balance

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

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

 

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

 

Sincerely,
Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioner

Interview on new RFQ/RFP exemption to Tennessee Open Records Act

In response to the stonewalling related to my (Tona Monroe) request for information and records related to the Screening Committee/Evaluation Team for the request for qualifications related to jail expansion, David Tulis interviewed me and Deborah Fischer today about a new exemption to the Open Records Act.  I learned that what was previously public information is now sealed until there is an intent to award a contract.

There is a point in the interview when I said proposal where I should have said qualifications.  Also, the person who shared concerns about purchasing policies said that the policies “may” not comply with law. He did not state definitely that didn’t comply with law.

David Tulis interviewed Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe

 

David Tulis interviewed Deborah Fisher of the Tennessee Coalition of Open Government
https://www.facebook.com/hotnews1240/videos/1211086112291916/

December 2016 Commission Report

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

$5 million of debt service fund used to pay debt
After the commission voted to authorize an additional $5 million in debt, the Mayor and Finance Director went ahead and used $5 million from the debt service fund rather than borrowing it.  I (Tona Monroe) am glad that they did and don’t understand why the additional $5 million was authorized by a majority of the commissioners.

Stop Loss Policy
The county self insures its health care plan, excluding additional insurance products like dental and vision insurance.  However, it has maintained a stop loss policy through a private vendor for large medical claims.

The commission was provided with the cost of the policy for the current year and for the new year but wasn’t given any information about the amount of claims paid out under this policy.  I asked to be given the cost of the policy and the claims paid with the stop loss policy.

The numbers showed that the county has spent about $900,000* more in premiums than the stop policy has paid out in claims since July 1, 2013.  I was the only commission present who voted no.

Underwriting Year Premium Claims
07/01/2013 554,961 601,535
07/01/2014-01/01/16 883,339 331,093
01/01/2016 446,922 46,982*

*These amount could change before the end of the year.  These figures were provided on December 12, 2016.

Industrial Development Board
There has been some much needed discussion about crony capitalism or corporate welfare surrounding the Carrier deal that President Elect Donald Trump negotiated.  At the state level, the Beacon Center has been calling for an end to corporate welfare.  I and others, here locally, have been calling for an end to these special deals.

The Industrial Development Board (IDB), often with the help of the state of Tennessee, fosters crony deals for a few connected and chosen businesses.  The public is usually in the dark during the negotiations.  When the deals are made public, cheerleaders consisting of the local press try to convince us that the gods of government and the Blount Partnership have done something great by giving the farm away.

Neither tax deals nor land incentives for a few select businesses is equal protection under the law.  All businesses should operate under tax laws that apply equally to all businesses.  There should be no corporate handouts.  Businesses should succeed or fail on their own merits or lack thereof.

The best thing the government can do to promote a business friendly environment is ensure that taxes are uniform and that regulations have a legitimate, useful purpose.  Unfortunately the situation isn’t likely to change with the Blount County state legislators.   The poster child for corporate welfare is State Senator Doug Overbey, who sponsored the TN Investco program which has been a big flop.

The commission was given 3 nominees from the IDB to serve on the IDB.  Yes, the IDB sends us the list of who it wants to serve on the IDB and in the order of preference (see page 40).  The state of Tennessee has set many of these boards up so that they can do their own nominating.

Greg Wilson, President of First Tennessee Bank was the first choice of the IDB Chairman Fred Lawson and Blount Partnership President Bryan Daniels and the nominee that the commission chose.  I called Mr. Wilson and spoke to him.  He was largely ignorant of special deals being dolled out through the IDB.  He told me that he only know what he had read in the papers about the Advanced Munitions Inc. deal.  I asked how he would determine which businesses should be given special development deals.  He said it depended on the return on the investment.  That sounds like code for, only the big boys will get the special deals.  Of course many of the local establishment will benefit as well.

Bankers and construction people are often the members of this Board.  It’s good for business to know who is coming into you county and where the special deals are handed out.  These business people may have conflicts of interest.  The whole set up of the IDB makes little sense, unless you are benefiting from it.

It would make much more sense for local elected officials to have an advisory committee to offer suggestions in creating a business friendly environment.  Tax policies should be set by the state and by the county commission and applied equally to all businesses.  It would be far better to reduce the tax burden on all businesses than for the government to keep picking winners and losers.  It is high time to reform this process.

Commissioner Jamie Daly and I, who were blocked by Bryan Daniels Blount Partnership/Chamber of Commerce/IDB/Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority, were the only two to vote no on confirmation of Mr. Wilson.  My mother received much better treatment from her local chamber, which recently awarded her citizen of the year.

Ho Ho Ho and No No No: Learning to use the NO button 
At the end of the meeting, I gave the commissioners a Christmas gift that they can use to practice protecting you the taxpayers.

