Courthouse Security Committee reacts to loss of AOC grant

Published 5:42 pm Friday, July 27, 2018

During Tuesday’s meeting at the Carter County Courthouse, the Courthouse Security Committee discussed various topics including the loss of a grant.

After being approved by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts for a $13,472.99 grant, the Carter County Courthouse Security Committee lost the grant after the proper steps were not taken to secure and use the grant money.

The grant required a 10 percent match ($1,496) from the County which was approved by the Carter County Budget Committee.

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To use the grant, the County needed to purchase items and pay the cost up front before notifying the AOC of the purchases. The AOC would then reimburse the County through the set aside grant money. However, the County never purchased anything, leading to the grant money being lost.

“What happened in this scenario, no one directly notified the purchasing agent to go buy these things,” said Chancellor John Rambo, chairman of the Security Committee. “No one really knows why that didn’t happen. A purchasing agent was not designated to handle this from the beginning. There was just an assumption that this would happen.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Security Committee recognized that the proper steps were not taken to secure the grant due in part to no one being designated to overlook the process to make sure it was being completed. Rambo said during the meeting he feels this could leave a “black mark” and could affect the Committee being approved for future grants from the AOC since the recent grant was not utilized by the county.

The Committee took steps toward remedying the issue by approving a motion to designate Carter County Clerk and Master Melissa Moreland and Rambo to look over future grants and ensure the completion of the proper steps to secure the grants once approved by the AOC. The motion was raised by Rambo and seconded by Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey. The Committee unanimously approved the motion.

“If we get the grant again, the decision is that Moreland and I would follow up with different departments within the county to make sure they are doing what they need to do,” said Rambo.

The Committee also unanimously approved a motion to reapply for the AOC grant with Rambo making the motion and Humphrey seconding it.

If approved by the AOC, the Committee hopes to use the grant to pay for magnetometers for the future single-point entry security systems at the Carter County Courthouse as well as material to bulletproof the area where the court clerk sits in each of the three courtrooms in Carter County to meet new minimum standards set by the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference.

Other business included the discussion of an application to the State of Tennessee by Carter County to request the Return of Unclaimed Funds with an estimated amount of $300,000 from Chancery Court and $22,000 from Circuit Court. The State of Tennessee denied the request.

“We have asked them to reconsider, and Senator (Rusty) Crowe is helping us with that,” said Rambo.

The Security Committee discussed the need of halting the bidding process for the new single-point entry, which will have an estimated cost of $600,000, until the Aug. 6 special called Carter County Commission meeting. The cost of the new security system was going to be funded through $100,000 from the county litigation fund, along with a $500,000 inter-fund loan from the Carter County Debt Service Fund to the general fund, which according to a resolution passed by the Carter County Commission, would be paid back at a two percent interest rate over three years. However, the resolution was vetoed by Humphrey. During the Aug. 6 meeting, the County Commission will review three vetoed resolutions including the resolution pertaining to the $500,000 inter-fund loan.

“The County Commission adopted it (inter-fund loan resolution) which made it legal to proceed with the bidding process,” said Rambo. “With the veto, legally the funds are not available until the county commission acts again. They all seemed confident that the veto will be dealt with, but we can’t presume it until they actually take a vote.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Rambo questioned Humphrey on his basis of vetoing the resolution that would have funded the single-point entry system.

“The basis of the veto is this, we needed the loan, but I didn’t feel the two percent interest was a factor. I think it should be a zero percent interest with the loan being paid back to debt service,” said Humphrey during the meeting. “If we didn’t have the funds, we would have to go to an outside institution and actually have to pay interest. But this is the people’s money and it’s there, and I don’t see the need for the interest.”

Carter County Financial Director Brad Burke said that the inter-fund loan with the two percent interest was used because the money that is in the Debt Service Fund would typically draw interest through investments in Certificate of Deposits.

“We would be using cash that they have there that would earn interest essentially,” said Burke. “I checked with an outside bank and the interest rate was going to be 3.61, so I figured that the two percent rate was going to be in the middle.”

Courthouse Security Committee members in attendance during Tuesday’s meeting were Rambo, Moreland, Humphrey, and Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford.