NSA Spying Ruled Illegal, But Will Congress Save the Program Anyway?

This week the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA’s metadata collection program was not authorized in US law. The PATRIOT Act, under which the program began, was too vague, the court found. But the truth is the Act was intended to be vague so that the government could interpret it in the broadest possible way.

But this is really more of a technicality, because illegality and unconstitutionality are really two very different things. Even if Congress had explicitly authorized the government to collect our phone records, that law would still be unconstitutional because the Constitution does not grant government the power to access our personal information without a valid search warrant.

Even though the court found the NSA program illegal, it did not demand that the government stop collecting our information in this manner. Instead, the court kicked the ball back in Congress’ court, as these provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire at the end of the month and the Appeals Court decided to let Congress decide how to re-authorize this spying program.

Unfortunately, this is where there is not much to cheer. If past practice is any lesson, Congress will wait until the spying program is about to expire and then in a panic try to frighten Americans into accepting more intrusions on their privacy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already put forth a new bill as a stop-gap measure to allow time for a fuller debate on the issue. His stop-gap? A five year re-authorization with no changes to the current program!

The main reform bill being floated, the FREEDOM Act, is little better. Pretending to be a step in the right direction, the FREEDOM Act may actually be worse for our privacy and liberties than the PATRIOT Act!

One silver lining in the court decision is that it should exonerate Ed Snowden, who risked it all to expose what the courts have now found was illegal US government activity. That is the definition of a whistleblower. Shouldn’t he be welcomed back home as a hero instead of being threatened with treason charges? We shouldn’t hold our breath!

This week Snowden addressed a conference in Melbourne, Australia, informing citizens that the Australian government watches all its citizens “all the time.” Australia’s program allows the government to “collect everyone’s communications in advance of criminal suspicion,” he told the conference. That means the government is no longer in the business of prosecuting crimes, but instead is collecting information in case crimes someday occur.

How is it that the Australian government can collect and track “pre-crime” information on its citizens? Last month Australia passed a law requiring telecommunications companies to retain metadata information on their customers for two years.

Why do Australia’s oppressive laws matter to us? Because the NSA “reform” legislation before Congress, the FREEDOM Act, does exactly what the Australian law does: it mandates that US telecommunications companies retain their customers’ metadata information so that the NSA can access the information as it wishes.

Some argue that this metadata information is harmless and that civil libertarians are over-reacting. But, as Ed Snowden told the Melbourne conference, “under these mandatory metadata laws you can immediately see who journalists are contacting, from which you can derive who their sources are.”

This one example of what happens when the government forces corporations to assist it in spying on the people should be a red flag. How can an independent media exist in the US if the government knows exactly whom journalists contact for information? It would be the end of any future whistleblowers.

The only reform of the PATRIOT Act is a total repeal. Accept nothing less.


Looting the Looters

Bill Gibbons announces death of the 4th Amendment in TN

Bill Gibbons announces death of the 4th Amendment in TN

If You See Something Say Something™ right Bill Gibbons? I see our Department of Safety and Homeland Security are a bunch of 4th and 5th Amendment-violating crooks. The state legislature has attempted (and failed) in two sessions now to enact some kind of restraint on the armed robbery committed in the name of “asset forfeiture” in Tennessee. It is looking more and more like Nashville may be the root cause.

The “thin blue line” strikes again:

“When the Sevierville Police Department learned pills in a woman’s car were antacids and the $11,922 an officer seized as suspected drug money was an inheritance, the agency agreed to drop charges and return the cash.

The Tennessee Department of Safety wants it back….

The department essentially argues that the only way that Ms. Stiltner could prove (the cash was not drug money) is through taking serial numbers of all the bills she received from the estate check, hiring an accountant to review all of her cash spending, and then comparing these notes to the money that was seized,” he wrote. “This is nonsensical, and the department’s position is wholly untenable … This appeal results from the Tennessee Department of Safety’s continued efforts to steal $11,922 from Kathy Stiltner despite uncontroverted evidence that the funds were derived from a legitimate source and a total lack of evidence that the funds resulted from illegal activity.”

If only the United States was the land of the free, we might have some kind of law against this.

These taxpayer-funded, unaccountable armed robberies need to stop.

April 2015 Commission Report

Blount County government was marred by indecisiveness and obstructionist politics in April.  However there are some commissioners who are standing for freedom and they deserve recognition for their principled stands.

