Archive | August 2011

“Broccoli-based Assault” Equals Pepper Spray and Beat Down by Cop


When I first started reading this, I was angry that this man was pepper sprayed and beaten, but by the time I finished reading I was about to bust a gut laughing at the danger of a “broccoli-based assault”.  It is not funny what happened to this man in any way, and I doubt that the Judge was trying to be funny when he wrote his opinion, but the way it’s worded would make this story a perfect Jon Stewart clip. 

The 9th Circuit is severly critised for their poor rulings, which I believe is justified, but it’s easy to see why they remanded this for a jury trial.  What has this country become, that not wearing a seat belt and eating broccoli means being pepper sprayed and beaten by cops?

California: Court Blasts Beatdown Over Seat Belt Infraction
Federal appeals court questions police beating of California motorist armed only with a vegetable.

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 01:49 AM PDT

Judge Stephen Roy ReinhardtA federal appellate court ruled Friday that the pepper spraying and beating of a black motorist who did not wear his seat belt constituted excessive force. Mark Anthony Young, 46, was driving to the gym in February 2007 when Los Angeles County, California Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Wells stopped him so he could issue a ticket for failing to buckle up. Wells’ problems began when he was unable to produce his vehicle registration.

While Wells was writing up the ticket, Young got out of his truck and walked over to hand the deputy the vehicle’s paperwork. Wells ordered Young back into his truck, but Young did not feel like doing so. He sat on the curb, eating broccoli. In his legal filing, Wells claimed the broccoli was dangerous and that he “believed that [Young] was about to throw the broccoli at [him] in order to cause a distraction before assaulting him.”

After Young refused to get back in his car, Wells blasted him with pepper spray from behind, without warning. When Young stood up, Wells beat him to the ground with multiple baton blows. A second deputy arrived and held Young down on the ground so he could be handcuffed, tightly, so Young complained.

“Well, you know what, that’s part of not going along with the program,” Wells responded.

A district court judge found that Wells was immune from any claim that excessive force had been used. The Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals disagreed, finding question of whether the use of significant force was justified should have been sent to a jury.

“Whatever such force is ultimately labeled, there is no question that its use against an individual is a sufficiently serious intrusion upon liberty that it must be justified by a commensurately serious state interest,” Judge Stephen Roy Reinhardt wrote for the three-judge panel. “Whether Wells’s claim that he feared a broccoli-based assault is credible and reasonable presents a genuine question of material fact that must be resolved not by a court ruling on a motion for summary judgment but by a jury in its capacity as the trier of fact.”

The court did not believe Wells had any true concern about his own safety and noted that the officer attributed various crude statements to Young in his incident report that an audio recording later proved were never said.

“Young’s failure to wear a seatbelt was a run-of-the-mill traffic violation that clearly provided little, if any, support for the use of force upon him,” Reinhardt wrote. “And while disobeying a peace officer’s order certainly provides more justification for force than does a minor traffic offense, such conduct still constitutes only a non-violent misdemeanor offense that will tend to justify force in far fewer circumstances than more serious offenses, such as violent felonies.”

The ruling reversed the lower court ruling and remanded it for further proceedings. A copy of the decision is available in a PDF file at the source link below. Source

Multiple Recommendations from Ad hoc Committees Allowed

There has been confusion among Blount County Commissioners as to whether Ad hoc Committees may make recommendations on multiple occasions to the Commission, or whether each Ad hoc Committee is permitted to make it’s recommendations one time at the conclusion of it’s meetings.  County Clerk Roy Crawford asked the Mayor’s attorney Craig Garrett for his opinion on the matter and he stated that Ad hoc Committees can make recommendations on as many occasions as they so choose.

Year In Review

One year ago all (21) Blount County Commission positions were up for re-election. Among the (21) Republican contenders for commission seats were (7) Democrats and (5) Independents. After a long campaign, all (21) seats were filled with Republicans. This was a change from (18)  Republicans and (3) Democrats that comprised the previous commission. Our county entered 2011 with almost $250 Million of debt and carrying several Millions of dollars of “toxic” assets. We also had a $46 Million balloon payment due in June 2011.

So here we are, one year later. And here are the results of your votes:

Tonya Burchfield, Tab Burkhalter, Richard Carver, Mike Caylor, Gary Farmer, Tom Greene, Brad Harrison, & Kenneth Melton authorized $2.2 Million of budget increases and voted for a property tax increase. Scott Helton, Mike Lewis, and Jerome Moon authorized $2 Million of budget increases and voted for a property tax increase. Holden Lail authorized $983,000 of budget increases and voted for a property tax increase.