Up next: Two big issues may be discussed in January.  You absolutely need to pay close attention to your local government and become involved as these could both be very costly issues.

The Blount County School Board passed a budget amendment request that will be presented to the Budget Committee to provide more funding for an architect to look at expanding the high schools.

Important decisions surrounding the jail are or will soon be discussed in secret through the Purchasing Department.  The Tennessee General Assembly passed a law earlier this year allowing local governments to operate in secret during the evaluation process for professional services.  This new law is an affront to the citizens who deserve to know how the evaluators are vetted and how and why the make their decisions.  All of this will remain a secret until the Purchasing Agent starts the negotiation process with the chosen company.  Good luck at learning how the now secret evaluators reached their decisions after the fact.

The process was already flawed by allowing the appointments to be political rather than being based on the knowledge and expertise of the subject matter.  Now you aren’t even allowed to know who they are until after the fact, thanks to the state legislature.  If these secret evaluators are really knowledgeable on what Blount County needs, then they should have been discussing their ideas and suggestions with the Blount County Corrections Partnership.  Blount County government put the cart before the horse.

Happy New Year!

Sad day for dogs: Court says barking warrants execution by police state death squad

Why do we put up with this?  We need better judges.  A warrant is not a license to murder.  People to stand up and push back against this tyranny.  Laws need to be put in place to require protocols to deal with barking dogs instead of just murdering them for barking in their homes.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/court-police-can-shoot-dog-if-it-moves-or-barks-when-cop-enters-home/article/2610097

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/court-rules-it-was-reasonable-for-cop-to-shoot-dog-for-barking_us_585c4bc9e4b0eb586485d619

Letter to the editor by animal shelter employee Kristin Baksa is wrong

Kristin Baksa, an employee of the Blount County Animal Shelter, wrote a letter to the editor about Commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and myself (Tona Monroe).  In it she says that we three ladies consistently refuse to support the animal shelter.  She gives the example of us three voting against the purchase of a commercial washer and dryer.  She’s wrong.

In the minutes of the December 18, 2014 Blount County Commission meeting (see page 3) you will find that Miller and I voted for the purchase of a commercial washer and dryer for the animal shelter.  Commissioner Daly did vote no.

You’ll also see in those minutes, that I made a motion to use donation money to pay for a bigger portion of the washer and dryer than was proposed.  The motion was rejected by the commission.

The animal shelter is sitting on $92,261.40 in donation money, yet it came to the commission for a budget increase to add more staff.  See account 101-0-346300-0.

The animal shelter did not use $21,199.34 of the money appropriated last year.  It could have held the line this year and used a small portion of the donation money to fund the difference of the $33,054 increase that it requested for 2 part time employees.  Instead it asked for more of your money.

Now for a happy story.  Meet Pepper.

Jamie and Pepper

Jamie and Pepper

My husband Troy found Pepper wondering along the side of a road with no collar or identifying information.  She was skinny and a bit timid at first but her timidity has passed and she now has a wonderful new home.

Jamie decided to adopt Pepper since her dog had recently passed on.  Everyone loves Pepper including Jamie’s husband Bill and the grand kids.  Pepper is being spayed today.

pepperwithcheetah

Pepper playing with cheetah

Tennessee General Assembly often nonresponsive to needed and responsible reforms

In my quest for better government, I have written the members of the Tennessee General Assembly on several issues that are ripe for reform.  The legislators have been largely unresponsive.

One such matter is the salaries of government officials and employees.  Tennessee judges enjoy being the best paid judges in the nation, after a cost of living adjustment.  Many elected officials make 2, 3 and 4 times what the average taxpayer makes.  The salaries of some UT officials are outrageous.

Only 2 state legislators have responded to my request for salary reform: Representative Roger Kane and Senator Richard Briggs.  Both have realized that the salaries are excessive but neither has been willing to take the lead to reform how government officials are compensated.  Representative Susan Lynn responded to a friend who sent an email on the matter.  Lynn said she struggled with the salaries but justified them as being necessary to attract good people.

Another matter that I have written about is the supposed 30 year emergency that the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) is operating under.  State sentenced felons are clogging local jails throughout the state and the legislature has done little to address it.  As such, several local governments have gone deeply in debt to deal with the crisis that the state won’t fix.

Tennessee has the financial resources.  It had a roughly $1 billion surplus in extra tax money that could have been used to fix criminal justice problems and crumbling roads.  Instead it went to teachers salaries and an expensive museum, among other things.  Part of the surplus did go to roads but the legislature did not even fully restore what was taken from transportation funding in the previous decade.

Not one state legislator responded when I sent an email to them with a link to the news article where TDOC says that it has been operating under an emergency declaration since 1985.  How can an emergency exist for 30 years?  This is reprehensible.

