Tonight’s special called meeting on the fiscal year 2015 budget was not disappointing for those looking for comedy and tragedy rolled into one. The best word to describe the evening is shameful.
The meeting was necessary because of the Mayor’s incompetence in following the law requiring public notice and a public hearing. This Commission has never balanced the budget the entire four years of it’s term. The first year they increased the property tax rate instead of making necessary cuts. The past two years and this year they spent the rainy day fund rather than making necessary, sensible cuts.
Only one Commissioner discussed the budget and offered reasonable amendments, Commissioner Jim Folts.* What a loss to the people of Blount County that Commissioner Folts chose not to seek a second term. Good people often don’t make careers out of politics. None of the rest of the Commissioners said a word about nearly $165 million of your money being spent. The Department heads got their huge pay raises. It was shameful to watch.
To top the meeting off, the Commissioners who work or are retired from the County or are related to County employees failed to read their conflict of interest statements which would make their votes void per State law, if their votes had been challenged. Chairman Jerome Moon adjourned the meeting without public input off the Agenda, leaving the audience with no recourse to challenge the votes. State law requires the votes to be challenged at the same meeting that the voting took place.
*Update: Commissioner Tab Burkhalter asked a question about a change to Highway Funding.
TCA 5-5-102. Membership.
(a) (1) The county legislative body shall be composed of not less than nine (9) nor more than twenty-five (25) members.
(2) There shall be at least nine (9) districts in the county legislative body in any county designated as a Class 2 county before January 1, 1999, as established by § 8-24-101.
(b) Members shall reside within and be qualified voters of the districts that they represent.
(c) (1) Notwithstanding any provision of the law to the contrary, any county employee, otherwise qualified to serve as a member of the county legislative body, shall not be disqualified from such legislative office by reason of being a county employee.
(2) No person elected or appointed to fill the office of county mayor, sheriff, trustee, register, county clerk, assessor of property, or any other county-wide office filled by vote of the people or the county legislative body, shall also be nominated for or elected to membership in the county legislative body. After June 18, 2005, a director of schools shall not be qualified to serve as a member of the county legislative body.
(3) (A) Any member of a local governing body of a county or a municipality who is also an employee of such county or municipality may vote on matters in which such member has a conflict of interest if the member informs the governing body immediately prior to the vote as follows:
Because I am an employee of (name of governmental unit), I have a conflict of interest in the proposal about to be voted. However, I declare that my argument and my vote answer only to my conscience and to my obligation to my constituents and the citizens this body represents.
(B) In the event a member of a local governing body of a county or a municipality has a conflict of interest in a matter to be voted upon by the body, such member may abstain for cause by announcing such to the presiding officer. Any member of a local governing body of a county or municipality who abstains from voting for cause on any issue coming to a vote before the body shall not be counted for the purpose of determining a majority vote.
(C) The vote of any person having a conflict of interest who does not inform the governing body of such conflict as provided in subdivision (c)(3)(A) shall be void if challenged in a timely manner. As used in this section, “timely manner” means during the same meeting at which the vote was cast and prior to the transaction of any further business by the body.