Dear Blount County Citizens,
For several months, I have been trying to find a state law that authorizes a sheriff to sign a contract to house federal inmates in the local jail without county commission approval. Several that I have spoken with have told me that a sheriff does not have the authority but nothing was put in writing until today.
The response from Jim Arnette, the Director of Local Government Audit, in the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury is below.
Most commissioners may have tacitly approved housing federal inmates, according to the Comptroller’s Office, by voting for an annual budget which includes revenue from this contract. Karen Miller and I voted no on the budget this year. Commissioner Mike Akard voted no on the budget at the Agenda Committee but was absent for the final vote at the June Commission meeting. The rest have voted for a budget that appropriates revenue received from the federal inmates contract.
Let freedom ring!
Blount County Commissioner
District 7 Seat B
From: “Jim Arnette” <Jim.Arnette@cot.tn.gov>
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2016 9:32am
To: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
Cc: “Justin Wilson” <Justin.Wilson@cot.tn.gov>
Subject: RE: Does a sheriff have authority to sign a contract without commission approval?
We have discussed your inquiry with our legal staff…
We can find no specific statutory authority for the Sheriff to enter into the contract for housing Federal detainees. Generally, the board of county commissioners holds the contracting authority in Tennessee county governments.
Section 41-8-106, Tennessee Code Annotated, contains guidance on contracting to house state prisoners, and provides for the county “through the authority of its county legislative body”, “to contract with the department of correction for the purpose of housing certain felons.” Although there is no reference to federal prisoners in this statute, the Commission’s general power to enter into/authorize contracts, would seem to allow them to approve a contract to house federal prisoners.
If the revenues generated from housing federal prisoners has been included in the general fund budget which was approved by the Blount County Commission, it seems reasonable that the Commission was aware of the boarding of federal prisoners. If this is in fact the case, it could be construed as tacit approval of the contract.
Jim Arnette, CGFM, CISA
Comptroller of the Treasury
Division of Local Government Audit
1500 James K. Polk Building
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-1402
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 5:34 PM
To: Justin Wilson <Justin.Wilson@cot.tn.gov>; Jim Arnette <Jim.Arnette@cot.tn.gov>
Subject: Does a sheriff have authority to sign a contract without commission approval?
Dear Comptroller Wilson and Mr. Arnette,
Does a sheriff have the authority under state law to sign a contract without commission approval? Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong signed a contract with the US Marshals Service to house inmates in the Blount County Adult Detention Facility. This contract was not approved by the Blount County Commission. It is attached for your review.