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May 2016 Commission Report

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.

Commission meeting
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 .

Up next
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!

Should government “servants” make 2, 3 and 4 times what the taxpayers make?

After looking at the salaries of several state government employees and having reviewed the payrolls of local governments, I sent this email to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Legislators,

As you hit the campaign trails, think about the impact that your actions have on the people that you are suppose to represent.

You’ve passed state mandated minimum salaries for office holders, including local elected officials and judges.  Those state mandated minimums are double, triple and even quadruple what the average salaries of taxpayers are.

For example: County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Trustee and the Property Assessor in Blount County will receive a salary of $82,801.

http://ctas.tennessee.edu/sites/default/files/2017%20Salary%20Schedule%20Final.pdf

Compare that to the working taxpayers of Blount County.  The average salary in 2013 was $42,731.  That means that your state mandated minimums are almost double the average salary.  Other elected officials such as the Highway Superintendent, Sheriff and Mayor will receive more than $82,801 and make more than double the average salary.

Perhaps the most disgusting salaries are those of the judges.  You’ve come up with a way to hide calling what you do a pay raise by saying they receive a cost of living increase.  Does someone making $161K need a cost of living increase, when the average salary is slightly more than 1/4 of what the judges are paid?

Why are the judges special?  Please don’t tell me that they have to be well paid to attract the best people.  The best people are often the ones who help people without compensation or for far less.  Those who run private practices may make more but they have no guaranteed salaries and also don’t have standard hours.  Please don’t tell me that judges work all the time because they have all kinds of staff doing work for them.  These judges locally, always have time to make all the special dinners to be treated as elite people in society.  There are plenty of people who work as many or more hours than judges and receive far less pay.

You passed legislation to add more to the court costs to fund these outrageous salaries when what you should have done is said these people already make enough and stop giving increases under a different description.

These salaries don’t reflect that in Blount County, they receive one of the best health care plans on the planet.  It is far better than what most private companies are offering.

What you have done with these state mandated minimums that are far more than the people earn is create a privileged class who have forgotten that it is their roles to serve, not to live lavish lifestyles off the hard work of the people.  Many of the people of Blount County, and likely of the entire state, resent that government officials are being paid far more than they make.

Stop the pay increases and the cost of living increases for these “servants” who are already making double, triple and quadruple what the people they are suppose to be serving are making.  These positions could easily go 5 years without a pay raise/cost of living increase and still make FAR MORE than the people that they are suppose to be serving.

Let freedom ring!

School employee counts and new hires

Earlier this year I wrote about school spending and asked for a list of new hires.  Troy Logan, the Fiscal Administrator for the Blount County Schools provided this information below.

My best count is we budgeted for 1,182 full-time employees and 297 FTE part-time employees in FY 2015-2016.  Please note that the number of employees that we have changes on any given day based on attrition.  So, it is very difficult for me to count actual employees on a specific date.  However, based on our approved appropriations budget each year, I monitor and ensure on a monthly basis that we do not exceed the total dollars appropriated in each personnel budget line item.  If there are budget amendments necessary during the year, obviously they have to be approved by the BOE or County Commission.

Following are new positions added in FY 2015-2016.
 
2 FT high teachers – HHS English and WBHS Chemistry/Physics
1 FT middle teacher
1 FT elementary teacher
1 FT elementary art teacher
1 FT elementary pe teacher
2 FT elementary teachers – not new, but shifted from Federal to Local due to decreased federal budget
1 FT digital conversion and technology manager
1 PT to FT automotive teacher at WBHS
1 FT maintenance position
1 PT to FT communications and workforce development coordinator
6 PT teacher assistants
1 PT LPN nurse WBHS 9th Academy
1 FT transportation coordinator
1 PT to FT payroll manager certified

April 2016 Commission Report

If you demand better government you will get better government.  Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick missed the March and April BCCP meetings.  Vice Chairman Rick Carver filled in.  Carver showed that he has little or no respect for our constitutional participatory process*.  Citizens have shared with me the horrible faces that he makes when they are speaking and when I am speaking.  Apparently he can’t hide his contempt for the people he is suppose to be representing.

Last month BCCP Vice Chairman Rick Carver asked the BCCP whether we should ram through a request for qualifications (RFQ) to expand the jail.  This matter wasn’t on the agenda.  Another meeting was called to place the item on the BCCP agenda, to ensure that the rush to vote on seeking an RFQ to expand the jail and look at program services would be legal.  What does that say about some local government employees and officials that they would want to ram through something this important without giving the public time to comment?

This wasn’t Carver’s only legally questionable move related to the BCCP.  He also prohibited me from adding an item to the BCCP agenda.  At the end of the March BCCP meeting I requested that discussion and possible action to make a recommendation about housing federal inmates be placed on the agenda.  Rick Carver said he would not allow it to be placed on the agenda.  I asked him if he had authority to stop me from placing an item on the agenda.  He said that he didn’t know.

After the meeting I (Tona Monroe) told Rick Carver that he couldn’t do what he had just done.  He told me to add it to the agenda.  I called Rhonda Pitts, the Commission Secretary, and shared that Rick Carver told me to add it to the agenda.

The agenda was released without the item that I requested.  Neither Pitts or Carver have the integrity to answer who told Pitts to exclude the item from the agenda.  However, records that I have obtained indicate that Rick Carver was making decisions related to the BCCP, in the absence of Jeff Headrick.  Pitts has also failed to properly record the motions that I make into the BCCP meeting minutes.

Historically, no commissioner has ever been prohibiting from adding items to the agenda, that I am aware of.  The commission is free to reject the item and even remove it from the agenda if they choose not to discuss it.  However, prohibiting a commissioner from adding something to the agenda is unprecedented and it trashes the fiduciary responsibility and sacred trust that elected officials have been given.

