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Claiborne Co. judge cares about community: Opposes jail expansion

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

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

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

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

Commissioner Tona Monroe calls for immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.

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

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

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

June 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

From LexisNexis         

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-107

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

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

Title 40  Criminal Procedure  
Chapter 23  Execution of Judgment

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-107  (2016)

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

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

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

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

Tensions and an insufficient jail

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

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

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

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

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

From LexisNexis

Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-4-121

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

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

Title 41  Correctional Institutions and Inmates  
Chapter 4  Jails and Jailers

Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-4-121  (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

Is the ‘Jail’ RFQ resolution ambiguous?

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

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

The title of the resolution reads:

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

The resolved statements of the resolution read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Governmental Accounting Standards Board:

Assigned Fund Balance

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

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

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

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

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

Statement to TCI Board of Control on June 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be no more stifling of discussion.

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

The BCCP will meet regularly and frequently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More info:

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

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

CTAS jail staffing analysis by Jim Hart

Federal inmate contract with US Marshals Service

Previous jail information is available here.

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

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

We’ve been told that the county is required to keep state sentenced inmates until the Department of Corrections takes them.  However, after reading state law, I wonder if that is incorrect for felons who have been sentenced to more than a year.  See 41-8-106 (a) and (g) (1) below.

According to the inmate numbers provided by Jail Administrator Captain John Adams, the Blount County Adult Detention Facility averaged 174 TDOC (state) sentenced felons with a year or more remaining on their sentence.  If you couple that with the federal inmates, which are discretionary, the jail would not be overcrowded, according to recent inmate totals.

On March 31st, The Daily Times reported that the total number of inmates in the local jail on March 30th was 517 including 76 federal inmates and 142 Tennessee Department of Corrections inmates sentenced and awaiting transfer to a state facility.  If the federal and state inmates were removed from the jail, the inmate total would have been 299, which is well below the certified capacity of 350 beds and below the 90% rate that some consider the optimal standard of 315 beds filled.

Are we required to keep these state felons with a sentence of more than a year?  Read below and see what you think.

From a May 27th email:

“Commissioner Monroe,  In the last year (May 28,2015 to May 27, 2016) our State sentenced inmates break down in the following way:

TDOC – Convicted felons awaiting space in the prison system with at least 1 year left to serve.

Average Daily Count – 174        Highest Daily Count – 193         Lowest Daily Count – 122

TDOC (Local) – Convicted inmates with less than 1 year to serve. May be felon or misdemeanor. These inmates serve their time here.

Average Daily Count – 85          Highest Daily Count – 104         Lowest Daily Count – 40   

I hope this helps.    Capt. Adams”

—–Original Message—–
From: “Randy Vineyard” <rvineyard@blounttn.org>
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2016 2:19pm
To: tona@breezeair.net
Cc: “Jeff French” <jfrench@bcso.com>, “Jimbo Berrong” <jberrong@bcso.com>, “Ed Mitchell” <emitchell@blounttn.org>
Subject: RE: 46915 CONTRACTED PRISONER BOARD

Commissioner,

Blount County has no contract with the State on inmates. The State pays us $37/day/inmate as is the case with most counties.

There may be different arrangements between the State and privately managed detention facilities.

If you have further questions about this matter those may be better addressed by the BCSO.

Thanks

Randy

Randy Vineyard, IOM

Blount County Finance Director

341 Court Street

Maryville, TN 37804

865-273-5719 (office)

rvineyard@blounttn.org

The information in this email and any attachment is confidential and may be legally privileged.  If you are not the intended recipient, please destroy this message, delete any copies held on your system, and notify the sender immediately.  You should not retain, copy, or use this email for any purpose, nor disclose all or any part of its content to any other person.

From: tona@breezeair.net
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2016 2:00 AM
To: Randy Vineyard
Subject: 46915 CONTRACTED PRISONER BOARD

Dear Finance Director Vineyard,

The line item for revenue for state inmates/prisoners is 46915.  It is identified as “contracted prisoner board”.  Does Blount County have a contract with the state for housing inmates/prisoners?  Or does the county receive a daily per diem instead?

Thanks,

Tona

41-8-106.  Housing state prisoners — Contracting — Reimbursement of costs — Debt service. 

