Is someone not telling the truth?

The local paper had a quote from Mayor Ed Mitchell in the Saturday paper saying, “There has been no conversation between me, the sheriff, nor anyone else about building a jail.  You’ve heard so many people out there say that we’re wanting to build a jail.  You’re listening to one person who is giving fact-less information, disseminating it to the public with no basis.”

Fact #1: State record mentions conversation between mayor and sheriff

The mayor says there has been no conversation between him and the sheriff about building a jail and that one person is giving fact-less information to the public.  Let’s compare what he said with the minutes of the September 2, 2015 Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting.  Statements attributed to Sherriff James Berrong appear to contradict what the mayor told the Blount Partnership/Chamber of Commerce.

“Sheriff Berrong said he addressed the board three years ago and at that time said that the mayor did not think he had a problem but rather thought the sheriff had a problem. Since that time, the mayor is on board 100 percent and called the sheriff the previous day and told the sheriff that one million dollars had been escrowed and earmarked for a new jail and plan to do the same thing next year. The sheriff said they are making great strides and progress with cooperation between the jail and the mayor’s office. He added that they also have a commission that does not believe there is a problem.”

Well gee mayor, did that conversation happen or not?  A state record says it did.

Fact #2: Mayor called a special commission meeting with a resolution to authorize a request for qualifications (RFQ) pertaining to the jail

Mayor Ed Mitchell called a special session meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Blount County, Tennessee in April of this year.  The agenda contained one item: a resolution to authorize the purchasing agent to solicit a request for qualifications for architectural planning and/or design services and/or programing services for Blount County, Tennessee.

Well gee mayor, did you call a meeting to put the RFQ resolution before the commission without talking to anyone, including the sponsors of the resolution?

Fact #3: The RFQ project overview says county is seeking services to plan and design a jail expansion

The project overview in the RFQ says, “Blount County Government is soliciting Requests for Qualifications from licensed Architectural and/or Engineering firms for professional services necessary to plan and design a jail expansion for Blount County, Tennessee.”  See page 9 for the quote.  Under Proposal Award it says, “Once an agreement is reached, the Purchasing Agent will then request that the full Blount County Commission approve a multi-year contract.”  See page 16 for that quote.

Well gee mayor, did you call a meeting to have the commission vote on an RFQ to seek services to plan and design a jail expansion without talking to anyone about it?

What kind of leader would assign $1 million of fund balance and call a meeting to seek commission approval for issuing a document that says the county is requesting qualifications for services to plan and design a jail expansion without talking about it?  Were there no conversations or is someone not telling the truth?

Types of inmates don’t influence State Fire Marshal’s decision to shut jail down

I (Tona Monroe) recently submitted three questions to the Chief Counsel for Fire Prevention & Law Enforcement regarding the State Fire Marshal’s authority related to shutting a jail down for matters related to overcrowding.  The questions and answers from Mr. Joseph Underwood are below.  The third question should have read “due to” rather than “do to”.

The type of an inmate is not a factor in the State Fire Marshal’s decision to seek to have a jail shut down.  This differs from the Tennessee Correction Institute Board of Control jail certification process which does take into account whether inmates are awaiting bed space in a state facility.  Thankfully with the state removing the felons to state facilities, overcrowding problems have been greatly reduced.  Furthermore with less people in the jail, it is less likely to be shut down due to overcrowding.

“Answers to your Questions:

‘1. Does the Fire Marshal have direct authority to shut down a jail due to overcrowding issues or does he/she have to seek a court order to shut a jail down?’

The State Fire Marshal possesses broad authority pursuant to TCA §§ 68-102-116 and 68-102-116 (see attached documents) regarding buildings and structures that have dangerous or defective conditions which endanger life or property. The State Fire Marshal’s Office works in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General to obtain an Order of Remedy or Remove from a court of specified jurisdiction regarding dangerous or defective conditions in a building or structure.  Overcrowding is one of the many factors considered by the State Fire Marshal in the determination of whether to seek an Order of Remedy or Remove.

‘2. When the Fire Marshal examines a jail that is over crowded, does he/she take into account the type of inmates, such as misdemeanants, TDOC felons awaiting bed space in TDOC facilities, federal inmates, etc.?’