If it seems trite to talk about this scared trust, it is because people like Rick Carver have thrown our system of governance into the trash bin of antiquity, preferring a oligarchy to our constitutional republic.  No commissioner should be allowed to dictate what can and can not be placed on a meeting agenda.  Why have a committee if one person, acting as chair, can bottleneck and determine the entire agenda?  Committees are suppose to discuss ideas not stifle them.

Defining moment – dangerous precedent
This is a defining moment in Blount County government.  If Rick Carver is allowed to get away with his actions, then the machine will never again have to allow commissioners to place items on the agenda that they don’t approve of.

I am doing what I can to stop this deplorable action from happening again but I can’t do it alone.  It is time for you to step up and demand that this stop.  If you demand better government, you will get better government.

Rick Carver’s phone number is 984-6674 and his email address is rcarver@blounttn.org.  Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitt’s can be reached at 273-5830 and her email is rpitts@blounttn.org.  County Clerk Margaret Flynn, Rhonda’s supervisor, can be reached at 273-5804 and her email is maflynn@blounttn.org.

The RFQ was approved with only me voting no.  This should come as no surprise.  Of the 5 voting members present, 2 are employees of the Sheriff (Jeff French and John Adams), one was finically supported by the Sheriff during his campaign (Rick Carver) and the other sits on a board with the Sheriff (Mike Caylor).

I made a motion to amend the RFQ recommendation it to program services and not expansion of the jail.  Mike Caylor embarrassed himself by speaking out of order by saying that he wouldn’t accept my amendment to his motion, rather than allowing the process to work.

There was further embarrassment when clarification had to be sought from the Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, as to whether the recommendation needed to be sent to the commission.  The Purchasing Agent said that under the Purchasing Act of 1957, which the county operates under, the BCCP could recommend that she issue the RFQ without commission approval.

It is no wonder that the Purchasing Agent was overheard saying, they don’t know what they are doing.  She is correct.  Rick Carver and Mike Caylor don’t know what they are doing.  They do what they are told and many times they can’t even do what they are told correctly.

No solution Mike Caylor asked the Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, what he thought about the procedure for handling the RFQ process.  The Finance Director, who is usually quite happy to run things while the mayor is out to lunch or cutting a ribbon, told Caylor you’ve heard the same things that I heard.  Caylor said, I just wanted to hear you (Vineyard) say it and laughed.  Once again no solution Caylor was showing that he doesn’t want to do the thinking and is just there as a rubber stamp for the machine.

Agenda Committee
Favoritism shown
Toward the end of each meeting there is a section on the agenda for statements and announcements from commissioners.  The Agenda Committee Chairman Steve Samples frequently skips over the section.  I had my light on to speak and he skipped me and went straight to public input for items on the agenda.

Rather than letting me make my statement in my commission seat, where commissioners normally make their statements, Jerome Moon insisted that I go to the podium and speak which I did.  However, Samples let commissioner Ron French speak from his seat.  Moon did not insist that French go to the podium and speak.  Samples apologized to me after the meeting but he let Moon have his way.

Called Commission meeting
The commission approved the RFQ to look at costs to expand the jail and/or programs.  I made the motion to remove jail expansion and just focus on programs.  My amendment failed with Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and me voting for it.  These are the same 6 who voted against the RFQ.

The paper reported the final vote wrong.  Jerome Moon did not abstain and Gary Farmer left before the final vote.  Jeff Headrick was absent at the start of the meeting but came in late and voted yes.  Headrick and Carver are the two sponsors of the resolution.

What Jerome Moon abstained on was my challenge to his ruling as Chair.  No solution Mike Caylor who wanted to hear from the Finance Director, who had nothing to say, declared a point of order saying that I was out of order because I was referring to the Institute for Law and Policy Planning report which discussed why we didn’t need to build.  It is not out of order for a commissioner to talk about why we shouldn’t be doing something before the body (commission) and reference resources that support that position.  However, Jerome Moon declared me out of order and the commission voted to shut my discussion on the matter down by upholding Moon’s ruling.

I wasn’t the only one shut down when referencing the jail study.  Moon shut citizens down who spoke about the study.  He also told Commissioner Tom Cole that he could be sued if he didn’t vote for the RFQ.

What has Blount County government become?
Think about what Blount County government has become and decide if it is serving you well.  If not, you shouldn’t put up with this and should demand better from those who are suppose to be your public servants.

  • The Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail) is overcrowded, exceeding its certified capacity of 350 beds.
  • The sheriff and US Marshal’s service willfully contribute to the crowding problem by agreeing to house federal inmates in the jail.
  • The taxpayers funded a $94,580 study to address jail overcrowding.
  • The study is a criminal justice system assessment and not just a plan to expand the jail.
  • Several of the powers that be were upset with the findings, conclusions and recommendations.
  • The BCCP recommended that the commission conduct a teleconference hearing with the jail consultant.
  • The Mayor threatened to sue the consultant to stop discussion on the study.
  • The county paid $3,710 in legal fees to the mayor’s attorney.
  • There was no lawsuit and the commission still rejected hearing from the consultant.
  • The study said that the county is losing money housing federal inmates and that the only way to make it seem like money is being made is to understaff and overcrowd the jail.
  • I requested that the issue of housing federal inmates be added to the BCCP agenda.  It took 7 months for this to happen.
  • After some discussion with figures showing that the county isn’t making money on federal inmates, the BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick cut discussion off and moved to the next item without considering whether the BCCP should recommend that federal inmates no longer be housed in the jail.
  • The Finance Director and Sheriff’s Office cut the revenue projections for housing federal inmates.
  • More revenue accumulated than projected.
  • The Finance Director, Mayor and Sheriff secretly planned to use this accumulated revenue to build.
  • The Purchasing Agent chose a company charging 3.5 times more than the lowest offer to renegotiate the federal inmate per diem daily rate.
  • The county was obligated to pay the $65,000 consultant fee but the commission wasn’t presented with a budget amendment until after services were rendered.
  • I tried to place the federal prisoners issue back on the BCCP agenda, to make a recommendation but Vice Chairman Rick Carver stopped it from being placed on the agenda.
  • Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitts has refused to record the words of my amendments in the meeting minutes.
  • Mike Caylor declared a point of order prohibiting me from speaking about why we didn’t need to build.
  • Jerome Moon ruled that I was out of order and commission upheld that a commissioner can’t talk about why we shouldn’t build, when being presented with resolution seeking approval of an RFQ to build.
  • The sheriff told the paper in December that he hasn’t asked the commission for a new jail.
  • The sheriff still hasn’t asked the commission for a new jail or expansion.