(a) No county shall be required to house convicted felons sentenced to more than one (1) year of continuous confinement unless the county, through the authority of its county legislative body, has chosen to contract with the department of correction for the purpose of housing certain felons. The department shall promulgate rules for requirements and procedures for contracting.

(b) Counties may contract, in writing, with the state or with other counties for responsibility of correctional populations.

(c)  (1) Counties shall be reimbursed for housing convicted felons pursuant to the general appropriations act and according to rules and regulations for determining reasonable allowable costs as promulgated by the department, in consultation with the comptroller of the treasury. The department is authorized to include capital costs within the meaning of reasonable allowable costs. Capital costs may include, but are not limited to, debt service.

   (2) The commissioner is authorized, without promulgation of rules and regulations, to agree to reimburse a county for debt service on debt issued by the county in constructing correctional facilities for the purpose of housing inmates sentenced to the county under the authority of a contract entered into under subsection (a). In addition to principal, interest and redemption premiums, debt service may include other necessary items or costs reasonably related to the issuance of such county debt. Upon entering an agreement, the department is authorized to reimburse the county for one hundred percent (100%) of debt service, regardless of whether the county is actually housing inmates under a contract, and until a contract is terminated. The commissioner may not, following execution of any such agreement, amend existing rules and regulations or promulgate new rules and regulations that will impair the state’s obligation to reimburse debt service as provided in an agreement. Any obligation for the reimbursement of debt service shall be a contractual obligation of the state.

(d) It is the intent of the state that the holders of debt issued by a county for which the department has agreed to reimburse debt service pursuant to an agreement under this section may rely on, and benefit from, this section and of any obligation by the department and the state to reimburse the county for debt service contained in any agreement, and the state pledges to and agrees with any holders that the state will not amend this section, or limit or alter the obligation of the department and the state to reimburse debt service under any agreement, in any way that would impair the rights and remedies of any holders, or of the county, with respect to reimbursement. This subsection (d) shall not affect the right of the commissioner to terminate any agreement entered into under this section pursuant to the terms set forth in any agreements.

(e) The subsidies paid to counties pursuant to this chapter shall be the only compensation from the state to which counties are entitled for housing state prisoners and shall be in lieu of the fees allowed in § 8-26-106 or any other section.

(f) The department is further authorized to provide additional subsidies to counties for the purpose of community and other diversion programs for pretrial detainees, misdemeanants or convicted felons subject to available appropriations and in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the department.

(g)  (1) The department shall take into its custody all convicted felons from any county that had not contracted with the state as authorized by subsection (b). The department shall not be required to take actual physical custody of any of the felons until fourteen (14) days after the department has received all certified sentencing documents from the clerk of the sentencing court.

   (2) The commissioner is authorized to compensate any county that has not contracted with the state as authorized by subsection (b) for that county’s reasonable, allowable cost of housing felons. The rate of compensation to these counties shall be determined by and is subject to the level of funding authorized in the appropriations bill; however, the commissioner shall not compensate any county that fails or refuses to promptly transfer actual physical custody of an inmate to the department after being requested by the department, in writing, to do so for each day or portion of a day that the county fails to transfer the inmate. The written notice shall include the date it intends to take custody of the inmate for transfer to the department. The notice shall be given as soon as practicable before the transfer date. By June 15, 2005, the department shall notify each sheriff of the provisions of this subdivision (g)(2) and the consequences for failing to comply with it.

(h) In the event that a county has been reimbursed pursuant to this section for housing convicted felons for a continuous period of three (3) or more fiscal years and has received the maximum amount allowed per prisoner per day as reasonable allowable costs during this period, then the county shall thereafter be presumed to be entitled to the full maximum amount allocated per prisoner per day as reimbursement of reasonable allowable costs for housing such prisoners and will not be required to provide documentation to the department regarding costs incurred beyond information necessary to determine the number of prisoner days for which the county is entitled to reimbursement.

HISTORY: Acts 1981, ch. 491, § 6; T.C.A., § 41-10-106; Acts 1984, ch. 896, § 3; 1985 (1st Ex. Sess.), ch. 5, §§ 46, 53; 1986, ch. 744, § 26; 1988, ch. 869, § 1; 1989, ch. 462, § 1; 1991, ch. 374, §§ 4, 5, 7; 2003, ch. 355, § 58; 2005, ch. 174, § 3; 2011, ch. 229, § 1.