Not specifically.  The State Fire Marshal examines a building or structure to determine the use and the occupancy limit for such building or structure specifically.  Consideration may also be given to the types of fire alarm or fire suppression systems installed in the building, structure or facility as well as the existence of any combustible or flammable materials.

‘3. Does the classification/type of inmates affect his decision to have a jail shut down do to overcrowding issues?’

No, the State Fire Marshal inspects a building, structure or facility in accordance with the applicable building code for such building, structure or facility. Deputy State Fire Marshals will calculate the occupancy limit and use of such building or structure accordingly.

Please let me know if you should have additional questions.  Thank you.”

Joseph M. Underwood| Chief Counsel for Fire Prevention & Law Enforcement

Davy Crockett Tower, 8th Floor
500 James Robertson Pkwy
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-3899

Jeff Headrick voted to advance a wheel tax levy resolution

In the race for Highway Superintendent, the Brian Downey campaign is telling the public that Jeff Headrick voted for a wheel tax while he served on the county commission.  Some are countering that Headrick voted for a referendum for the voters to decide if they want a wheel tax.  To settle the confusion regarding former commissioner Jeff Headrick’s record on the wheel tax, a review of Agenda Committee packets will set the record straight.  These are readily available online.

Jeff Headrick voted to advance a resolution that would have levied a wheel tax.  This vote would have placed the resolution on the commission agenda.  To read the resolution see pages 58-59 of the May 12, 2015 Agenda Committee packet:

Compare that to the 2013 resolution that actually called a referendum on the question of levying a wheel tax.  See pages 38-39.  Jeff Headrick was not on the commission in 2013 when this vote occurred.

The vote on the resolution to levy a wheel tax is found in the minutes of the May 12, 2015 Agenda Committee meeting, which are available in the June 2015 Agenda Committee packet.  See page 55.

Headrick resigned his commission seat earlier this year when the commission voted to appoint him to the position of Highway Superintendent to fill the vacancy left by Bill Dunlap’s resignation.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted for Brian Downey.  Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Tom Cole, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett voted for Jeff Headrick.  Commissioner Mike Caylor was absent.

If the wheel tax is an important issue to you, then you should take note that Brian Downey says he opposes it while Jeff Headrick voted to advance a measure that would have levied a wheel tax.

Tennessee Comptroller’s Office says it can find no specific statutory authority for a sheriff to sign a contract to house federal inmates without commission approval

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!
Tona Monroe
Blount County Commissioner
District 7 Seat B

—–Original Message—–
From: “Jim Arnette” <>
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2016 9:32am
To: “” <>
Cc: “Justin Wilson” <>
Subject: RE: Does a sheriff have authority to sign a contract without commission approval?

Ms. Monroe,

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: []
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 5:34 PM
To: Justin Wilson <>; Jim Arnette <>
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.


Tona Monroe

Claiborne County voters to determine jail expansion bond issue


Sign in Claiborne County

Voters in Claiborne County will determine whether the county should issue bonds for jail expansion in this August 4th election.  A Circuit judge, acting in his private capacity as a citizen, is opposing jail expansion saying the county losses money on its inmates, just as I (Tona Monroe) have been saying here in Blount County.

There has been confusion about the role of the Tennessee Correction Institute (TCI) and the TCI Board of Control.  The TCI inspects local jails.  The TCI Board of Control votes to certify a jail as being in compliance or not in compliance with jail standards.  The TCI and its Board of Control can not shut down a jail for not being in compliance with state standards.

The Blount County Purchasing Agent finally issued the RFQ for jail expansion last week, 12 weeks after the commission authorized it.  With the state inmates being removed, the only thing the county should look at expanding is programs.  If the Blount County Commission pushes for an unnecessary jail expansion, then the citizens of Blount County should be able to weigh in on the issue through a referendum.