Why are we doing this?

Commission meeting – a spending spree
Mike Caylor was absent.

The majority of commissioners showed again that they have no fiscal discipline and that they are happy to accommodate government anytime it wants to go on a spending binge.

The schools were back for more budget increases despite being given a huge increase in local revenue this year and already receiving another large budget increase a few months back.  I have never received the information that I requested regarding new hires and part time jobs being made full time this fiscal year.  Only commissioner Karen Miller and I voted against giving the schools another big increase.

The commission was presented with a lease for laptops for the Sheriff’s Office.  There were numerous problems with this lease.  Neither the Purchasing Agent or the new $100+ hourly Mindboard IT consultant could answer questions about the agreements that they negotiate.  I asked why the paperwork listed a 4 year warranty for a 3 year lease.  The $100+ hourly IT consultant did say what was already obvious, that this 3 lease is just a way to go and get new laptops again in 3 years, rather than using the laptops for the life of the equipment.  During the meeting commissioner Mike Akard was able to find a lower price for the same model laptops from the same vendor.  Why we need someone making over $100 a hour involved in a laptop lease is beyond me.

The most potentially dangerous item approved by the commission is a lease agreement for county employees to lease new cars for 5 years.  The Sheriff’s Office and Blount County Schools are excluded.  The rest will be able to get new cars if they can find the money in their budgets.  With all the transfers taking place, it won’t surprise me to see several people with new cars soon.

Besides the obvious opening the door to get new cars, this matter was not presented in a business like manner to the commission.  The commission should have been given an expense sheet documenting the cost of purchasing and maintaining cars for at least the last 3 budget years, preferably more.  We should have been given a list of market options, beyond leasing new cars.  There are software programs that handle fleet management but nothing like this was presented, even though the lease agreement was sold to the budget committee as a way to solve our lack of having a fleet management system.  All the market options should have been presented to us so that we could determine what the best option was.  We were given none of this.  While the laptops were a bad deal for the taxpayers a few leased cars will quickly cost more than the laptops.  Only myself and Commissioner Karen Miller voted no on this poorly thought out way to manage county vehicles.

The annual litter grant, with language about an Environmental Court being envisioned, was back.  Last year I pointed this matter out and put forth an amendment to ensure that no funds would be used for this purpose.  That amendment failed and it failed again this year.  If there is no agenda or desire for an Environmental Court, why does this statement keep getting submitted to the state?

Information Technology (IT) Steering Committee meeting canceled
The IT Committee meeting was canceled.  No explanation was given for the cancelation.  Mike Cain, Assistant IT Director and custodian of the IT Committee minutes, has not responded to my email inquiring why the meeting was canceled.  This is bad for the taxpayers of Blount County because it reduces oversight on major, expensive IT projects.

IT costs have soared the past couple of years.  The IT Committee should be meeting regularly to ensure good fiscal stewardship of the large sums of taxpayer monies that have been allocated to IT projects.  However, the opposite is occurring.

The IT Committee is only scheduled to meet 4 times a year and this meeting was canceled.  With no meeting on the near horizon and an Assistant IT Director who won’t respond to emails, it makes it difficult for me to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent wisely.  I never had a problem getting a timely response from the former IT Director John Herron.

Unfortunately this is business as usual.  The Mayor and his staff willfully leave those who might question their decisions in the dark.  Canceling a meeting, when we should be discussing how the $1.3 million IT fund is being spent is the latest way to avoid accountability.

Up next
The commission will chose a replacement for Jeff Headrick, who was appointed by the commission to the office of Highway Superintendent, to serve until the next election.

Call to action – Please get involved in your government
As I stated above, if you demand better government you will get better government.  Make phone calls, send emails, write letters to the editor and attend commission meetings.  Local government is right here.  You don’t have to drive to Nashville or Washington DC to be heard.  If you don’t show up, you will have to pay up, because your taxes will keep going up to pay for all the poor decisions being made right in your back yard.  This is your government.  Take charge of it.  Let freedom ring!

*Constitutional participatory process: this is commonly called the democratic process.

Where do you want to cut the budget?

What budget(s) would you like to see cut?

Library
Mayor’s Office
Parks and Rec
Schools
Sheriff’s Office
Something else
Cut it all
Don’t cut anything

Poll Maker

State law limits what can be cut. However, please express where you would like to see budget cuts.

February 2016 Commission Report

2 special called commission meetings
The Mayor called two commission meetings this month.  Mayor Ed Mitchell has decided that his role is to cut ribbons and attend every breakfast and dinner that he can rather than running the courthouse.  He has entrusted too many things to his Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, who is not even a good finance person, let alone qualified to run the courthouse.  This has lead to poor management decisions, which have been costly to the taxpayers.

1st meeting to offer a new insurance plan
The first called meeting was to offer a new health care plan to county employees because the state deemed the current plan to be inferior to the state plan.  The state provides some funding for health insurance for teachers.  The local plan has to be as good or better than the state plan or the county can lose those funds.