May 2016 Commission Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The commission chose Peggy Lambert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up next
The annual budget.  Hang onto your wallets.

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

Happy Memorial Day!

More jail info

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

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

CTAS jail staffing analysis by Jim Hart

Federal inmate contract with US Marshals Service

Previous jail information is available here.

April 2016 Commission Report

If you demand better government you will get better government.  Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick missed the March and April BCCP meetings.  Vice Chairman Rick Carver filled in.  Carver showed that he has little or no respect for our constitutional participatory process*.  Citizens have shared with me the horrible faces that he makes when they are speaking and when I am speaking.  Apparently he can’t hide his contempt for the people he is suppose to be representing.

Last month BCCP Vice Chairman Rick Carver asked the BCCP whether we should ram through a request for qualifications (RFQ) to expand the jail.  This matter wasn’t on the agenda.  Another meeting was called to place the item on the BCCP agenda, to ensure that the rush to vote on seeking an RFQ to expand the jail and look at program services would be legal.  What does that say about some local government employees and officials that they would want to ram through something this important without giving the public time to comment?

This wasn’t Carver’s only legally questionable move related to the BCCP.  He also prohibited me from adding an item to the BCCP agenda.  At the end of the March BCCP meeting I requested that discussion and possible action to make a recommendation about housing federal inmates be placed on the agenda.  Rick Carver said he would not allow it to be placed on the agenda.  I asked him if he had authority to stop me from placing an item on the agenda.  He said that he didn’t know.

After the meeting I (Tona Monroe) told Rick Carver that he couldn’t do what he had just done.  He told me to add it to the agenda.  I called Rhonda Pitts, the Commission Secretary, and shared that Rick Carver told me to add it to the agenda.

The agenda was released without the item that I requested.  Neither Pitts or Carver have the integrity to answer who told Pitts to exclude the item from the agenda.  However, records that I have obtained indicate that Rick Carver was making decisions related to the BCCP, in the absence of Jeff Headrick.  Pitts has also failed to properly record the motions that I make into the BCCP meeting minutes.

Historically, no commissioner has ever been prohibiting from adding items to the agenda, that I am aware of.  The commission is free to reject the item and even remove it from the agenda if they choose not to discuss it.  However, prohibiting a commissioner from adding something to the agenda is unprecedented and it trashes the fiduciary responsibility and sacred trust that elected officials have been given.

If it seems trite to talk about this scared trust, it is because people like Rick Carver have thrown our system of governance into the trash bin of antiquity, preferring a oligarchy to our constitutional republic.  No commissioner should be allowed to dictate what can and can not be placed on a meeting agenda.  Why have a committee if one person, acting as chair, can bottleneck and determine the entire agenda?  Committees are suppose to discuss ideas not stifle them.

Defining moment – dangerous precedent
This is a defining moment in Blount County government.  If Rick Carver is allowed to get away with his actions, then the machine will never again have to allow commissioners to place items on the agenda that they don’t approve of.

I am doing what I can to stop this deplorable action from happening again but I can’t do it alone.  It is time for you to step up and demand that this stop.  If you demand better government, you will get better government.

Rick Carver’s phone number is 984-6674 and his email address is rcarver@blounttn.org.  Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitt’s can be reached at 273-5830 and her email is rpitts@blounttn.org.  County Clerk Margaret Flynn, Rhonda’s supervisor, can be reached at 273-5804 and her email is maflynn@blounttn.org.

The RFQ was approved with only me voting no.  This should come as no surprise.  Of the 5 voting members present, 2 are employees of the Sheriff (Jeff French and John Adams), one was finically supported by the Sheriff during his campaign (Rick Carver) and the other sits on a board with the Sheriff (Mike Caylor).

I made a motion to amend the RFQ recommendation it to program services and not expansion of the jail.  Mike Caylor embarrassed himself by speaking out of order by saying that he wouldn’t accept my amendment to his motion, rather than allowing the process to work.

There was further embarrassment when clarification had to be sought from the Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, as to whether the recommendation needed to be sent to the commission.  The Purchasing Agent said that under the Purchasing Act of 1957, which the county operates under, the BCCP could recommend that she issue the RFQ without commission approval.

It is no wonder that the Purchasing Agent was overheard saying, they don’t know what they are doing.  She is correct.  Rick Carver and Mike Caylor don’t know what they are doing.  They do what they are told and many times they can’t even do what they are told correctly.