Pay supplements aren’t required

At the June Blount County Board of Commissioners meeting, I (Tona Monroe) tried to cut the salaries of Mayor Ed Mitchell, Sheriff James Berrong, Highway Superintended Jeff Headrick and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher to the minimum salaries required by state law.  Only Commissioner Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to cut the salaries to the state minimum.  Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.  Last year, it was just the 3 ladies and Mike Akard who voted to cut the salaries to the state minimum.  All the rest supported these 4 being paid substantially more than we are required to pay them.

At the meeting, Chairman Jerome Moon lead the commission to believe that we had to pay the sheriff an additional pay supplement.  This pay supplement would trigger the mayor being paid more because the mayor is required to be paid 5% above the next highest paid official, which is the sheriff.  I had read the laws governing salaries and didn’t think we were required to pay more.  However, I could of missed something and inquired which law.  Moon didn’t know what law required us to give a pay supplement.  Neither did the sheriff or Commissioner Steve Samples, the longest serving commissioner.

I asked the County Technical Assistance Service for clarification on salary laws because minimum and maximum salaries are referenced.  CTAS failed to respond.  Thus, I sent the same questions to the Tennessee County Commissioners Association and received a response.  We (the county) are not required to pay these additional supplements.  Cutting these discretionary pay supplements would save the taxpayers $91,713 this budget year.

Below is his response and the attachment received is available here.

—–Original Message—–
From: Charlie Curtiss
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 11:27am
To: Tona
Subject: RE: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials


There is not a maximum salary listed in the Tennessee Code, there are a few references but the law they reference was deleted in 1990. The legislature sets the minimum salary based upon a county’s classification. If the county commission wants to pay above the minimum salary that is their choice.

Tennessee code allows that a county commission can pay a sheriff additional salary to administer a workhouse. The law does not require a the county to provide an additional amount, it just allows a county commission to pay more if they chose to do so.

The fact that Tennessee law at one time set a maximum  salary, there is language in several parts of the law that give authority to go above the maximum salary. As I mentioned above, that language in not in the law today but there references are still there and it becomes confusing.

The state law says the county legislative body may pay additional compensation to a sheriff to administer a workhouse but it is not required.

I have attached a word document that has some support information.




From: Tona
Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2016 5:32 PM
To: Charlie Curtiss
Subject: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Dear Charlie,

Wesley at CTAS has failed to respond to this email, like so many.
Do you know the answer to these questions?




—–Original Message—–
From: Tona

Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2016 11:06pm
To: “Robertson, Wesley Ross” <>, “Robertson, Wesley Ross” <>
Cc: “Roberts, Robin A” <>
Subject: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Hi Wesley,

State statute 8-24-102 governs minimum salaries for elected officials.  CTAS publishes those minimum salaries, which I have a copy of. 


State statute 8-24-103 references a maximum salary for the sheriff. 


(3) No sheriff shall claim, hold, or have any interest in such funds for services performed under § 8-24-102, fees paid the sheriff as a witness for appearing in court, the boarding of prisoners at the county jail, ex officio services, or fees from any other source whatsoever, except that this provision and the provisions of subdivision (a)(2) are not intended to prevent the county legislative body from paying the sheriff in such county an amount in addition to the maximum salary allowed by § 8-24-102 for ex officio services as superintendent of the workhouse, if the workhouse in such county is combined with the jail as provided for by title 41, chapter 2.



1) What is the maximum salary in 103 that references 102?

2) Can a supplement be given for a workhouse if the county does not have a workhouse?

3) For purposes of 8-24-11 and/or any other statute, is the jail considered an ex officio service?

4) Is the commission required to give the sheriff any pay supplement above the minimum (excluding the Court Clerk supplement that requires an additional 10%)?




‘Jail’ expansion RFQ issued 12 weeks after commission approved it

Do you remember that great sense of urgency when Jerome Moon told commissioners that they had to pass the jail RFQ resolution or they would have to sit through deposition in federal court?  Do you remember that great sense of urgency when the Detention Facility Specialists from the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) told the Blount County Corrections Partnership in March that we needed to look into architectural costs to appease the TCI Board of Control to keep our certification?

Well the RFQ was just issued last week.  This is 12 weeks after Mayor Ed Mitchell called a special commission meeting (they’re not so special anymore because the mayor has been calling a lot of meetings) to pass the ‘jail’ resolution.  It took the purchasing agent 12 weeks to issue the paperwork.  Where was that sense of urgency in issuing the paperwork?