The problem is that the state offers several plans while the local government offers only one plan.  The comparison wasn’t done to all state plans, which I was told would have likely showed that the single plan overall is just as good as the state plan and costs substantially less.  The broker shared that the state has miscalculated its costs and is actually going to have to significantly raise employee costs next year.

The new plan isn’t much different than the old plan.  You can see them both on page 2 here.  This situation was bureaucratic red tape and the people who went to Nashville seemed hopeful that the state won’t require unnecessary hoops to jump through next year.

I took the opportunity to ask the Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, to provide the commission with a monthly report on the financial status of the self insurance fund.  He wasn’t happy about that and told the commission we could look the numbers up in the general ledger if we wanted them.  The Finance Director didn’t realize why the fund was losing large sums of money until state auditors pointed it out to him.  A good quality financial person would be tracking this and providing regular updates on the fund to the board.

2nd meeting to hire an IT consultant
Commissioners Archie Archer and Gary Farmer were absent.

A meeting was called in December, after the commission canceled its scheduled meeting, to ram through the creation of a $1.3M Information Technology (IT) capital fund.  This month an IT consulting firm was rushed through in a called meeting.

Blount County has several IT needs.  It is why I sought to be added to the IT Committee.  However, after serving on the IT Committee for over a year, I am left wondering why we have an IT Committee.  The Mayor and his Finance Director have no respect for the authority of the IT Committee.  They have bypassed the IT Committee for all major IT decisions.

The Mayor’s Finance Director got the cart before the horse.  He pushed for Kronos before upgrading the county’s IT infrastructure.  A good analogy is that the Mayor and Finance Director went out and bought the most expensive wheels that they could find and put them on a car with engine problems.

The Kronos software project is likely the largest and most costly IT project in county history.  Read more about that project here.  It has been mismanaged and is behind schedule.  It is generally not a good idea to start more IT projects when your current project is behind, but that doesn’t seem to concern the mayor and finance director who are proceeding full steam ahead with your money.

When the Kronos project was first presented to the commission in 2014, then commissioner Jim Folts warned of the problems that would happen if Vineyard was allowed to proceed with the Kronos project as planned.  One of his biggest concerns was that a volunteer from the Sheriff’s Office, an attorney, would be in charge of the project.  The attorney quit the project, early into it.  Folts’ concerns have been realized.

Vineyard realized that attempting a major IT project without a dedicated manager/director was a big mistake but has failed to acknowledge that he was forewarned of the problem.  His solution for upcoming IT projects is to hire expensive consultants to manage the projects.  However, there are problems with this approach as well.

The county had a good IT Director who ran the county’s IT Department on a shoe string budget while using old technology.  John Herron had managed the IT Department for 30 years.  He left last year to work for Blount County Schools.

The county has been operating with an Interim IT Director since August.  I was stunned when the Interim Director told me that the mayor isn’t looking to hire an IT Director.  Instead the mayor (and finance director) sought to employ an IT consulting firm to manage the county’s IT projects.

Mindboard Inc. was presented to the commission.  The Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, chose this company based on the scores of a team that she chose to evaluate prospective companies and because of their references.

The evaluation team consisted of select members of the IT Committee.  I am on the IT Committee and she never told me that she was going to choose member of the IT Committee.  She did not invite me to listen to the interviews either.  It would have taken her about 1 minute to send me an invitation by email.   She smugly told me that the meeting was advertised in the paper.  Apparently she thinks that county commissioners should have to subscribe to the newspaper to know what their government is doing.  One of the people she chose was Jimmy Cox from the Highway Department.  I asked her what his IT experience is.  She told me that she didn’t know.

In Mindboard’s response to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ), they give 5 references.  Only one of those lists a project budget over $60,000.  The capital fund (budget) is over 22 times this amount.  With a capital fund containing over $1.3 million, having only one project with a budget anywhere close to this is not very assuring.

This company, and some of its employees, are currently being sued.  The representative (Principal) for the company said the suit is frivolous.  I hope for the sake of the taxpayers that none of the allegations are true.

The company has applied for several H1B visas to employ foreign workers.  These are good paying jobs that could be going to workers who are not US citizens.  Blount County government should not be taxing citizens making minimum wage or living on social security checks to pay foreign workers far more than the taxpayers are making and living on.

The agreement (contract) looked like a boiler plate document that hadn’t been reviewed by an attorney because of obvious mistakes that should have been fixed.  However, the agreement was actually reviewed by two attorneys, who apparently don’t pay close attention to details.

The agreement lists Blount County government as a company rather than a county.  The principal office line in the first paragraph was blank in our packets.  These two items are what made me think it was a boiler plate document.  It turns out that it is.  The Purchasing Agent told me that the agreement was written by Mindboard with input from the county.  Apparently the county gave so little input that it didn’t even request to be called a county or have its address typed into the document.

There is no mention of software in the agreement.  Article 5 defines work product but does not mention software.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is the blank page in the contract.  Page 13 is blank.  Usually pages that are blank say they are intentionally left blank.  Frankly, the taxpayers should ask for their money back from attorney Craig Garrett who supposedly reviewed the agreement for form.

The resolution refers to him as the County Attorney but there is no official position of County Attorney.  That office/position has never been created.  Commissioner Karen Miller made a motion to correct the description of Craig Garrett but her motion failed.  Apparently the commission is OK with someone misrepresenting who they are.

The Purchasing Agent should not be given a pass for these errors either.  She is an attorney.  This agreement was reviewed by two people who are attorneys.  There is no excuse for such poor quality work.

The agreement does not give actual project expenses.  All it gives are hourly rates.  The Finance Director said that we don’t have the actual costs because we don’t know how much these projects will cost.  We’re suppose to turn these consultants lose at hourly rates exceeding $100 so that they can provide us with the costs.  The Purchasing Agent told us that Mindboard thinks it will take about 2 months for them to analyze the county’s IT needs.

