County Commissioner files complaint with state over budget maneuvers
Published 6:11 pm Friday, August 7, 2015
A Carter County Commissioner who objected to a motion to withholding funds from economic development and tourism during the county’s budget meeting on Tuesday is still objecting to the move, this time filling a complaint with state officials.
On Friday morning, Commissioner Al Meehan, who represents the Roan Mountain district, contacted the Office of Open Records Counsel regarding what he feels is a violation of state law.
Meehan is questioning the way the decision was made. During a special called meeting set to approve the county’s annual budget, members of the Commission voted in a split decision to set aside the $40,000 for Carter County Tomorrow and the $90,000 for tourism through the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce and place those funds “in reserve.”
The motion was made by Commissioner Robert Gobble and seconded by Commissioner Ronnie Trivett.
Under state law, during a special called meeting, only those matters advertised in the meeting’s announcement may be discussed. The advertised agenda for the special called meeting included resolutions to approve budget appropriations, set the county’s tax rate and approve tax assistance for low income, disabled and veteran residents.
In his e-mail to the Office of Open Records Counsel, Meehan said the debate and subsequent vote on withholding funding for CCT and the Chamber of Commerce violated state law because it was not on the advertised agenda.
“Carter County had a special called Commission meeting on August 4, 2015, which was advertised publicly to deal with specific items to approve the county budget and tax rate as the county was already in violation of the 1981 Private Act of Financial Management,” Meehan said in the e-mail. “During that special called meeting, a non-agenda item was brought to the floor (not advertised in public notice of the meeting) to which, as an elected commissioner is my duty, I objected and stated it was not on the agenda and was out of order. My objection didn’t get 2/3rds vote to hold and the Mayor allowed the item to continue to be discussed at length and voted on.”
“This is in violation of State law TCA 5-5-105,” he continued. “Additionally the out of order agenda item dealt with $90,000 for tourism which is controlled under a private act.”
“I would like to file a formal complaint against the Mayor’s/Carter County’s actions for the illegality of the meeting agenda which are contrary to TN statute,” Meehan added.
During the special called meeting, as he referenced in the e-mail, Meehan did stand and object to consideration of the motion.
“It was voted down at the last Commission meeting,” he said at the August 4 meeting. “It’s not on the agenda and it is totally out of order.”
An objection to consideration requires no second and does not allow for discussion under Robert’s Rules of Order. However it does require a two-thirds majority to pass. Meehan’s objection failed after receiving only a simple majority of 13-9.
Commissioners Willie Campbell, Buford Peters, Robert Acuff, Mike Hill, Meehan, Bradley Johnson, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Larry Miller, Sonja Culler and Ray Lyons voted in support of Meehan’s objection. Commissioners Nancy Brown, Trivett, Charles VonCannon, Ross Garland, Timothy Holdren, John Lewis, Robert Carroll, Gobble and Cody McQueen opposed the objection and Commissioners Randall Jenkins and Scott Simerly were absent from the meeting.
On Friday, Meehan said he filed his complaint with the state because, as a Commissioner, he has a duty to follow the law and he feels it was violated. Mayor Leon Humphrey, who serves as chair of the commission, also has a duty to ensure the meetings follow state laws and regulations, Meehan said.
“We’ve had a pattern with this kind of stuff going on all year,” he said. “Out of order things are allowed to proceed and commissioners who stand and want to speak are not being recognized.”
“The Commission isn’t being run properly from the chair,” he added. “I think there has been too much chaos, disorder and unprofessional conduct.”
On Friday Meehan also repeated a complaint he shared on the Commission floor during the special called meeting. “Nothing against Commissioner Gobble, but he had two fellow commissioners whispering in his ear helping him make that motion,” he said.
Meehan also noted Gobble’s original motion only dealt with funding for CCT but when Humphrey repeated the motion back to Gobble, he asked if Gobble had also meant to include the $90,000 for tourism.
“I thought this was an example of a shadow government pushing a hidden agenda,” Meehan said. “I believe in the separation of powers. I have nothing personal against the Mayor, but from a business and political aspect, I believe the chair should come from the Commission.”
“I think there is too much conflict of interest when the Mayor is the chair and has his own agenda.”