One shouldn’t expect anything different from a purchasing agent who writes a resolution about a jail and fails to mention the word jail in the resolved portion of the resolution.  The project overview in the RFQ is clear though saying, “Blount County Government is soliciting Requests for Qualifications from licensed Architectural and/or Engineering firms for professional services necessary to plan and design a jail expansion for Blount County, Tennessee.”  See page 9 for the quote.  Under Proposal Award it says, “Once an agreement is reached, the Purchasing Agent will then request that the full Blount County Commission approve a multi-year contract.”  See page 16 for that quote.

Should the fireworks ban be repealed?

Fireworks went off all around me in celebration of Independence Day.  A few went off Saturday night.  On the evening before the 4th, the sky was lite up all around me.  At one point, I could see fireworks going off at four houses at the same time.  This didn’t include what was going off behind me that I couldn’t see without turning to span the entire sky.

Several that I have talked with don’t realize that it is illegal to possess and set fireworks off in Blount County.  Do you think the ban on fireworks should be repealed?

June 2016 Commission Report

When I (Tona Monroe) envisioned writing monthly reports on county government, I thought that the reports would be published within a few days of the monthly commission meetings, which are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month.  However, I quickly realized that it was better to wait until the end of the month to more fully report on your local government.  This is because there are important meetings after the monthly commission meeting and the meetings can create more questions than answers.  Thus, I usually follow up after these meetings by seeking answers.

Sometimes I get answers and sometimes it is difficult to get answers.  As such, these monthly reports are intended to provide a review of the monthly activities of your local government.  If you desire to learn about important matters before the commission votes on them, please be sure to visit this site at least a couple of times a month because I write about issues throughout the month.  Additionally, I also have an email list that you can subscribe to which will keep you informed.  If you’d like to join the email list, please send me an email.

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting
On June 1, I drove to Nashville to attend the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Board of Control meeting.  Commissioners Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also attended the meeting.

My reasons for attending are manifold.  Please search this website, if you are new to the site, to learn those reasons.  My statement to the board is available here.

A county should strive to meet minimum standards and be certified by the TCI.  However, after reading prior Board of Control minutes and watching the process in action, I’ve concluded that obtaining certification can be political rather than an objective recognition of compliance with standards.

I had intended to write about the meeting before now but haven’t been able to obtain all the documents that I wanted to review before writing about the meeting.  This may be something that I will write about in the future.

Agenda Committee
Commissioners Tom Cole, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett were absent.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I offered two taxpayer protection amendments.  Both were rejected.

One amendment would have amended the annual budget resolution to prohibit the mayor and finance director from assigning fund balance money without commission approval.  My intention was to ensure that there would be no more secret plans for your tax money as there has been in the past.

The other amendment was intended to ensure that no monies appropriated for pay raises would be expended for any other purpose without commission approval.  The budget funds 1.8% pay raises for all county employees, excluding the Highway Department and schools that set their own raises, and office holders who receive raises based on state mandates.  However, not all the amounts budgeted for pay raises will be expended for that purpose.

Raises are suppose to be awarded based on satisfactory job performance.  This will leave money in funds that won’t be awarded as pay raises.  This means that office holders can transfer money not awarded for pay raises for use elsewhere in their budgets.  This is a misuse of the public trust.  Office holders should not be requesting money that isn’t needed and no office holder should use the funds for any other purpose.

Pay raises are not uniform throughout local government.  Office holders will receive state mandated pay raises.  Some school employees will receive 5% pay raises.  General county employees will receive 1.8% pay raises.  I don’t know what the Highway Department employees will receive.

Only commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to protect the taxpayers with these two amendments.

Commission meeting
Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.

Tax rate is set for $2.47
The property tax rate will remain at $2.47.  The powers that be are patting themselves on the back for a job well done because they’ve put together a budget where they get nice pay raises and much of what they want, without increasing the property tax rate.  However, that doesn’t mean that local government held the line on spending.