In the private sector, if a financial person came to a board and said we don’t know what this will cost, give us some time with some expensive consultants and we’ll figure it out, he/she would be laughed out of the room and possibly offered a mental health evaluation on the way out.  I felt like I had entered the land of Oz with Vineyard as the man behind the curtain, listening to this nonsense.

The former IT Director had actually provided a list of capital needs in 2014 but it was not acted upon.   The county paid an IT consulting firm to examine the county’s IT needs last year.  The Mayor’s Finance Director described that study as the 10,000 foot view.  What was the point of that study, if we’re going to have to pay consultants big hourly rates to study the situation again?

The contract manager said he will be moving to Blount County for a couple of years.  He will be one of the $100+ an hour consultants.  If he works full time at 40 hours a week, that one position could cost over $450,000 over a 2 year period.  There are too many unknown variable with this agreement and capital fund.

Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I (Tona Monroe) voted no.  These are the commissioners watching out for you the taxpayers.  It’s a short list but an important list.  Share these names with the people you know because these are the commissioners worth reelecting.

Commissioner Archie Archer voted no on the creation of the capital fund in December but he was absent for this vote.

The better approach – hire an IT Director
The better approach for the county would be to hire a top notch IT Director.  I suggested to the commission that an IT Director be hired on a salary and that he/she be given a bonus, along with the staff, for successful completion of IT projects that are on time and under budget.

Some of the IT projects will still need to be outsourced.  However, an IT Director who plans to stay with the county for several years would be motivated to see that things are done correctly.  Additionally, outside consultants may end up doing things that an IT Director may not find useful for the county.  It boggles the mind that Blount County has embarked upon over $4 million in IT projects without an IT Director to lead the way.

Commission Meeting
Commissioners Archie Archer and Gary Farmer were absent.

Nominations finally where they should be
At the January commission meeting, I spoke against the practice of putting important nominations under the consent calendar to rush the process through with little discussion.  The consent calendar is suppose to be for non-controversial items that require no discussion.  The commission has been doing a great disservice by putting these names on the consent calendar and offering no discussion.  This practice has allowed the commission to vote on the people being nominated, appointed or elected before public input is allowed.  You can see the order of the agenda here.

For several months I have been trying to get Agenda Committee Chairman Steve Samples and Commission Chairman Jerome Moon to place appointments and confirmations to important boards under the correct agenda item where they belong.  I am pleased to announce that the appointments were on the agenda in the correct place this month, under Elections, Appointments and Confirmations.  The public can now offer comments and concerns about elections, appointments and confirmations during the time for public input on the agenda.

Federal grants
I attended commission meetings for several years before being elected to office.  While I was aware that the county applied for and received many federal grants, I didn’t realize just how many grants the county received until I took office.

The first thing that I did was raise my right hand and take an oath to support the constitutions of Tennessee and the United States of America.  The subject matters of most of the grants are not found in the delegated powers given to the federal government in the constitution.  Congress does not have authority to spend money on most of these projects and programs.  Therefore, in order to remain true to my oath of office I have and will continue to vote no on these unconstitutional grants.

Furthermore, many grants have strings attached.  The commission is given little, if any, information about the conditions that come with these grants.  While many talk about the 10th amendment and the power of the states, that talk quickly goes out the window when federal money is involved.

Cost of feeding inmates is higher than the numbers the sheriff gives
One of the selling points for keeping federal prisoners is the low cost of feeding the inmates.  The Sheriff told the Blount County Corrections Partnership at its November meeting that it costs $2.50-3 a day to feed an inmate.

The adopted food budget for the jail is $430,000.  The Sheriff’s Office requested a $250,000 increase which would bring the food budget total to $680,000.

The average daily inmate total for 2015 was 528.  At $2.50 a day, with an extra day for the leap year the cost of feeding 528 inmates a day would be $483,120.  The cost at $3 a day is $579,744.

Both of these numbers are less than $680,000.  At 528 inmates per day, the cost would be about $3.52 a day.  Food costs are rising.  $3.52 is not an unreasonable price but it should no longer be said that the inmates are being fed for $2.50-3 a day.

Budget amendments form updated
Last month, there was some confusion about the actual impact that budget amendments had on the budget.  Each time a budget request is made throughout the year, after the annual budget is adopted, a form has to be filled out explaining the amendment.  The form had two boxes to check, one for transfers and one for increases and decreases.

A new form was presented providing four options: transfer, decrease, increase and adjustment.  The example that the Finance Director gave for an adjustment was actually an increase because it would spend more of you local tax money.  The description given, on the new form, for an adjustment says, “(correction to adopted budget due to “grant award” or “budgetary adjustment”).”  An increase, using local tax money, should not be recorded as an adjustment; therefore, I moved to strike the words budgetary adjustment and replace them with the word reimbursements.  An example of a reimbursement is the money that the county received from CSX for work done during the train derailment.  It is technically an increase to the budget, but it is not an increase in the use of tax dollars.  My amendment failed.

Commissioner Mike Akard said the changes still leave the water muddy.  I agree.  Allowing increases in spending of your local tax money should not be classified as adjustments.  The commission could have fixed this but didn’t when it rejected my amendment.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Brad Bowers, Karen Miller and I voted no.

Chairman Moon allows return to old, bad ways
In the past, it was common for commissioners to blurt out call the question, without being recognized, in order to shut debate down.  Commissioner Steve Samples did that this month.  Chairman Moon told him that he would recognize him if he would turn his light on.  Samples turned his light on and Chairman Moon recognized him, even though there was a commissioner who was had been waiting to speak.  This is a dangerous practice to return to, allowing a commissioner to blurt out call the question to end discussion and ignore those who have been patiently waiting their turns.