Ron French, Roy Gamble, Mark Hasty, Gerald Kirby, and Gordon Wright authorized $2.2 Million of budget increases but voted against a property tax increase. Peggy Lambert and Steve Samples authorized $2 Million of budget increases but voted against a property tax increase. Jim Folts authorized $940,000 of budget increases and voted against a property tax increase. Monika Murrell authorized $430,000 of budget increases and voted against a property tax increase. And last, but not least, Mayor Ed Mitchell authorized all the $2.2 Million of spending passed by the commission but vetoed the property tax increase. (Roy Gamble changed his mind and voted to override Mayor Mitchell’s veto of the property tax increase).

(Note: These budget increases also include $300,000 of state and federal grants which all commissioners authorized).

The commission also voted to refinance the $46 Million balloon payment instead of finding ways to cut spending and come up with ways to pay for it. Instead of dealing with problems, our commission is more concerned with “kicking the can down the road” and making our children deal with them.

And this past January, Chairman Melton decided to unilaterally ban citizen applause for citizen input. In the July Agenda meeting, Commissioners Burkhalter, Caylor, Farmer, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Lewis, Melton, Moon, and Wright voted to send this to the full commission to make it official. Fortunately this rule change failed.

So as you can see it’s been quite a year! Our all-Republican commission has authorized Millions of dollars of budget increases when many of our household budgets are decreasing. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the commission hits us with a property tax increase while trying to silence the citizenry!

To be fair in February, the Mayor offered to cut his own salary by $15,000 to $103,000/yr. All the commissioners authorized this cut.

Here are the grades for 2011: Folts and Murrell: C; Burchfield, Burkhalter, Carver, Caylor, Farmer, French, Gamble, Greene, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples, and Wright: F.

The commission meeting in August seems to be an indicator that our path to financial insolvency is inevitable. One of the first items was an “…additional litigation tax for Blount County…” which is essentially a user fee for Blount County courts. I can understand being changed for a service when you use it, but the reason for this increase is, according to the resolution, “WHEREAS, Blount County is in need of additional revenue” (All voted “Yes”). I’m not making this up folks. You see how much money each commissioner has authorized in the last year and, just two months after passing a property tax increase, is still under the impression that the government needs more revenue! Not to mention the next item was authorizing  $7,431 for more copiers (Folts voted “No”)

Here is the grading scale:
A – Participated in the discussion and voted to uphold the libertarian values of fiscal responsibility and /or personal liberty.
B – Did not participate, but voted to uphold libertarian values.
C – Participated in the discussion and voted against libertarian values.
F – Did not participate and voted against libertarian values.

Here are the grades for August: Folts: C; All the others: F.

Where Were the Budget Cuts?

“If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.”  Over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote this statement in a letter, and it is as relevant today as it was then.  If you wish to avoid the misery of another property tax increase next year, higher than this year, then it would behoove you to protect the fruits of your labor, by demanding spending cuts in the wasteful departments of Blount County government.

There was limited talk of budget cuts earlier this year and we were told that any further cuts would leave people without services, although I’ve yet to be told what services I get that justify the taxes I pay.  When you compare this year’s County budget to the past 5 years (see pages 15-36),  the illusion of spending cuts quickly shatters. 

General Government spending was more last year (2011 fiscal year) when the Commission voted to kick the spending crisis can down the road, by robbing the rainy day fund so that it could get reelected with no tax increase in an election year.  However, General County spending this year (fiscal 2012) is more than 2007, 2008, and 2010, and spending is roughly same as in 2009.  The only way that one can claim that this year’s general County budget was cut is by comparing this year to last years bloated budget which is a very poor standard for comparison because it robbed the rainy day fund to avoid a tax increase. 

The 2012 school budget is the most expensive in Blount Co. history.  Another school was opened this year, despite many saying it wasn’t needed and construction beginning before the Commission gave its approval.  The school budget is a whopping $78.3 million and about 55.7% of the entire County budget. 

Debt Service has increased steadily since 2007 and is more expensive than ever.  Schools and debt service have grown so large that they make this budget year the most expensive ever.  Blount County government is spending 12% more this year than it spent in 2007. 

The Chairman of the School Board, John Paul Davis, recently died.  The School Board named it’s meeting room after him, the County Commission honored him at the August Commission meeting with a proclamation and The Daily Times wrote an editorial about what a respected leader he was to the community.  What all have left out is that he died leaving $225 million, excluding interest, in debt to his kids and grandkids.  It’s shameful that he would leave this debt to future generations and not pay for these unneeded schools during his lifetime.  It’s likely that many of our current County Commissioners will die before the debt they created is paid for, leaving their children and grandchildren to bear this monstrous financial burden.  It’s time to stop this generational curse of wasteful spending being passed to future generations and for real leaders to rise up and walk in righteousness, not lavish lifestyles on the backs of future generations.  A true righteous leader would not leave future generations with the burden of enormous debt.

In 1984 the food chain Wendy’s ran ad with the catch phrase, “Where’s the beef?” aptly pointing out that there’s more to a burger than a bun.  Blount County government is not taking care of me, yet it tells me that it needs more of my money to continue delivering services that I don’t get or use.  I’d like to know, where are the services that justify the biggest budget in Blount County history, and where are the spending cuts?  It’s time to shrink the bun, so we can see the beef and stop wasting the fruits of our labor.