Jail study hearing rejected
After paying over $94,000 for a jail study last year, the Commission rejected hearing from the jail consultant who conducted the study.  The Mayor obstructed progress by having a letter written to the Commission asking the Commission to reject hearing from the jail consultant so that the County can sue the consultant for a refund.

A man who actively campaigned for the Mayor shared with me that he told the Mayor that he should be embarrassed because the Mayor and the good ole’ boys wanted a study telling them to build.  He said that when they got a real study with real solutions, that Mayor covered it up and now wants to sue to save face.  This seems to be the prevailing opinion of people in the community.

Eight Commissioners voted to move forward instead of obstructing progress.  I (Tona Monroe) was the only Commissioner on the Blount County Corrections Partnership to vote to have the hearing.

Blount County Corrections Partnership meeting
The Corrections Partnership met on Tuesday.  This was the first meeting where ex-officio members Judges Tammy Harrington and Mike Gallegos served on the Partnership.  They were added to the Partnership to bring together all three branches of government for discussion on our criminal justice system.  There are now four commissioners, two judges, two members from the Sheriff’s Department and an ex-officio member from the Mayor’s office.

The Partnership unanimously recommended that the funding increase request for Recovery Court, which includes Drug Court, be approved by the commission.  For months I have been asking for information about how many people would be eligible for Recovery Court if it were to expanded.  I have been repeatedly told that everyone is too busy to give me that information.  Thankfully my request, that the funding recommendation include the requirement for this information to be reported to us, was included in the recommendation that will be forwarded to the full commission.  It is very important to identify how many people there are in the system who will be eligible for Recovery Court and have estimates for future demands so that the commission, and all those involved, can adequately prepare for the future.

Judge Harrington said that the funding request is “bare bones” but exactly what she meant by that isn’t clear.  She has repeatedly said she doesn’t know how many people would be eligible for Recovery Court if everyone who qualified was given the option of Recovery Court.  Harrington said that the funding will give the program enough money to fund the program that exists now but also implied that it could be expanded.  Thus, the bare bones funding statement sounded like a typical budget time request statement.  Hopefully the funding increase will help the county prepare better for the future by identifying how many inmates will be eligible for an expanding Recovery Court.

The rest of the meeting was mostly unremarkable except for Judge Tammy Harrington’s behavior.  She appeared to be more interested in venting than working together in a “Partnership” for the betterment of society.  After the meeting a citizen commented to me about Harrington rolling her eyes while people were speaking.

I was a co-sponsor to the resolution to add Judges Harrington and Gallegos to the Blount County Corrections Partnership because judges can serve an important role in working toward productive solutions for our criminal justice system and overcrowded jail.  I look forward to working with the judges and hope that Harrington will be more respectful in the future.

For once the meeting room wasn’t nearly empty.  Past attendees have usually consisted of Linda and Joe King, Harry Grothjahn, Commissioner Jamie Daly, Commissioner Karen Miller and a few people from the State.  Some citizens, Jail Inspector Sharon Hannum, the Sheriff and Deputy Chief Chris Cantrell were present at the meeting.

On June 24th Bob Bass, Senior Inspector with the Tennessee Corrections Institute, will give a presentation to the Blount County Corrections Partnership at 1 PM in the Commission room.   The agenda for the meeting after that (date to be determined) will include discussion about keeping federal prisoners in the jail.

IT Meeting
The IT Committee met but took no action.  It was decided that upgrading the recording equipment in the commission room would have to wait because of budget constraints.

There was some information about a new software system for the Sheriff’s Department that will allow for better communication with 911 and the municipalities that decide to use the same system.  Unfortunately there was no financial information in the packet about the costs.  The City of Alcoa told the Sheriff’s Department that they will use the same system but the City of Maryville hasn’t committed to it.  The Committee was not told why Maryville hasn’t committed to using the software system.

This was the third IT Committee meeting that I’ve attended.  The committee hasn’t made a single recommendation to the commission at any of those meetings.  I am left wondering why we have an IT Committee since it is never given timely or complete information to make recommendations.

Budget Workshops
The budget before the Budget Committee is now about $16 million over projected revenues.  The Budget Committee did not make a single cut to the proposed FY 16 budget during the month of April.

Commission meeting
Stormwater regulations
Controversial stormwater regulations passed the commission on a 13-7 vote.  Five of the six amendments proposed passed.  The part allowing a 3rd party to be added to your deed was removed.

