December 2014 Commission Report

Commission reports are coming out later than anticipated because the commission meetings can generate more questions than answers.  In an effort to do through reporting, the reports are delayed while seeking answers.  All commissioner were present at the commission meeting.

Animal Shelter
There were three items on the agenda regarding the animal shelter. A couple of people have contacted me in states of confusion about these votes thinking that all three were one issue.  Hopefully this report will clear up any confusion.

The first was a request for a second animal control officer.  Currently there is only one person performing the duties of an animal control officer.  There is a need for another animal control officer.  However, I voted against the measure because the previous director of the shelter worked in the field doing animal control service.  A new director was hired and given substantially more pay than the previous director, yet he does not have the same job responsibilities.  The new director now handles paperwork that was previously done by the Mayor’s assistant.  With the new director getting substantially more pay, he should be on call to fill in for the other animal control officer.  Additionally the last part time employee was made full time this year.

Furthermore, the animal shelter budget has been steadily increasing; rising nearly 37% since FY11.
FY 11 $223,942
FY 12 $263,901
FY 13 $272,625
FY 14 $320,387
FY 15 $355,426 (appropriated)

Thus, with increases in the staff hours, budget and pay for the director I didn’t feel it was wise to add more to the shelter budget.  Government spending can quickly spiral out of control and I didn’t want to add more to a budget which has been growing so rapidly.  Commissioners Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted no.  The rest voted yes.

The second item was a request for $12,000 for a new commercial washer and dryer along with the installation costs.  $6,000 was paid for with donations, the other half with tax money.  The donation account had about $8,200 in it and the director told the commission that he had no plans for the additional donation money.  Thus, I made a motion to amend to use $8,000 of donation money and thereby use $2,000 less of tax revenue.  The common sense motion was defeated 7-14.
Akard – yes  Allen – yes  Archer – no  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – yes  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – no  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The question was asked of me why the Commission would reject this amendment when there was no plan to use this money.  I don’t know but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the director put in a request for a new phone system utilizing the leftover donation money.

The resolution passed 20-1 with my vote for it because the equipment was needed.  However, there was another problem with this request that likely stems from purchasing.  The county only received one bid for the washer and dryer.  There are five employees in purchasing.  There is no reason why these people can’t obtain more bids.  I will work toward more accountability from purchasing.

Furthermore, the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee have been operating as one body for several years.  The purchasing portion of the packets routinely say for “information only.”  The Mayor and commissioners serving on the Purchasing Commission have not been doing their jobs in demanding more from our purchasing employees.  Tell the Mayor that you would like to see more effort from the Purchasing Commission.  273-5700 emitchell@blounttn.org

The third vote approved funds for a shelter vet and vet tech.  The funds were provided by Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation.  The vet will now be a county employee.  I wanted to look at making the vet serve through independent contract labor rather than being a county employee because the county health care benefits are so rich.  However, there wasn’t time this year since the funding will kick in with the new year.  Thus, I voted for it and am looking into regulations for contract labor to see if this idea is feasible in the future.

The hard work and dedication of the volunteers and donors is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Judicial Commissioners – Business as usual
There were no resumes for judicial commissioners in our packets.  I made a motion to postpone the matter for one month so that we could be furnished resumes.  The motion failed 6-15.
Akard – no  Allen – no  Archer – yes  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – no  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – yes  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The terms of the appointments are for one year and automatically renew unless the commission passes a resolution to stop the automatic renewal.  Amendments to require annual approval by the commission failed.  Previous terms have been 4 years.  Judge Bill Brewer told the commission that the shorter terms were necessary to prevent having to use an ouster suit to remove a non-performing judicial commissioner.  He said that the county almost had to pursue one to terminate a judicial commissioner.  When I questioned him on the matter, he retreated telling me that it wasn’t as bad as he made it sound, that the reason for poor job performance was excessive absences and that the judicial commissioner had quit.  When I asked him who recommended this judicial commissioner to the county commission he gave the convenient answer that he didn’t remember.

The statute governing judicial commissioners says:

No member of the county legislative body of any county to which this subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i) applies shall be eligible for appointment as a judicial commissioner

One of the nominees is a City of Alcoa Commissioner.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to appoint someone serving in a legislative capacity to also serve in another branch of government.

Judge Brewer informed the commission of the training required to be a judicial commissioner.  He also told us that the county attorney suggested that we do the annual appointments and that the judicial commissioners are subject to discipline by the Court of the Judiciary.  There are problems with what he told the commission.  There is no county attorney and the Court of the Judiciary was abolished by the state legislature in 2012.  Only Commissioners Cole, Miller and I voted no.

Rules – Petty Politicians
Please read this article about the petty politicians serving on your commission.  Resolutions are now required to go through the Agenda Committee unless at least 2/3 of the commission votes to add the resolution to the agenda of the commission meeting.  The Agenda Committee is still optional per board rules.  I made a motion to amend Rules 12 to fix this.  Chairman Jerome Moon declared my motion out of order.  I challenged the rule of the chair but only 4 other commissioners joined me in following the rules.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe showed respect for the democratic process.  The rest did not.  That wasn’t the only time that chairman Moon cut me off.  He cut my microphone off while discussing the Judicial Commissioners.  He has repeatedly cut my microphone off.   jmoon@blounttn.org

War Memorial
The commission approved plans for updating Blount County War Monuments.  This should be neat to see when it’s completed.

Up next: Budget Committee and Purchasing Committee nominations
It’s high time that we demand more accountability from the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.

Happy New Year!

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