No solution Mike Caylor asked the Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, what he thought about the procedure for handling the RFQ process.  The Finance Director, who is usually quite happy to run things while the mayor is out to lunch or cutting a ribbon, told Caylor you’ve heard the same things that I heard.  Caylor said, I just wanted to hear you (Vineyard) say it and laughed.  Once again no solution Caylor was showing that he doesn’t want to do the thinking and is just there as a rubber stamp for the machine.

Agenda Committee
Favoritism shown
Toward the end of each meeting there is a section on the agenda for statements and announcements from commissioners.  The Agenda Committee Chairman Steve Samples frequently skips over the section.  I had my light on to speak and he skipped me and went straight to public input for items on the agenda.

Rather than letting me make my statement in my commission seat, where commissioners normally make their statements, Jerome Moon insisted that I go to the podium and speak which I did.  However, Samples let commissioner Ron French speak from his seat.  Moon did not insist that French go to the podium and speak.  Samples apologized to me after the meeting but he let Moon have his way.

Called Commission meeting
The commission approved the RFQ to look at costs to expand the jail and/or programs.  I made the motion to remove jail expansion and just focus on programs.  My amendment failed with Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and me voting for it.  These are the same 6 who voted against the RFQ.

The paper reported the final vote wrong.  Jerome Moon did not abstain and Gary Farmer left before the final vote.  Jeff Headrick was absent at the start of the meeting but came in late and voted yes.  Headrick and Carver are the two sponsors of the resolution.

What Jerome Moon abstained on was my challenge to his ruling as Chair.  No solution Mike Caylor who wanted to hear from the Finance Director, who had nothing to say, declared a point of order saying that I was out of order because I was referring to the Institute for Law and Policy Planning report which discussed why we didn’t need to build.  It is not out of order for a commissioner to talk about why we shouldn’t be doing something before the body (commission) and reference resources that support that position.  However, Jerome Moon declared me out of order and the commission voted to shut my discussion on the matter down by upholding Moon’s ruling.

I wasn’t the only one shut down when referencing the jail study.  Moon shut citizens down who spoke about the study.  He also told commissioner Tom Cole that he could be sued if he didn’t vote for the RFQ.

What has Blount County government become?
Think about what Blount County government has become and decide if it is serving you well.  If not, you shouldn’t put up with this and should demand better from those who are suppose to be your public servants.

  • The Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail) is overcrowded, exceeding its certified capacity of 350 beds.
  • The sheriff and US Marshal’s service willfully contribute to the crowding problem by agreeing to house federal inmates in the jail.
  • The taxpayers funded a $94,580 study to address jail overcrowding.
  • The study is a criminal justice system assessment and not just a plan to expand the jail.
  • Several of the powers that be were upset with the findings, conclusions and recommendations.
  • The BCCP recommended that the commission conduct a teleconference hearing with the jail consultant.
  • The Mayor threatened to sue the consultant to stop discussion on the study.
  • The county paid $3,710 in legal fees to the mayor’s attorney.
  • There was no lawsuit and the commission still rejected hearing from the consultant.
  • The study said that the county is losing money housing federal inmates and that the only way to make it seem like money is being made is to understaff and overcrowd the jail.
  • I requested that the issue of housing federal inmates be added to the BCCP agenda.  It took 7 months for this to happen.
  • After some discussion with figures showing that the county isn’t making money on federal inmates, the BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick cut discussion off and moved to the next item before I could make a motion to recommend that we stop taking federal inmates.
  • The Finance Director and Sheriff’s Office cut the revenue projections for housing federal inmates.
  • More revenue accumulated than projected.
  • The Finance Director, Mayor and Sheriff secretly planned to use this accumulated revenue to build.
  • The Purchasing Agent chose a company charging 3.5 times more than the lowest offer to renegotiate the federal inmate per diem daily rate.
  • The county was obligated to pay the $65,000 consultant fee but the commission wasn’t presented with a budget amendment until after services were rendered.
  • I tried to place the federal prisoners issue back on the BCCP agenda, to make a recommendation but Vice Chairman Rick Carver stopped it from being placed on the agenda.
  • Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitts has refused to record the words of my amendments in the meeting minutes.
  • Mike Caylor declared a point of order prohibiting me from speaking about why we didn’t need to build.
  • Jerome Moon ruled that I was out of order and commission upheld that a commissioner can’t talk about why we shouldn’t build, when being presented with resolution seeking approval of an RFQ to build.
  • The sheriff told the paper in December that he hasn’t asked the commission for a new jail.
  • The sheriff still hasn’t asked the commission for a new jail or expansion.