Cost of Wars

George Bush Jr. ran in 2000 on a humble foreign policy with no nation building and was critical of Clinton’s wars.  We got 2 wars, under his Presidency, that are now almost a decade long.

Barack H. Obama ran in 2008 against the Iraq war, although he said he’d bomb Pakistan.  People didn’t critically evaluate his statements and his actions and now we’re in a war in Libya.

Ron Paul is the only man that has consistently blasted these wars.  He supported the inital defense efforts in Afghanistan, but was strongly against the Iraq war and has called for all our troops to come home from all nations and protect our borders here.

A Tale of 2 PBA Audit Reports

The 2010 Blount County Public Building Authority Audit Report has been revised.  Only the revised version is available through the State Comptrollers website, but I have the original here for you to review as well.

What’s the difference?  Primarily the PBA asset totals.  The first report states that the PBA has $1,842,589 in assets (page 7) and $336,376 (page 8) in working capital while the revised report shows $1,678,949 in assets  (page 7) and $172,736 in working capital.  The $163,640 difference is found on pages 7 in both reports under current liabilities.

Why the difference? That answer is found in Note 3 on page 18 of the revised audit report and Note 14 on page 23. 

Investments –
The PBA is authorized to make investments in bonds, notes or treasury bills of the U.S. Government and obligations guaranteed by the U.S. Government. Cash in excess of current requirements is on deposit with a financial institution in obligations guaranteed by the U.S. Government. Cash and cash equivalents consist of demand deposits and obligations of the U.S. Treasury with an original maturity of 90 days or less. At June 30, 2010, cash and cash equivalents amounted to $336,376, of which $172,736 is available in the General Fund and $163,640 is available in the Loan Fund for Bond Issuer fees expenditures. Since the PBA is no longer operating as a construction supervising entity, Blount County is entitled to any General Fund monies accumulated by the PBA.


Prior Period Adjustment
Unrestricted net assets in the General Fund as of the beginning of the year, July 1, 2009, have been adjusted to correct an error in 2009 for construction revenue of $35,080. Had the error not been made, the change in net assets would have increased by $35,080 in 2009.

Unrestricted net assets in the Loan Fund in the amount of $163,640 has been reclassified to accounts payable to reflect amounts due for Bond Issuer fees.

Who got the $163,640 and why did it have to be reclassified?  Sloppy Accounting?  Who knows. 

These audit reports raise another really interesting question.   The reports states:

All equipment and a vehicle were transferred to Blount County during the year ended June 30, 2009.

What makes up the $1,678,949 in PBA assets, since “all equipment and a vehicle were transferred to Blount County” in fiscal year 2009?  I posed that question to Vice Chairman Darrell Tipton, who is the acting Chairman of the Blount County PBA.  His response?  “I will have to get back with you regarding the asset number.  May take me a few days, but once I will do so as soon as possible.”

Update: Response from Finance Director Steve Jennings on the PBA Assets.

“Your ranting about the $1.6 million of net assets last night……..this is $1.506 million unamortized bond closing costs, required by Governmental Accounting standards to be expensed in the fund financial statements, but capitalized and amortized over the life of the bonds in the Statement of Net Assets.  I can tell you that as of June 30, 2010,  The only tangible asset that you would understand was the Cash in the Bank in the General Fund of the PBA – $172,736.  The remainder of the assets and liabilities along with the Net Assets are related to the Conduit Debt…..$163,640 cash held in trust by Regions Bank on behalf of the debt issuers to be used for future debt service obligations and the aforementioned unamortized closing costs.  I would not expect anyone to truly understand what this means unless they have a background in Financial Accounting.

Now, the Mayor has appointed a new group of Board Members that will understand the transactions, assets and liabilities of the PBA.  I expect to back away from this as soon as they convene and elect new officers.

I will make one final statement to you.   I am honest and have no conflict of interest with any of these dealings.  I am trying to coach the PBA to become more knowledgeable, more active, and totally understand the inner workings of the PBA financial transactions.  At some point, you have to trust someone.  Why not me?”

Steve Jennings
Blount County Finance Director

Comments on my “rant”:
The “rant” last night at the Commission meeting was justified, because I have tried for months, to no avail, to find out who the official contact person for the PBA is to direct my questions to.  The PBA audit doesn’t provide a contact person, although it does tell you to contact the PBA for more info.  Jennings says it’s not his business (more on that later) and refused to answer my recent emails, until today.  Darrell Tipton, the acting Chairman, didn’t know what the assets consisted of.  Thus, I struck out in my search for information, that the audit didn’t include, and was justified in going to my elected representatives and asking for this information.  It worked indirectly, because Jennings provided some information.  This leads to more questions.  More on that soon.