The regulations would have allowed you to be fined up to $5,000 for simply planting a tree in a utility easement.  Most people don’t know precisely where utility easements are on their property.  My amendment adding the word knowingly to the provision about planting a tree in an easement passed, which means that the government will have to prove that you knew that you were planting a tree in a utility easement instead of simply being able to fine you up to $5,000 because a tree was planted within a utility easement.  While I wanted this provision removed from the regulations entirely I proceeded with this amendment because there was confusion as to whether this prohibition and the rest of the regulations under Section 4d are required under state law.

My amendment to remove a provision limiting you on the percentage of trees that you can plant failed.  As such, the regulations prohibit property owners from planting more than 1/3 of the same type of tree within the buffers.  There are many other causes for concern in the regulations.  You can read the unamended regulations here starting on page 38.

Commissioners Allen, Carter, Carver, Caskey, Caylor, Crowe, Daly, Farmer, Headrick, Lewis, Melton, Moon and Stinnett voted yes.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Bowers, Cole, French, Miller and Monroe voted no.  Commissioner Samples abstained.

Stormwater repeal request
The commission passed my resolution asking federal legislators to pass legislation pending before congress that would prohibit the EPA from expanding its definition of waters of the United States through rulemaking authority and to repeal stormwater regulations returning the power back to the states and the people.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Bowers, Carter, Caskey, Cole, Crowe, Daly, French, Miller, and Monroe voted yes.  Moon abstained.  The rest voted no.

Unfortunately the Mayor vetoed the resolution.  Instead of sending the commission his own reasoning for the veto, he sent a link to an editorial by The Daily Times on the matter.

Traffic Grants
There were five federal grants related to traffic enforcement, including DUI roadblocks.  I voted against them and explained my reasoning here and here.  The paper reported that we voted on six grants but the commission did not vote on the grant for funding for the DA’s office since their funding is through the state.

The nighttime seatbelt demo grant allows the University of Tennessee to study enforcement action for seatbelt usage at night.  The University of Tennessee obtained an unconstitutional grant from the Centers for Disease Control and will be studying five counties including Blount.  Buckle up because the state legislature just increased the seat belt fine, the Sheriff’s Department just got a grant for enforcement and UT can’t wait to use the money it got to study the results.  The nanny state has gotten expensive and complicated.

During the commission meeting I explained why I was voting no, which included taking my oath of office to uphold the federal and state Constitutions and mentioning what James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution had to say about the constitutionality of what we were voting on.  After the meeting, on the way down in the elevator Deputy Chief Jarod Millsaps mocked me for explaining my vote.  The next day the Sheriff apologized to me for Millsaps behavior.

On the bright side, I was thrilled to have three commissioners join me in voting no.  Commissioners Akard, Cole, Miller and I voted no.  The rest voted yes.  I commend these three commissioners for upholding their oaths of office and respecting the bill of rights which has been so trampled upon.

Recycling Committee appointed
Commissioners Brad Bower, Grady Caskey and I were appointed along with four citizens to serve on the Recycling Committee.  If you have ideas that you would like to share, please attend the first meeting on May 26th at 5 PM at the courthouse.

Abstaining on important votes
Commissioner Steve Samples abstained on the stormwater vote and Jerome Moon abstained on the jail study vote and the stormwater repeal request resolution.  These two have been abstaining on several issues lately.  Jerome Moon is the Chairman of the Commission and Steve Samples is the Chairman of the Agenda Committee.  These two hold the two most important positions of leadership within the legislative body of Blount County.  Why are they abstaining so much on critical issues?

Up next
The ambulance service agreement is up for renewal.

This post has been updated at the request of Commissioner Mike Caylor because he denies doing what was reported here.  He didn’t like that people were expressing to him that such behavior is unprofessional.  Hopefully he will stop voting against nearly everything that I put forward.

Blount County 2013 per capita income is less than $24,000, median household income is $45,991

There has been a lot of talk in the Budget Worshops about the Evergreen Employee Classification and Compensation Study but it hasn’t been released to the Commission or to the public.  The roughly $16,000,000 budget deficet is partially due to budget requests for pay increases.  Another big part of the deficet is due to increased health care benefits costs.  It’s not going to be possible to continue with health care plans that the previous broker repeatedly called “rich” and give raises without a huge tax increase.