Why are we doing this?

Commission meeting – a spending spree
Mike Caylor was absent.

The majority of commissioners showed again that they have no fiscal discipline and that they are happy to accommodate government anytime it wants to go on a spending binge.

The schools were back for more budget increases despite being given a huge increase in local revenue this year and already receiving another large budget increase a few months back.  I have never received the information that I requested regarding new hires and part time jobs being made full time this fiscal year.  Only commissioner Karen Miller and I voted against giving the schools another big increase.

The commission was presented with a lease for laptops for the Sheriff’s Office.  There were numerous problems with this lease.  Neither the Purchasing Agent or the new $100+ hourly Mindboard IT consultant could answer questions about the agreements that they negotiate.  I asked why the paperwork listed a 4 year warranty for a 3 year lease.  The $100+ hourly IT consultant did say what was already obvious, that this 3 lease is just a way to go and get new laptops again in 3 years, rather than using the laptops for the life of the equipment.  During the meeting commissioner Mike Akard was able to find a lower price for the same model laptops from the same vendor.  Why we need someone making over $100 a hour involved in a laptop lease is beyond me.

The most potentially dangerous item approved by the commission is a lease agreement for county employees to lease new cars for 5 years.  The Sheriff’s Office and Blount County Schools are excluded.  The rest will be able to get new cars if they can find the money in their budgets.  With all the transfers taking place, it won’t surprise me to see several people with new cars soon.

Besides the obvious opening the door to get new cars, this matter was not presented in a business like manner to the commission.  The commission should have been given an expense sheet documenting the cost of purchasing and maintaining cars for at least the last 3 budget years, preferably more.  We should have been given a list of market options, beyond leasing new cars.  There are software programs that handle fleet management but nothing like this was presented, even though the lease agreement was sold to the budget committee as a way to solve our lack of having a fleet management system.  All the market options should have been presented to us so that we could determine what the best option was.  We were given none of this.  While the laptops were a bad deal for the taxpayers and few cars will quickly cost more than the laptops.  Only myself and commissioner Karen Miller voted no on this poorly thought out way to manage county vehicles.

The annual litter grant, with language about an Environmental Court being envisioned, was back.  Last year I pointed this matter out and put forth an amendment to ensure that no funds would be used for this purpose.  That amendment failed and it failed again this year.  If there is no agenda or desire for an Environmental Court, why does this statement keep getting submitted to the state?

Information Technology (IT) Steering Committee meeting canceled
The IT Committee meeting was canceled.  No explanation was given for the cancelation.  Mike Cain, Assistant IT Director and custodian of the IT Committee minutes, has not responded to my email inquiring why the meeting was canceled.  This is bad for the taxpayers of Blount County because it reduces oversight on major, expensive IT projects.

IT costs have soared the past couple of years.  The IT Committee should be meeting regularly to ensure good fiscal stewardship of the large sums of taxpayer monies that have been allocated to IT projects.  However, the opposite is occurring.

The IT Committee is only scheduled to meet 4 times a year and this meeting was canceled.  With no meeting on the near horizon and an Assistant IT Director who won’t respond to emails, it makes it difficult for me to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent wisely.  I never had a problem getting a timely response from the former IT Director John Herron.

Unfortunately this is business as usual.  The Mayor and his staff willfully leave those who might question their decisions in the dark.  Canceling a meeting, when we should be discussing how the $1.3 million IT fund is being spent is the latest way to avoid accountability.

Up next
The commission will chose a replacement for Jeff Headrick, who was appointed by the commission to the office of Highway Superintendent, to serve until the next election.

Call to action – Please get involved in your government
As I stated above, if you demand better government you will get better government.  Make phone calls, send emails, write letters to the editor and attend commission meetings.  Local government is right here.  You don’t have to drive to Nashville or Washington DC to be heard.  If you don’t show up, you will have to pay up, because your taxes will keep going up to pay for all the poor decisions being made right in your back yard.  This is your government.  Take charge of it.  Let freedom ring!

 

*Constitutional participatory process: this is commonly called the democratic process.