8th District seat on County Commission remains empty

Published 9:56 am Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  County Attorney Josh Hardin described the county as being in "uncharted territory" when the County Commission deadlocked on picking a candidate to fill a vacant seat representing the 8th District.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
County Attorney Josh Hardin described the county as being in “uncharted territory” when the County Commission deadlocked on picking a candidate to fill a vacant seat representing the 8th District.

A vacant seat on the Carter County Commission will remain empty for the time being after a series of votes left the county’s governing body grid-locked on picking a replacement for former Commissioner Robert Gobble.
When the selection process began, four candidates were vying for the vacant seat to represent the county’s 8th District — Edwin Alexander, Kelly Collins, David Nelson and Rick Richardson.
Each of the four candidates spoke to the Commission regarding their qualifications and answered questions asked by the commissioners.
After the first round of voting, the commissioners narrowed the field from four candidates to two — Collins and Richardson.
From there, the Commission reached an impasse as neither Collins nor Richardson was able to obtain a majority of 12 votes.
During the first round between the two candidates, Collins received 11 votes while Richardson captured 10. Commissioners Willie Campbell, Robert Acuff, Mike Hill, Al Meehan, Bradley Johnson, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Randall Jenkins and Sonja Culler cast their votes for Collins. Commissioners Nancy Brown, Ronnie Trivett, Charles VonCannon, Ross Garland, Timothy Holdren, Larry “Doc” Miller, Ray Lyons, Scott Simerly, Robert Carroll and Cody McQueen all cast their votes for Richardson.
A second round between the two candidates yielded the exact same results as none of the Commissioners changed their votes.
During the third round of votes, the tally changed with Collins receiving 10 votes and Richardson capturing 11 after Jenkins switched his vote from Collins to Richardson.
With no candidates capturing a clear majority, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey called for a brief recess to the meeting to allow him to confer with County Attorney Josh Hardin.
When the meeting reconvened, Humphrey said he and Hardin had spoken with Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris regarding what needed to be done.
“The short answer is we don’t know,” Hardin said. “We are in unchartered territory here.”
When asked if the Commission could simply leave the seat vacant until the county’s General Election in August when it will appear on the ballot, Hardin said that was not an option.
“We are too far away from the August election,” he said. “You have to fill the vacancy within 120 days of that resignation.”
Hardin also informed the Commission that failing to fill the post during Monday’s meeting could have other ramifications as well. The Commission could find itself in the position of having to have a special called meeting or a more costly special election.
“If it goes beyond tonight, one way or another it will incur a significant expense,” Hardin said.
Humphrey said he was going to call for one more vote on the appointment before moving on to other business. He added that if the vote remained deadlocked he would contact the State Election Commission to discuss other possible options the county could pursue.
A fourth round between the two candidates deadlocked again with no clear majority winner. Once again, Collins received 10 votes and Richardson captured 11. During this round, Garland switched his vote from Richardson to Collins while Grindstaff changed his vote from Collins to Richardson.
After the Commission deadlocked on the vote again, Humphrey declared the matter would be postponed and proceeded on with other items of business.
In other matters, members of the Commission approved the county’s reappraisal plan and a memorandum of understanding between the county and the state regarding the reappraisal plan.
Members of the Commission also approved the governing body’s first official policy and procedure manual. Over the years, the Commission has set a variety of rules regarding how it conducts business but no official manual existed.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee has been working for more than a year researching through old Commission meeting minutes to locate rules already in place and then held a series of committee meetings where rules were discussed and debated.
The finished product of all that work was presented the full Commission for a vote on Monday night.
“If this is voted in, it will replace all the inconsistencies over the years and have all the rules in one place,” Hardin said.
The Commission approved a motion to adopt the new procedure manual on a vote of 19-2.

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