Here are some things to consider about Blount County government and its citizenry.

Blount County is providing free dental benefits to its employees.  The employees pay for the family plan but if they opt for the employee only plan it’s free.  The cost to the county per employee, as discussed at the May 15, 2014 Commission meeting, is $23.15 per employee per month.  The county pays the same amount for the family plan and employees pay the difference of $49.24 per month for family coverage.  This seems like a good place to start cutting.

Current health care plans and costs reported at the Budget Workshop on Monday:

Plan Employee Pays Taxpayers Pay Total Costs
Employee Only 25 425 450
Employee Plus Child 125 975 1100
Employee Plus Spouse 150 975 1125
Family 175 975 1150

The 2013 per capita income in Blount County is $23,788.  Many of the employees that the current budget proposes giving raises to already make more than the average income in Blount County.  Couple this with the fact that benefit plans are far better than what is available in most of the private sector and the cost of each position becomes a whole lot more than just the base salary.

View the 2015 payroll here.

The median household income for Blount County (2009-2013) is $45,991.  Many households include two incomes.  There are about 18 pages of Blount County government employees making more than the median household income for just one salary.  There are 24 pages of people making over $40,000 with one income.  There are 42 pages of employees making more than the per capita income of Blount County.  Some of the county employees making less than the per capita income are part time employees.

It may seem like some employees are underpaid, and perhaps there some who are.  However many county government employees are making more than the people paying their salaries and benefits are living on.

Laws and their effectiveness based on emotions and opinions

Jamie Satterfield has been writing some blog post about emotions, politics and opinions driving laws and interpretation of their effectiveness, rather than facts and logic.  Read two posts here and here.  She talks about passing laws by having people bring framed pictures of their loved on.

That was seen earlier this month in Blount County government.  A lady held up a picture of her mother during the Commission meeting while talking about the DUI roadblock grant.  This tugs at heart strings.  Losing a loved one to a drunk driver is inexcusable but the rights of people who don’t drink and drive should not be infringed upon because there are careless people in the world.  Enforcement of criminal laws should be directed at the people breaking the laws not the people who abide by the laws.

During the Commission meeting the Assistant DA, Ryan Desmond, said that the enforcement actions paid for with the federal grants were effective but the statistics he gave don’t support his statement.

He gave three years of statistics for impaired driving arrest in Blount County: 2012: 392, 2013: 341,  2014: 322.  He also stated impaired conviction rates had increased from 76.9% in 2010 to 88.9% in 2014.

I called him and asked for more information.  The numbers he provided show that impaired driving convictions rates fluctuated widely from 2010 to 2014.  2014 (88.9%), 2013 (81.4%), 2012 (84.8%), 2011 (82.9%), 2010 (76.9%)

He didn’t know when the Blount County Sheriff’s Office began conducting roadblocks.  Thus, I have to wonder how he could say that roadblocks are working without having a starting point to measure from.

According to the data provided by the Governors Highway Safety Office traffic fatalities started decreasing with the economic recession in 2008.  This includes a significant drop statewide in alcohol impaired fatalities from 2008-2012 compared to previous years.  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that traffic fatalities have been dropping nationwide and that just like Tennessee the drop started in 2008.

This decline in fatalities is likely due to people having less money to spend and thereby driving less.  Discretionary driving decreases when you are pinching pennies to put food on the table.  Less driving usually means less accidents.   Statistics suggests that the economy has lead to a significant decreases in traffic fatalities in recent years, not the unconstitutional enforcement campaigns.

Read more:

It’s a ‘fine’ day and night in Blount County and throughout Tennessee

Well the Tennessee General Assembly just voted to raise the seatbelt fine from $10 to $25.  This is a great way for Republicans to enrich public treasuries without ‘raising taxes’.  It’s no surprise that Blount County’s 3 nanny $tati$t $upported the tax… err fine.  Good Ole’ Big Government Bob Ramsey, Art Swann and Doug Overbey.

Here in Blount County the Commi$$ion just took an unconstitutional grant for nighttime $eatbelt demo.  Buckle up, or you will find out what a ‘fine’ place Blount County is to live, especially since the federal government and the Tenne$$ee General A$$embly made $ure that you’ll be adding more to the public trea$ury if you don’t.