The budget is up $6,789,571 million over the previous year’s original adopted budget.  The adopted budget for fiscal year (FY) 15-16 is $174,477,835 while the adopted budget for FY 16-17 is $181,267,406.  Not all of this is local money.  The schools will receive a sizeable increase from the state and $1,250,000 of this money came from fund balance that was approved as a budget increase in December for the IT fund that was rushed through.  It is money that hasn’t yet been spent and has to be budgeted in the new year.

More of your money is projected to be collected due to tax revenue growth but pay has not keeping up with inflation.  The local government hasn’t done you any favors by keeping the tax rate that is 15% higher than it was 2 years ago.

Only commissioners Miller and I voted no.  That means that there are only 3 commissioners left who haven’t supported a tax rate that is higher than when they took office, or in the case of Peggy Lambert, left office.   The commissioners who voted no on the tax increase last year, among other things, have now supported it and everything in the budget a year later.

What good is it to oppose something for one year and then rubber stamp it a year later?  The property tax rate was $2.15 when I took my oath of office.  When I ran for office, many people told me that they didn’t want another property tax increase.  I made a campaign promise not to raise property taxes and I will stick by that.  I will never vote for a budget that requires a tax rate that is higher than when I took office.

Someone said to me what good does it do to focus on a tax increase when the entire tax amount is being wasted.  That’s a valid point.  People often get upset about a tax increase, but that is often just a small amount of what you are paying.  The entire amount is important, not just the increase.  We should look at every penny the government wants and spends.

Capital fund amendment failed
I offered an amendment to the tax rate that would have moved one penny of the schools general fund to the schools capital fund.  This amendment would have saved county taxpayers about $127,500 because capital fund money doesn’t have to be split with Alcoa and Maryville schools.

Blount County Schools teacher and County Commissioner Dodd Crowe spoke against the amendment although he didn’t actually give a precise reason why he opposed the amendment.  Fiscal Administrator for the schools, Troy Logan, said the amendment wouldn’t align with the school board’s goals.  Ask your school board member if he or she thinks that one of their goals should include giving $127,500 in tax money to Maryville and Alcoa, when the county doesn’t have to.

The School Board is planning on spending over $2 million to fix roofs this budget year.  This will consume the entire capital fund and the rest will be paid for with fund balance in the schools general purpose fund.  The shift in the penny would have given the schools additional funds, thereby reducing use of fund balance, without increasing the county property tax rate.

Commissioners and teachers Grady Caskey and Dodd Crowe voted against the amendment, as did Commissioner Tom Cole whose wife works for the schools.  These three gave about $127,500 to the cities when they didn’t have to.  Commissioner and school employee Gary Farmer abstained.  Only commissioners Andy Allen, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I thought it makes good fiscal sense to use the money to fix the roofs instead of giving it to the two cities.

I don’t like using the term penny to describe the tax rate because it makes the amount you are paying sound so much smaller than it really is.  A penny on the tax rate is estimated to be worth $327,500 in property tax money.  Because of split dollars, the amount given to the schools for each penny is about $200,000 according to fiscal administrator Troy Logan.  The schools capital fund receives the entire amount of $327,500 per penny, excluding the Trustee’s Fees that are deducted from property taxes.

Budget Committee’s recommended budget is rubber stamped
The commission rubber stamped the budget recommended by the Budget Committee without any changes.  Only commissioners Karen Miller and I offered amendments to the budget.

Commissioner Miller offered an amendment to gut the budget given to the Industrial Development Board, which is used to dole out corporate welfare.  The IDB receives over $1 million.  Miller’s amendment would have cut the IDB budget to $1 and given the money to the Highway Department.

The finance director said that Miller’s amendment would have required the commission to amend the tax rate resolution.  This is a good example of why it doesn’t make sense to set the tax rate in advance of setting the budget.  How can the commission properly budget the rate when it hasn’t determined the amounts that will be spent from each fund?

Commissioner Miller requested permission of the body to read her prepared remarks on the amendment.  The commission rejected allowing her to read her statement.  This is appalling.  Commissioners are given the power to be heard and the duty to look out for taxpayers.  Apparently the majority of commissioners don’t want a commissioner to come prepared with the facts and their reasons for advocating positions.  The commission rejected allowing me to read a statement last month.