When I hear a state legislator brag about Tennessee being one of the lowest indebted nation in the state I cringe.  When do these legislators talk about the debt burden of local governments resulting from state inactions?  The state looks good because it can dump its problems on the back of local governments as it is doing with state sentenced prisoners.

Furthermore, state legislators brag about cutting taxes at the state level.  That sounds good but what about the impact on local tax rates from salary mandates and housing state sentenced felons?

These legislators should be thoroughly rebuked for allowing the problem to burden local governments with debt to pay for housing state inmates.  The Tennessee General Assembly needs to be more responsive to the problems within local government and society, particularly the criminal justice system.  Ignoring criminal justice problems and salary mandates means that local taxpayers will continue to pay for the inactions of the state legislature.

Tennessee General Assembly Emails:

sen.paul.bailey@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.mike.bell@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.rusty.crowe@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.todd.gardenshire@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.dolores.gresham@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.ferrell.haile@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.thelma.harper@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.lee.harris@captitol.tn.gov,
sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.randy.mcnally@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.kerry.roberts@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.john.stevens@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.reginald.tate@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.jim.tracy@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.jeff.yarbro@capitol.tn.gov,
“Becky Massey” <sen.becky.massey@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Bill Ketron” <sen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Brian Kelsey” <sen.brian.kelsey@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Doug Overbey” <sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Ed Jackson” <sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Frank Niceley” <sen.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Jack Johnson” <sen.jack.johnson@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Janice Bowling” <sen.janice.bowling@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Mae Beavers” <sen.mae.beavers@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Mark Green” <sen.mark.green@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Mark Norris” <sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov>,
lt.gov.ron.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov,
“Steven Dickerson” <sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Steve Southerland” <sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov>,
sen.sara.kyle@capitol.tn.gov,
“Richard Briggs” <sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Ken Yager” <sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov>,
rep.raumesh.akbari@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.beck@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harry.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sheila.butt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov, rep.karen.camper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dale.carr@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, rep.glen.casada@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ray.clemmons@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jim.coley@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barbara.cooper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.martin.daniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barry.doss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.dunlap@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.dunn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.eldridge@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jeremy.faison@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andrew.farmer@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joanne.favors@capitol.tn.gov, rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.forgety@capitol.tn.gov, rep.brenda.gilmore@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tilman.goins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.marc.gravitt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ga.hardaway@capitol.tn.gov, speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.hawk@capitol.tn.gov, rep.patsy.hazlewood@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gary.hicks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.timothy.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.matthew.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.holsclaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bud.hulsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jamie.jenkins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.darren.jernigan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sherry.jones@capitol.tn.gov, rep.roger.kane@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kelly.keisling@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sabi.kumar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.william.lamberth@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mary.littleton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.lollar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harold.love@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov, rep.susan.lynn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.pat.marsh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.judd.matheny@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.matlock@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcmanus@capitol.tn.gov, rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bo.mitchell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.debra.moody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.antonio.parkinson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.pitts@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.pody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.powell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.powers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ragan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jay.reedy@capitol.tn.gov, rep.courtney.rogers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov, rep.cameron.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jerry.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.shepard@capitol.tn.gov, rep.eddie.smith@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.sparks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.billy.spivey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.stewart@capitol.tn.gov, rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bryan.terry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.towns@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.travis@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnnie.turner@capitol.tn.gov, rep.micah.vanhuss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tim.wirgau@capitol.tn.gov, rep.rick.womick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.zachary@capitol.tn.gov

A response to a nonresponse: Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have form used to determine inmate costs

headbashwallIn the inane world of government, here’s another story to share that leaves me wondering why I continue to bang my head against the wall of local government.

Back in early May of this year I sent an email to Jeff French, the Chief Deputy of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), asking for a copy of the Intergovernmental Agreement between the BCSO and the United States Marshals Service which establishes the daily inmate per diem amount and travel rate and for the paperwork that was used to determine those rates.   About a week later, Deputy Chief Jarrod Millsaps emailed me the Intergovernmental Agreement but I never received anything related to the paperwork that was used to determine the federal per diem rate.

The specific form that the federal government requires is the Form USM-243.  My request was broader than just this form because I wasn’t sure if anything else related to the rate had been submitted.  Thus, my request was for all of the paperwork related to the determination of the per diem and travel rates.  Remember that the county paid a company 3.5 times more than the low bid to submit the paperwork for a new rate.

Several months passed without receiving a response from French or the paperwork determining the rates.  As such, I contacted the Office of Open Records Counsel (OORC) in the Comptroller’s Office to obtain their help.  About a month passed when Ann Butterworth in the OORC emailed me saying that Chief French told her that the BCSO did not have the Form USM-243 and that a nonresponse constitutes denial under the Open Records Act of Tennessee.

I thought that was the end of my open records request.  You can’t get blood out of a turnip.  If the BCSO doesn’t have the Form USM-243 then my only option to obtain the paperwork it is to do a Freedom of Information Act request with the federal government.