To hear or not to hear: Failure to move forward

Eight Commissioners decided it was time to move forward on the jail overcrowding situation by hearing from the jail consultant and looking to see what we can do in the community to reduce the jail population and get people back to work as productive members of society.  Bryan Daniels of the Blount Partnership is always talking about moving “forward” an being “positive”.  Eight Commissioners voted to do that.

One Commissioner lacked the guts to even vote on the matter.

To hear Not to hear Abstained
Mike Akard Andy Allen Jerome Moon
Archie Archer Brad Bowers
Sean Carter Rick Carver
Tom Cole Grady Caskey
Jamie Daly Mike Caylor
Karen Miller Dodd Crowe
Tona Monroe Gary Farmer
Tom Stinnett Ron French
Jeff Headrick
Mike Lewis
Kenneth Melton
Steve Samples

Aiming at the wrong target

The Mayor’s response to the jail consultant pointing out that the criminal justice system assessment report has been ignored shows that the Mayor is aiming at the wrong target.  The goal is to do what is best for society, which includes everyone: the taxpayers, the jail employees and the inmates.  Instead of working toward solutions the Mayor is using the age old tactic of attacking the messenger by threatening to sue.

It is good to see Joel Davis at The Daily Times be factually correct in his reporting.  Craig Garrett is the attorney for the mayor, not the county attorney.  Blount County doesn’t have a county attorney, despite the mayor referring to him as the county attorney.

The drama should stop.  As elected officials it is our responsibility to now work together to implement solutions that are productive for all of society.  The taxpayer funded study provides several solutions.  Let’s get started putting those solutions to work.

March 2015 Commission Report

March was a busy month because I made it a priority to attend several meetings to learn as much as I can about how local government operates.  In order to avoid writing a book, I will hit the highlights.

I attended 11 of the 13 meetings that I planned for and toured the county jail.  One meeting was canceled due to inclement weather and the other, the Blount County Corrections Partnership, received a lot of media attention for being canceled.

Public Building Authority (PBA)
The PBA met to select a company to do its annual audit.  Ingrahm, Overhalt and Bean is the current auditor.  There were 6 audit findings, due to the way the information was reported and not substantive in terms of discrepancies in money.  The State felt that there were 6 areas the audit accounting standards could be improved.  Cheri Huffman Jones, PBA member, suggested that the Board select a new company because of the audit findings and because the state recommends changing auditors periodically.  However, Jerry Cunningham made the motion to keep the current auditor because they offered the lowest price.  Ingrahm, Overhalt and Bean was approved.

Solid Waste Authority
The Solid Waste Authority held its annual meeting but lacked a quorum to conduct business.  As a result, those present were able to have discussions about recycling, litter, state regulation and to hear a presentation from Enerdyne.  Landfill gas is about 50% methane.  Enerdyne has set up operations at the county dump to collect this methane and it is being used to power about 1,000 home.

Budget Workshops
The Budget Committee conducted its annual budget workshops for fiscal year 2016.  The frustrating part of these meetings is seeing how few questions are asked concerning the proposed budgets.

Planning Commission
One of the complaints that I received about the Planning Commission was that it didn’t allow for public input at its meetings.  Commissioner Brad Bowers made a motion to make public input a regular part of each meeting.  The Planning Commission will now be open for public comments.

County Commission
District 2 School Board Member Selected
The commission chose a replacement for District 2, Blount County School Board member Chris Cantrell who resigned from the seat.  Retired teacher Bill Padget was selected.  Prior to the nomination, a majority of the school board (4 of 7) were retired employees of the schools or relatives of employees of the schools.  With Padget, five of the seven School Board members will be retired school employees or relatives of school employees.  The School Board has so many conflicts of interest that it revised its nepotism policy to make the meetings run faster.

Additionally, School Board member Scott Helton retired from the county.  Six of the seven School Board members worked for the county or are related to people working for the county.  Thus, I didn’t think it wise to vote for another retired school employee.  My vote was cast for Sam Duck a local activist who has spoken out against Common Core.

Roof Repairs and Rules Loophole
The commission voted unanimously to replace the roofs on Middlesettlements and Montvale Elementary Schools.  These roofs were needed but the commission packet lacked information about the bid process and the companies chosen to install the roofs.  There was only 2 pages in the commission packet about the installation of the roofs (see pages 39-40), the resolution and the budget amendment request.  If I hadn’t checked the paper’s website to learn about the bid process I wouldn’t have known that it took place.  After the meeting Troy Logan, the budget director for the schools, apologized to me about the lack of information and said he would do better in the future at providing information.