Miller did speak briefly without reading her statement.  She said she didn’t think tax money should be given for corporate welfare, that she was upset with the way Bryan Daniels and the Blount Partnership had blocked commissioner Jamie Daly and me and that the money should be used to fix the pot holes in the road.  I seconded Miller’s amendment but it was rejected by the commission with only Commissioners Daly, Miller and myself supporting it.

4 officials are paid above the state mandated minimum
State law mandates minimum salaries for elected officials.  The salaries range from being nearly double to near quadruple the average salary in Blount County.

State law allows the commission to pay elected officials more than the state mandated minimums.  With the salaries already being so much more than what the majority of households live on, I moved to cut the salaries of the court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor to the state mandated minimums.

The cut would have saved the taxpayers $91,713 but it was rejected with only commissioners Daly, Miller and myself voting for it.  Chairman Jerome Moon gave one of the typical reasons to rubber stamp the matter and move on.  He said that state law requires us to give the sheriff a pay supplement above his base pay.   However, when I asked what state law said we have to give the sheriff more than the state minimum, he couldn’t name the law.  The sheriff couldn’t state the law either.  Moon them passed the buck to Commissioner Steve Samples, because he is the longest serving commissioner.  Samples didn’t know the law either.

I am researching the matter to see exactly what the county is required to pay the sheriff.

No one read a conflict of interest statement but several have conflicts of interest.

Meeting minutes missing wording of a motion
The meeting minutes for the May commission meeting did not include the wording of a motion that I made.  I moved to amend the minutes to include the wording of the amendment that I had offered but the commission rejected the amendment.  The minutes should reflect any change that a commissioner tries to make to public policy and government documents.

Highway Grant
There was a reimbursement grant for highway funds expended during an emergency with begin and end dates that spans five years.  The new Highway Superintendent (HS) Jeff Headrick couldn’t explain these dates.  He said it was handled before he became HS but his name is on the budget amendment request.  I often wonder if anyone in local government understands what they are signing up for, with state and federal grants.

IT Meeting
A special Information Technology (IT) Committee was called by the mayor, to have the new IT consulting firm Mindboard give a presentation on its IT assessment of the county.  A previous assessment was done.  The Mindboard consultant referred to it as the 10,000 foot view.  He referred to his assessment as the 3,000 foot view.  The county is in need of some IT improvements but we need to tread carefully.

Kronos, the $2.3M time keeping, payroll and HR IT software project, is several months behind schedule.  This was rushed through without fully examining whether the county was ready for the project.

The estimated capital costs of about $2.5M, in the Mindboard presentation, are nearly double what the commission approved last year for the updates.  Furthermore, the annual costs to maintain these updates will greatly increase the IT budget.  The committee was given a figure that was over $600,000.

These aren’t exact numbers.  The costs for computers was listed as zero.  The former IT Director John Herron, who now works for the schools, pointed out that this wasn’t realistic.

I wondered why this was listed as zero and I may have learned why.  In the commission packet, there are budget transfers to purchase computers in both the Finance and Accounting and Data Processing (IT) budgets. (See pages 330 and 334)  Finance Director Vineyard told me that all IT needs would come out of the IT fund but apparently both had money left over at the end of the year to use to buy new computers.

It is amazing how much money is moved around (transferred) at the end of the year.  I may write more about the subject in the future.

The IT Committee took no action on the presentation.  However, the mayor and finance director usually proceed with their big spending plans without a recommendation from the IT Committee.

State to remove 99 felons from jail
The best news of the month is that the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) is going to remove 99 felons to state facilities.  This reduces the chance of a tax increase for jail expansion.  However, we should be ever vigilant of the matter.  We need to ensure that TDOC and the sheriff actively work to move felons, with a continuous sentence of more than a year, to state facilities in the future.

The sheriff stated that I have “offered no realistic or legal solutions.”  That’s false.  One realistic and legal solution that I offered was to have the state sentenced felons moved to state facilities.  It’s good to see this solution will happen.

