“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.

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