Batchelder selected as new county Veterans Services Officer

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Batchelder graphic
Members of the Carter County Commission tackled several items of business on Monday including appointing a new Veterans Services Officer for the county, approving a one-time bonus for county employees and allocating additional funds for the county’s lawsuit against its economic development board, Carter County Tomorrow.
The county’s Veterans Services Officer position came open with the recent resignation of Sonnie Mottern and a familiar face will soon be returning to the office as the Commission voted to select David Batchelder as Mottern’s replacement. Batchelder served as the county’s VSO from 2003-2007. He currently works as a Veterans Benefit Representative for the State of Tennessee at the VA Medical Center in Johnson City.
Batchelder was selected out of a field of 13 applicants following a tie vote on by the Commission that was broken by County Mayor Leon Humphrey, who cast his ballot for Batchelder.
All 13 of the qualified applicants were invited to attend Monday’s meeting and address the Commission, Humphrey said. When Humphrey asked for a show of hands, nine of the 13 applicants were in attendance at the meeting.
Each of the applicants was given 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the Commission and discuss their experience, qualifications and goals for the position if selected. Following the introduction, Commissioners were allowed to ask questions of the applicants.
When the time came for nominations, five of the applicants were named. After the first round of voting, that list was whittled down to two – Batchelder and Mark Johnson.
A second vote was held with each candidate receiving 12 votes. In the event of a tie, Humphrey, who serves as chairman of the Commission, casts the deciding ballot. Prior to casting his vote, Humphrey said both of the candidates were very qualified for the position.
“I have no doubt Mr. Johnson would do an excellent job,” he said. “Mr. Batchelder has the training and is ready to step right in.”
Humphrey then voted to select Batchelder as the new Veterans Services Officer.
In a related matter, the Commission also approved a budget amendment that would bring the VSO position’s salary in line with those in surrounding counties — $30,000 per year. Carter County was the lowest paying out of all the surrounding counties, Humphrey told the Commission. The increase will bring the county’s salary for the position “right in the median of those other counties,” he added.
The governing body unanimously approved a one-time across the board 3 percent bonus for all county employees. Interim Finance Director Christa Byrd informed the Commission the county’s 160 employees would receive an average bonus of $900, but qualified that amount would be before income tax and social security deductions.
The bonus would include all county departments but would not include the county school system’s para-professional employees such as bus drivers, cafeteria staff and teacher’s aides. Bonuses for those individuals would have to be approved through the Carter County Board of Education.
Members of the Commission also participated in a closed legal session with County Attorney Joshua Hardin regarding the pending lawsuit the county filed last month against Carter CountyTomorrow. Closed sessions between a governing body and its attorney are allowed under state law, with the stipulation that no debate can happen during the closed session.
The group had a similar closed session last month when the attorney spoke to the group regarding the filing of the lawsuit. At that time, Hardin cautioned the group, that during a closed session, he could present information to them and they could ask him questions but at no time could they discuss or deliberate the matter among themselves during the closed session.
When the group returned to open meeting on Monday, Commissioner Ronnie Trivett made a motion to allocate up to $20,000 in funds for Hardin to use in pursing the litigation against CCT.
Humphrey began to call for a vote on the matter but was stopped by Commissioner Danny Ward, who asked if there was to be discussion on the motion.
“I think we’ve already had quite a bit of discussion on this matter,” Humphrey replied.
Despite the statement by Humphrey, Ward took the opportunity to voice his thoughts on the matter.
“I cannot see using taxpayer money to sue ourselves,” Ward said, adding the Commission gave approval for all of CCT’s actions. “Why would we pay more attorneys to help Mr. Hardin do his job if this was such a slam dunk case?”
The motion passed on a vote of 16-6 with two commissioners absent. Those voting to approve the additional funds were Commissioners Willie Campbell, Buford Peters, Robert Acuff, Nancy Brown, Bradley Johnson, Trivett, Isaiah Grindstaff, Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Timothy Holdren, John Lewis, Larry Miller, Ray Lyons, Robert Carroll, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen. Those opposing the additional funds were Commissioners Mike Hill, Al Meehan, Charles Von Cannon, Ward, Sonja Culler and Scott Simerly.

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