Up next:
A meeting has been called for the commission to appointment a replacement for Roy Crawford who recently passed away.  Roy was the only elected official in the courthouse who did a good job, would give you a straight answer and actually deserved to be reelected so many times, like he was.  Richard Hutchens gave him the first Statesmen Award.  He will be missed.

The commission will also be tasked with finding a replacement for Bill Dunlap who retired at the end of January.

Number of state and local government employees visiting this website appears to be increasing

Either the number of state and local government employees visiting this website is increasing or I’ve gotten better at recognizing who they are.  To all of you state and local government workers on the clock: thank you for visiting but when do you get your work done?

Seriously the City of Maryville should conduct an audit on its employees to see how much time they spend on this website while on the job.  One of their employees visits this website more than I do.  The City of Maryville is paying its employees too much to be sitting at their computers surfing the internet.

Hi Mike, Kristine and the rest of you loyal on the taxpayers’ clock readers.

January 2015 Commission Report

Throughout the month, I (Tona Monroe) publish stories on local government matters prior to publication of my monthly commission report.  Some of those articles will be linked to in the monthly reports.  Please be sure to click on those links to read in greater detail matters that I only touch briefly on in these reports.  Thanks for reading!

Agenda Committee
The commission voted down my resolution to hear from the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) consultant hired to do a criminal justice system assessment.  Please read more about that here.

Commission meeting
Commissioner Ron French was absent.

Human Resources (HR) Committee resolution pulled by sponsor
Commissioner Grady Caskey pulled his resolution to expand the membership of the HR Committee without explanation.  Commissioner Archie Archer has expressed concern at the Agenda Committee meeting that the resolution may swing the HR Committee in favor of the schools.

Budget Committee members reappointed
The commission approved the Mayor’s nominees to the Budget Committee.  There are no changes because the same 4 people were reappointed.  These members did not deserve to be reappointed for a variety of reasons.

Last year, this same Budget Committee recommended one the largest property tax increases in history, possibly the largest. This came after the county received a 22% increase in the local option sales tax. To add insult to injury the Budget Committee sent to the commission a resolution to implement a wheel tax, a measure rejected twice by our citizenry. Only one member of the Budget Committee voted against those increases but he has voted for increased spending throughout the year making it hard to reconcile his no vote on tax increases.  Jerome Moon couldn’t even bring himself to vote for the wheel tax, after voting to send the recommendation to the Commission the day before.

You can read my statement on the matter here.  I wasn’t able to finish reading my statement because Robert’s Rules of Order prohibits a member from reading without permission from the body.  This rule is rarely enforced but  members were not happy with me shedding light on the poor decisions of the Budget Committee.  Thus, I continued referring to my notes, without directly reading my statement, and drove home the tax and spend ways of the Budget Committee.

Schools budget requests
There were four budget amendments for the Schools.  Commissioner Steve Samples made a motion to approve all 4 budget amendments in one vote.  I moved to divide the question so that the commission could vote on each amendment separately.  My motion failed and the commission voted on all four requests at once.

One of the requests was to fix the damages resulting from vandalism at Porter Elementary School.  There was no opposition to fixing Porter.  However, ponder the money management of the schools for a moment.  If you were given an $85 million+ budget, would you have to come back midyear for a request for an additional appropriation?  Most citizens would be able to find this money in an enormous budget without asking for more money, but not the government.

The reason that I voted no on all four (because we were forced to vote on them together and not individually) is because of a midyear budget increase request for $475,000.  The Schools received an increase of over $3.5 million in local taxes in their budget this year.  To come back for a nearly half million spending increase is insulting to the taxpayers.  This commission, over all, is very weak.  There is no fiscal discipline as evidenced by the huge property tax increase that followed a huge sales tax increase and repeated approval of increased spending requests.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Karen Miller and I voted no on this huge spending increase.

I wouldn’t run a business this way; therefore, I am not going to spend your money this way.  The Schools, like every other Department/Office, have a budget.  They should live by it.  The commission was willing to give a small increase to cover the Porter vandalism but approving nearly another half million increase, added to a budget that already has a huge increase, is allowing spending to spiral out of control.

The taxpaying citizens of Blount County have already had their budgets cut with repeated tax increases.  The commission should respect the sacrifices that the citizens have made by making Offices/Departments hold the line on their already increased budgets.

The way the paper reported the comments regarding this matter made it look like this wasn’t a budget increase.  When a budget amendment request is submitted, there are two boxes at the top of the paperwork designating the type of amendment being requested: transfer and increase/decrease.  The increase/decrease box is checked.  See page 49.  Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

What did the School Board spend the big budget increase on?
The $3.5 million increase is not an exact number.  Fund 141, General Purpose Schools, increased $3,688,469.  Local tax dollars through sales tax and property tax increased more than $3.5 million while federal money, Fund 142, is budgeted to drop over a million dollars this year.  The four funds related to schools show the schools starting the fiscal year with an increase of $2,509,579.

The adopted FY 2016 budget (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016) shows that the amended FY 15 Schools budget Fund 141 had $81,911,531 in revenue while FY 16 is projected to have $85,600,000 in revenue.  See page 148.  However, sales tax is coming in higher than projected.  What the exact FY 16 revenue will be remains to be seen.

At the time the FY 16 budget was adopted, the Schools were projected to receive a $2,625,000 increase from the local option sales tax.  The Schools were projected to receive a $510,000 increase from property tax plus an additional $1,270,000 from property tax from the newly created capital projects fund for a total property tax increase of $1,780,000.  These are local taxes and don’t reflect state or federal tax dollars.  Additionally, tax revenue projections aren’t actual expenditures.  The School Board could spend less than approved and they can request to use additional fund balance, thereby increasing the Schools budget.