About a week later, I got an email from attorney Craig Garrett’s office with this attached letter denying that the BCSO had failed to respond to an open records request.  His contention is that my original request wasn’t a valid request under the Open Records Act; therefore, the BCSO didn’t have to respond.

Really?  Why do people go to such great lengths in responding to explain why they didn’t respond in the first place?  If French had taken 1 minute to email me to explain that the BCSO didn’t have the records that I was requesting, there would have been no need to contact an attorney at taxpayer expense to provide a response.  If people would just do their jobs the taxpayers would be better served and no one have to lawyer up for failing to respond to a request.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is the discovery that the BCSO doesn’t have the Form USM-243.  The BCSO has long maintained that the county makes money housing federal inmates.  How can that statement be made with a straight face when the BCSO isn’t even in possession of the paperwork used to determine the per diem rate?   Has the BCSO done its own analysis on the cost of housing inmates?  If so, why pay a company to do it for you?  If not, there is little if any reason to believe that the county benefits financially by keeping federal inmates in the Blount County Adult Detention Center.

Jeff French:  (865) 273-5000  jfrench@bcso.com
Sheriff James Berrong:  (865) 273-5000 jlb@bcso.com

It’s been 6 months and there is no jail Evaluation Team

Do you remember the big rush for the commission to pass a resolution authorizing the purchasing agent to issue a request for qualification (RFQ) for architectural planning and/or design services for the manufactured crisis of jail overcrowding because commissioners might have to sit in deposition in federal court?

Do you remember that the resolution was suppose to be for the jail but that the resolution failed to mention the jail in the title of the resolution?

Do you remember that the purchasing agent said she could issue the RFQ without commission approval?  (Wasn’t this suppose to be done in a hurry?  Why ask for commission approval if it wasn’t needed and this needed to be done in a hurry?)

Do you remember the purchasing agent saying that 30 days was sufficient time to issue the RFQ when questions were asked because this had to be done in a big hurry to appease the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Board of Control?

Do you remember it taking 12 weeks for the purchasing agent to issue the RFQ?

Well after the great big rush to issue the RFQ to buy time as Mike Caylor put it  and set aside (assign) $2 million without asking the public or the commission what they think (except for asking them to approve and RFQ that the purchasing agent said she can issue without commission approval) it appears that the courthouse clique really is trying to buy time.  Today marks the 6 month point of the commission approving the RFQ.

The submissions are in but no Evaluation Team has been empaneled to evaluate the companies.  Neither the commission nor the Blount County Corrections Partnership identified what Blount County needed before handing this manufactured crisis to the Purchasing Department to deal with.  It appears that wasn’t such a grand idea/plan after all.

What’s the hold up?
Director of General Services Don Stallions told me that the Evaluation Team hasn’t been empaneled yet because they are still looking for citizens to serve on the team.  Apparently its hard to find a few citizens in a county with a population of about 125,000.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either but would you expect anything different from these people?

Measureable progress?
TCI Director Beth Ashe said that the Board of Control looks for measurable progress.  How is 6 months of nothing but the status quo (keeping discretionary inmates on slates and/or the floor, setting another million aside, the BCCP doing nothing, etc.) measureable progress?

List of Tennessee jails that are decertified or certified under a Plan of Action

These lists were provided by David Wilder, counsel for the Tennessee Corrections Institute

“Here is complete list of the jails on POA’s.  Grainger Co. just came off POA and Davidson (ORC) is set to come off upon completion of some maintenance and re-inspection.”  David Wilder

BEDFORD CO. JAIL
BLOUNT CO. CJC
CLAY CO. JAIL
COCKE COUNTY ANNEX
DAVIDSON CO. ORC
FRANKLIN CO. JAIL
GILES CO. JAIL
HANCOCK CO. JAIL
HAMILTON COUNTY CJC
HOUSTON COUNTY JAIL
LAWRENCE
LEWIS CO. JAIL
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Speed limits should be about safety not revenue

Is modern traffic enforcement all about dollars instead of safety?  An author says a strong yes.

http://www.autoblog.com/2016/09/02/modern-traffic-enforcement-ticket-revenue-safety-opinion/

Gary Megge, a lieutenant who works in the Michigan State Police traffic services section says that speed limits need to be set based on the 85th percentile of free flowing traffic.

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2016/09/02/speed-limits-tried-and-true-invalid/89708990/

If speed limits are not set properly, this could pose safety issues for those drivers who are within the 85th percentile, Megge said.

“If we don’t match normal and safe driving behavior, if we try to post a speed limit that doesn’t match, we have a problem,” he said. “We make a large portion of the driving public illegal. That’s not the way we should be doing business.”

The Michigan State Police offers two publications on setting realistic speed limits.
http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-72297_30536_25802-87384–,00.html