Commission seeks ‘informal resolution’ to Schuettler’s bonus controversy

Published 8:34 am Thursday, November 21, 2019

Midway through Monday’s county commission meeting, Patty Woodby raised another motion to escalate the legal proceedings to recollect Planning Director Chris Schuettler’s $14,466.67 bonus she said he “illegally” received in August.

The motion is another in a series of conversations that have taken place since the letter from Planning Chairman Jerry Pearman.

Charles Von Cannon requested an amendment to the motion, saying the commission should move to take back all three parties’ bonuses.

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Earlier this year, the commission voted to forgive an extra paycheck to two former elected officials.

Woodby said those other two parties have already been forgiven by the commission, so no action can be taken.

Brad Johnson said since the attorney has found no evidence of illegal activity in how the bonus was awarded, the motion should not include the word illegal, an amendment Woodby accepted.

The commission then debated the specifics of the case at hand once again.

County Attorney Josh Hardin said prior to this motion, he has received no clear directive to legally pursue the money.

“This motion has never been made or considered,” Hardin said. “There has never been any direction given as to any process or collection.”

He said the only official vote on the matter has been to ask Schuettler to return the money.

Austin Jaynes asked whether pursuing this money from a legal perspective would cost the county more money than they would obtain from Schuettler.

Hardin said “in anticipation of this,” he reached out to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility for an opinion.

“{That opinion] was my involvement would be a conflict, and that I would have to abstain from representing any side in this, and it would require outside counsel,” he said.

The conversation quickly turned into an attorney-client privileged meeting to discuss those details, which the public is not allowed to witness. The meeting lasted almost an hour before the public was allowed back into the courtroom.

When the commission reconvened after a brief recess after that, Woody withdrew her original motion and made another one.

“I would like to make a motion that the county attorney pursue an informal resolution to the Planning situation,” Woodby said.

This would allow Hardin to act as a mediator as the county attempts to seek a resolution to the controversy.

Several amendments and other motions were made and dropped in succession. Isaiah Grindstaff wanted to add a fact-finding period to the motion, and Aaron Frazier wanted to add another motion to ask the state Comptroller’s Office to investigate the past 10 years of the Planning Commission “to establish a pattern,” though the county determined this would overlap or contradict their “informal” efforts per Woodby’s motion.

The motion seeking an “informal resolution” passed 18-4 with one abstained vote.

Those in favor included Willie Campbell, Mark Blevins, Nancy Brown, Patty Woodby, Bradley Johnson, Charles Von Cannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, Jerry Proffitt, Ross Garland, Layla Ward, Ginger Holdren, Gary Bailey, Travis Hill, Ray Lyons, Aaron Frazier, Robin McKamey, Kelly Collins and David Miller. Those against included Robert Acuff, Mike Hill, Randall Jenkins and Sonja Culler.

Austin Jaynes abstained.

Bailey then made a motion to forgive the $14,466.67 altogether, though he later withdrew the motion after a discussion as to whether it was right to completely invalidate the previous vote.