$1,270,000 million of the property tax money is earmarked specifically for capital updates.  It can’t be used for anything else.  This capital fund was created this year, in response to a lawsuit filed in McMinn County based on a state law that allows for capital expenditure dollars to not have to be split with city school systems.  For many years the School Board has neglected the infrastructure of the schools, instead focusing more on keeping people on the payroll.  The capital fund is a good way to ensure that some money is actually spent fixing the schools.

I have requested a list of new hires for the current fiscal year and had hoped to have this information in time for this report.  However, it is now February and I don’t want to delay this report any further.  Hopefully I will have more information to share with you soon.

School Funds 15 Amended 16 Adopted
141 81,911,531 85,600,000
142 6,827,552 5,577,662
143 5,793,000 5,862,000
146 1,628,000 1,630,000
TOTAL 96,160,083 98,669,662

141 General Purpose School
142 School Federal Projects
143 Central Cafeteria
146 Extended School Program
Figures are from the FY 2016 adopted budget available on the county’s website under accounting.

Audit Committee
The first meeting of the Audit Committee was rushed through in a way where few would notice.  Each month the Commission Secretary issues a monthly calendar with all the scheduled meetings.  After the calendar was published, Jerome Moon called a meeting.  A notice was published in the paper but if you don’t get the paper or you don’t read it with an eagle eye you can easily miss the public notices.

There are times when meetings need to be called without having a lot of advanced notice.  However, one would think that the first meeting of the Audit Committee, which is suppose to be all about transparency and accountability in government, would be planned well in advance for citizens to attend.  That was not the case.  After several months of not meeting, it was rushed through when few were paying attention right after the holidays.

Thankfully not much happened.  The Audit Committee elected its officers.  The annual audit was not released in time, so there was no discussion and the meeting adjourned.

Don’t expect much good from the 2 commissioners on the Audit Committee.  One is a local government employee who spends your money faster than a drunken sailor.  The other works for a company that gets government contracts.  Neither should be on the Audit Committee because they could have conflicts of interest.  These two rarely ask questions related to spending your money.

The makeup of an Audit Committee has to be approved by the Comptroller’s Office.  County employees are prohibited from serving but not government employees working for other governments having relationships with Blount County.  People who have business dealings with the county are allowed to serve on the Audit Committee.  Why the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury would approve an Audit Committee allowing government employees or business people with government contracts is beyond me.

Past experiences have left me with little confidence in the Comptroller’s Office.  Other elected officials and citizen watchdogs have expressed to me that they also have little or no confidence that the Comptroller’s Office is looking out for the taxpayers.  Hopefully the citizens on the Audit Committee will step up to the plate to ensure that the taxpaying citizens are protected against waste, fraud and abuse.

Recycling Committee
The time of authorization for the ad hoc Recycling Committee expired last year.  The Committee voted to ask to commission to allow the Committee to continue meeting quarterly to monitor the recycling opportunities.  A resolution was drawn up but it was not presented to the commission.  Chairman Grady Caskey wrote a report on the Committee’s findings.  The report was never reviewed or forwarded from the Recycling Committee members.  A member had volunteered to write the report but I don’t know if he contributed to the report or not.  If not, then Chairman Caskey likely acted unilaterally.

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
The BCCP heard from County Technical Advisory Services (CTAS) Jail Management Consultant Jim Hart.  Hart had previously conducted a jail study.  He was asked to do a staffing analysis for the Sheriff’s Office and he issued a report that brought us up to date on available data and reviewed the his prior study and the ILPP study.

Several recommendations have been made by CTAS and ILPP.  I hope that the BCCP will take these recommendations seriously.  More jail and criminal justice system information is available here.

Information Technology (IT) Committee
The IT Committee met briefly to hear from the Purchasing Agent on the status of hiring an IT firm to oversee the IT needs of the county, using the funds set aside in a rush last month during the special called meeting.  There is more to report on the matter and I intend to write on the matter in the future.

Highway Superintended Bill Dunlap retires
Bill Dunlap retired at the end January.  A wrongful termination lawsuit has been filed by a former Highway Department employee.  The Commission has 120 days to appoint a replacement.

Up next
The commission will vote to choose a replacement for the Highway Superintendent.  The commission will also have to look at refinancing nearly $80 million in variable rate debt, which has 4 swaps attached.  These matters may not be addressed in February but will need to be addressed in the next couple of months.

Lack of Transparency Poll
In order to shed light on Blount County government secrets, I’ve posted an online poll giving you to the opportunity to choose which issue was the most top secret action in local government.  Based on feedback, several people aren’t voting because they find all the options to be bad and can’t choose.  However, I’d still appreciate your participation in the poll.  Next year, an “All of the above option” may be included.

And the Beat Goes on… Newsletter by Commissioner Jamie Daly

Blount County Commissioner Jamie Daly is sending a printed newsletter to the voters in her district, which is the Louisville area.  The first two issues are available here for you to read.  Future editions will be available for your information by clicking on the picture of Jamie Daly in the right side column under the heading of And the Beat Goes on…

February 2015   Issue 1 page 1   Issue 1 page 2
June 2015   Issue 2 page 1   Issue 2 page 2

Correction to the second issue: A simple majority of 11 votes is required to override the veto of the Mayor, not a 2/3rds majority.

For the monthly Commission Reports published by Commissioner Tona Monroe serving in the 7th district in Blount County, TN, click here.

Greene County Commissioner Proposes The ‘Impossible’ — A Mid-Year Property Tax Decrease

http://www.greenevillesun.com/news/local_news/commissioner-proposes-the-impossible—-a-mid-year/article_2262b703-c0f3-54e8-91d4-cdf5e1314880.html

From the article:

“My question is, ‘How much is enough?'” Jennings said Tuesday. “It don’t matter what they get, they want more.”

