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.
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 .
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!