Up next
The commission will consider reforming the Human Resources and Insurance Committee.

Happy Independence Day!

Tennessee corporate welfare

Check out this new website which has an interactive map that tells where corporate welfare is being handed out.

In Blount County

Corporate Handouts for Alcoa

Alcoa, Inc. $950,000 training reimbursement 2013
K12 Management, Inc. $148,800 training reimbursement 2014
ProNova Solutions, LLC $525,000 training reimbursement  2013

Corporate Handouts for Maryville

Alcoa, Inc. $2,200,000 grant/low-cost loan 2013
Microtherm, Inc. $14,700 training reimbursement 2013
Surface Ignighter, LLC $540,000 training reimbursement 2013

Corporate Handouts for Rockford

Cooper Standard Rockford  $45,000 training reimbursement 2013

Doug Overbey’s jobs claims haven’t materialized into better pay for his district

By now, those of you who vote have received your latest glossy mailer of the week from State Senator Doug Overbey entitled “Doug Overbey Focuses on Jobs.”  This looks like a brag sheet produced by the Blount Partnership with the name Doug Overbey inserted in its place.

Overbey is taking credit for crony deals using your money.  The IDB gave the farm away, literally, to get AMI here.  Some of these jobs are expansions from companies that are already heavily invested in the community.  While the Blount Partnership, Governor Bill Haslam and Doug Overbey are taking credit for Cirrus Aircraft moving in, they aren’t telling you about the better paying jobs that have and will likely continuing leaving the airport.

What about all the small business that create jobs but don’t get any special tax incentives like these crony deals given to bigger companies?  Overbey, like most Republicans, would probably claim to support economic liberty.  A free market wouldn’t favor specials interests and provide corporate welfare.  A free market would provide a level playing field for all to compete on.

A better measure of a politician’s success would be jobs created without special deals.  A strong economy wouldn’t require special tax breaks for a few connected companies, so that politicians like Overbey can brag about giving the farm away, using your money, to attract jobs.

If Overbey has done such a great job of “creating an environment that’s bringing thousands [of] quality jobs to the people of Blount and Sevier Counties”, during his time as state senator, then pay should be increasing at or above the rate of inflation.  It is not.

According to the East Tennessee Index, Blount County was the only county in the region where pay was below the rate of inflation in 2013.  In 2014, Sevier County joined Blount County as the only other county in the region where pay isn’t keeping up with the rate of inflation.  These two counties are Overbey’s district.

The next time you hear Overbey and the Blount Partnership tout jobs, take it with a grain of salt.  Neither are worth their salt.

Vote for Scott Williams for State Senator in the Republican Primary on August 4th.

Claiborne Co. judge cares about community: Opposes jail expansion

Circuit Court Judge John D. McAfee cares about his community.  He is doing what he can, as a private citizen, to stop what may be an unnecessary jail expansion in his local community by pointing out that the Claiborne County does not have to house felons sentenced to more than a year.

Compare that to the actions of local judges Tammy Harrington and Mike Gallegos, who are non-voting ex-officio members of the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP), who never said anything about the county not being required to house felons.  Additionally, neither mentioned that trial judges have the authority, under state law, to order inmates to be moved to a state facility before the expiration of the normal time frame for removal.

Furthermore, McAfee obtained a letter from legal counsel for the Tennessee Corrections Institute saying that the TCI has no authority to shut down jails or enforce TCI guidelines.  This is the point that I (Tona Monroe) made when Bob Bass and Detention Facility Specialist William Robert Kane appeared to try to bully the BCCP into seeking architectural services to expand the jail.  Tough talk is about all the TCI employees can do.  Why didn’t these TCI employees mention that the county is under no obligation to keep state felons, with a sentence of more than a year, and suggest that the county work with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to have the felons moved to state facilities?

It appears that the jail RFQ resolution, that fails to mention the jail in the be it resolved portion of the resolution, was passed under false pretenses.  I am elated that the state is finally going to do its job by taking its felons.  This may have stopped an unnecessary tax increase.  Additionally, I am happy to learn that a judge cares enough about his community to make the facts known and not indebt future generations to house discretionary state prisoners.