Jennings added that he feels the county has been wasteful in its spending, and its taxpayers have not gotten enough bang for their buck. He said the county’s roads are “one of the poorest quality” he’s seen and are an example of a lack of return on taxpayer investment. He also said the county has seen little return on the money it has contributed to the Greene County Partnership and put toward the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport.

“I’m just seeing the tax money wasted. It’s just wasted,” Jennings said. “I’m sick and tired of it, and the people are sick and tired.”

Ditto!  Insert the word Blount for Greene and the situation is all too familiar.  Byran Daniels of the Blount Partnership is from Greene County.

County IT and Kronos

Last week I received this email:

“Hi Tona,
Do you think the dawn of Kronos and the computerized purchasing of the county labor pool (mathematics, abstract, yet incorruptible and undefiled, always leaving an indelible audit trail) has had an impact on county government fiscal responsibility?   Do you think it ever will or ever could?

I would hope the county would begin to implement a similar system for tracking the execution of material procurement and contract services.”

Next Monday the Information Technology (IT) Committee will meet.  The packet sent to me earlier this week containing a memorandum on Kronos, the IT software system chosen to replace the current in house payroll system and to implement HR and benefits.  Previous memorandums were from the former IT Director John Herron.  This one is from Mark Poole.

My response to the questions:

Well the IT Director John Herron, working in the department with the longest average tenure of any county department (according to a draft version of the Evergreen Study see page 10), just left and went to work for the schools.  Multiple county employees shared with me that the Finance Director Randy Vineyard wanted Herron gone and it appears that Vineyard got his wish.  Herron was reluctantly put in charge of the Kronos project because a few commissioners found it odd that the Sheriff’s volunteer (an attorney) was going to head up the project.

The commission separated the Budget Committee (putting Sharron Hannum who can’t manage her own budget on it) from the Purchasing Commission.  The Purchasing Commission didn’t meet until the Mayor had six months to put an attorney (yeah another attorney) in charge of purchasing.  One of its members isn’t very prompt in paying his taxes either.

The Sherriff’s volunteer backed away (taking a “reduced role”) from the Kronos project and now Herron is no longer issuing the updates on the Kronos implementation schedule.

Does anything sound abnormal to you?

BLOUNT COUNTY POLITICS

09 October 2015

Dear Madam Speaker,

If you are looking for the premier Good-Old-Boy gang in the state of Tennessee, you need look no further than the Blount County Commission headed by a most liberal tax and spend money-driven Blount county mayor. At the commission’s last scheduled meeting, these clowns were falling all over themselves to end the meeting in their standard mode of operation to avoid any type of input from the taxpayers. To the ridiculous point that even before the required opening procedures, the newest Boy in Training upset his back room handlers by making a motion to adjourn sooner than he had been directed.

Of course, these well-known and notorious behind closed door leaders knew they needed the basics completed so the meeting could go in the books as valid. This fiasco made the Knoxville news. I am certain the news folks will be glad to provide a copy to the Tennessee Speaker of the House. The antics of the mayor and his lock-step men only gang on the commission are well know to those in Blount county looking for change from seat-holders only interested in increasing taxes on the poor and seniors of Blount county. Finally, it is getting attention. National news will be better.

It is impossible to muster respect for this sad handful of individuals that conduct men only behind-closed-doors business fully believing they have no need to listen to the constituents. If you ask the hardcore ones, they know who they are, among them to understand what the constant tax and spend policies are doing to the poorer minorities and seniors within the community of Blount county, you will be asked if you have considered moving.

I ask, on behalf of all people in the Great state of Tennessee looking for more competent government, that you look into the seedy side of Blount county politics.

Most respectfully,
Clarence J. Nash ThM
Maryville, Tennessee

Cc: Blount mayor
     Blount County Commissioners
     The Daily Times
     The Knoxville News Sentinel

Related Post: Did commissioner Shawn Carter let the plan slip ahead of time?

Blount County Tax Revolt honors the six commissioners who voted against the property tax increase and budget

bctrawards2s

Former Commissioner Jim Folts presents District 7 County Commissioner Tona Monroe with two awards.

Blount County Tax Revolt presented Blount County Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe with an award for voting against the largest property tax increase in the history of Blount County government and for voting against the budget that was funded by the tax increase.

Commissioners Karen Miller and Tona Monroe were also given an additional Special Recognition Award.

Community stalwarts Jim Folts and Linda King spoke.  Richard Hutchens gave slide show presentation on the excuses used to justify wasteful spending.  Those reasons are routinely given at commission meetings.

The Daily Times covered the awards banquet, which had to be moved from the original room to a larger room because turnout was greater than expected.  http://www.thedailytimes.com/news/blount-county-tax-revolt-honors-six-for-tax-increase-opposition/article_b509ef67-08de-533d-8b37-8592d6fc56ff.html

The emails have been pouring in this morning.  Thank you to everyone for the kind remarks and thank you to the good folks of Blount County Tax Revolt for their dedication in protecting the hardworking taxpayers of Blount County.

BlountCoTaxRevoltAward1 BlountCoTaxRevoltAward2

 

A new era in Blount County Government? Commissioners Andy Allen and Mike Caylor elected to Audit Committee

It’s a new era in Blount County government.  Or is it?  Blount County didn’t wait to be the last County in the state to form an Audit Committee, just next to last.*

Commissioners Andy Allen and Mike Caylor were chosen to serve on the Audit Committee.  Let the lovefest begin.  I can’t wait to see hugs all around.

*According to Chairman Jerome Moon only one other county does not have an Audit Committee.

Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/

 

Understanding Tennessee’s Maintenance of Effort in Education Laws

The Comptroller has issued a report on Maintenance of Effort Laws governing education in Tennessee.

http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/PublicationDetails.aspx?ReportKey=739a119e-8e4d-4583-a122-f0a514a321f5

http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/Repository/RE/MOE%20Final.pdf