This budget request did not go through the Agenda Committee before coming to the commission for a vote because Commission Rule 9B allows budget request to go directly to the full commission without first going through the Agenda Committee.  The Agenda Committee meeting was optional until January of this year when the commission passed my resolution to amend the Commission Rules to require the meeting.  Additionally, a resolution was passed requiring  a 2/3’s vote of the commission (14 votes) to add an agenda item directly to the commission meeting agenda.  However, budget items remain exempt under current commission rules.  This should be fixed.  The commission should have to vote to add budget items to the commission agenda.  I will work to fix this.

Judical Commissioners – Hard to get a straight answer from the Director of Budgets and Finance
There was a $6,000 transfer request to move money from the Circuit Court Clerk budget to the Judicial Commissioner budget.  In the past the budget for judicial commissioners has been under the Circuit Court Clerk.  It was separated out this year.  This was a good move because in the past resolutions were presented to the commission stating that judicial commissioners were to be paid $1 for their services when they were paid substantially more.

When I tried to find out who presented the annual budget for judicial commissioners, I couldn’t get a straight answer from the budget director Randy Vineyard.  He is back to his bad habits of dancing around an issue without giving a straight answer.  His behavior is uncalled for.  The county would benefit from having a Director of Budgets and Finance who can give straight answers with a pleasant demeanor.

Stormwater Buffers
Stormwater regulations have been the subject of repeated controversy, with debate centered around property rights and what is mandated by the EPA and TDEC and what isn’t.  My motion to postpone this matter until the April meeting passed, giving commissioners time to do their homework to understand what is mandated and what isn’t.

Ad hoc Recycling Committee
An ad hoc committee to study recycling was created.  Members will be chosen at the April commission meeting.

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
The BCCP meeting this month was canceled.  The jail consultant for the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) was scheduled to discuss the ILPP report on the criminal justice system in Blount County.  The report was issued last May but the full commission hasn’t been given a presentation on the report.

The agenda for the April Agenda Committee meeting contains an item under unfinished business to schedule a hearing from the jail consultant.  It is my sincere hope that all finger pointing will cease and that Blount County government officials can come together and work toward solutions.  The jail overcrowding is a serious problem in need of productive solutions.  Great leaders are those who rise to the occasion during difficult times.  Our community will benefit from people rising to the occasion.

Up next:
I’ve filed a resolution urging federal legislators to repeal EPA stormwater regulations restoring rights back to the people and power to the states and the people per the 9th and 10th amendments.  The people of Blount County are smart enough to manage water quality without the federal government dictating unconstitutional policy.

$95,000 report ‘kept from public review,’ consultant claims

Here is the final report (jail study) issued by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) on the criminal justice system in Blount County.

Here are the key points to reducing the jail overcrowding according to Alan Kalmanoff JD, the Executive Director of the ILPP, the organization paid to do the criminal justice system assessment.

Here is the open memo to the Blount County Commission, Corrections Committee and Citizens from Alan Kalmanoff.

Here is the June 2014 Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Audit stating that the number of federal prisoners needs to be reduced and that we should look at alternative and pre-trial sentencing solutions.

The Daily Times published a story today on the matter with my comments included.  At the October Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting, I made a motion to forward the ILPP report to the full commission because that report had never been formally released to the public.  However, the full commission has not heard from the study consultant.

My statement:

“As the commissioner who made the motion to have a full commission presentation from the jail consultant on the Criminal Justice System Assessment Report, I am troubled that the meeting was canceled.  Obviously, some county officials aren’t happy with the conclusions of the independent report.  The report was suppose to be heard by the full commission last year, yet there has been no presentation to the commission and it has been delayed once again.  Nearly $95,000 of taxpayer money has been spent.  We owe it to the people of Blount County to have a thorough public discussion on our justice system and jail overcrowding problem.

The report makes some of the same recommendations that the Tennessee Corrections Institute makes including reducing the number of federal prisoners and providing more pre-trial release and alternative sentencing programs.  The report points out that our jail may be unconstitutional and that we could face legal action if we don’t reduce our jail population.  The jail overcrowding situation is dangerous not only to the inmates but to the taxpayers who may be forced to fund an unnecessary jail expansion.”  Commissioner Tona Monroe