Commissioners respond to issue surrounding COVID vaccine

Published 6:50 pm Thursday, December 31, 2020

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Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby and the Carter County Commissioners have been front and center of a recent stink created when an email sent by Mayor Woodby to the commissioners began talk of a ‘golden ticket’ for the commissioners to move to the front of the line for a COVID vaccination.
The Star has been investigating all sides of the issues surrounding the email and decided to reach out to each commissioner with a question of whether they or members of their immediate family had received the vaccine and an opportunity to comment if they so chose on the subject.
There have been 15 responses from 23 commissioners as all commissioners were called and emailed to give them ample opportunity to respond.
The following are those responses received either verbally or through email.
Sonja Culler (7th District) – I did not receive any vaccines.
Robert V. Acuff (1st District) – No. We were updated by Caroline Hurt, Director of the Carter County Health Department at the December Commission meeting regarding the individuals who were prioritized for vaccination by the State of Tennessee (see link below). Commissioners are not on either the 1a1 or 1a2 lists. Elected officials should be servant leaders looking after our constituents and the welfare of our county without any privilege other than serving by example.
Travis Hill (6th District) – So to answer your question. I have NOT received a vaccine and no member of my family has either. To the second question: I feel that Mayor Woodby did exactly as she was instructed to do by the people who control the vaccines, that being the Carter County Health Dept. In my talks to Director Hurt on 12/27, it goes along with what was said in the email that Mayor Woodby sent out. So until the Health Dept. states otherwise I have to trust what the Mayor stated in the email.
Ginger Holdren (5th District) – I just want to say that I did not get a vaccination nor did any member of my family.
Kelly Collins (8th District) – Question 1 – I, nor any member of my family, took the vaccine that was offered to the school system or county commissioners.
Question 2 – I will not be taking the vaccine until ALL first responders, medical personnel including nursing homes and home health workers, people with serious underlying medical conditions, and my husband are given the chance to take it first.
Randall Jenkins (6th District) – I did NOT receive the vaccine that was offered in the email nor did any of my family. I have no further comment.
Aaron Frazier (7th District) – 1 – No. 2 – I’ve not spoken with Mayor Woodby or the ones responsible for distributing the vaccine to get the full story. There are 3 sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth.  I’ll reserve judgment till I’ve done my research.
Mark Blevins (1st District) – Yes sir me and my wife both did. I understand there is a lot of stuff going on about the vaccine and how it was given out and that the Mayor overstepped her bounds and me because I was one that got it. Other commissioners didn’t get it. Mayor Woodby had gotten an email from Caroline (Hurt) from the health department stating there were some extra vaccines and she wanted to give it to the county employees and the county commissioners and the school board got the same email. So therefore Mrs. Woodby was acting on the health department and I was acting on what Mrs. Woodby sent out. I don’t feel she did no wrong. If it had been lawbreaking, I don’t think she would have done it and I wouldn’t have taken the shot.
We are taking a lot of criticism for taking this shot from Mr. Mike Hill and citizens in the county but they need to get their facts. Nobody has got the facts right on it so far. 
It was issued by the health department not by Mayor Woodby. She had sent out an email telling what Caroline had told her and she acted on what Caroline said. She didn’t go down there and ask or anything. I feel like it’s retaliation by Mr. Acuff. I don’t regret taking the shot and I would take the shot again without any regrets. I am at high risk and so is my wife. 
Austin Jaynes (4th District) – We did not. No, I didn’t take it and ain’t in the middle of it and don’t want nothing to do with it.
Jerry Profitt (4th District) – No I wouldn’t do that. I am eligible because of my age but if I wasn’t eligible because of my age I wouldn’t put myself ahead of the line. I would take it when it was readily available for people my age. I don’t know if we should be put ahead of other people in the community. I would wait until my turn to get my shot. I wouldn’t feel that I would be more important than anyone else in this county.
Daniel McInturff (7th District) – We did not. I obviously wouldn’t have. We are out of town and teachers got the email and I hadn’t even seen the commission until the next day when WCYB had called about 8 or 8:30 that morning about the email.
I have had COVID a month ago and the doctors said I should be good for the next two to three months and when it does come time for teachers, I probably wouldn’t take one at that time to make sure others have the opportunity.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. There is a scale to be followed and that scale has not been followed and who is to blame for that is not for me to decide. The email was sent to commissioners but also to teachers in the city and the county.
The perception was that it was only sent to commissioners and that isn’t right. I still believe first responders should be the first ones to receive the vaccine.
Brad Johnson (3rd District) – No as a matter of fact I didn’t even know anything about it until later that night when a family member that lives between Nashville and Jackson called and asked if I had taken it and I said what are you talking about and they told me what was in the newspapers down there, the local media, and I thought my God Carter County had made it all the way to Nashville in one day. I wouldn’t have done it anyhow. It may be personal, but there are people in my district and this county that is in worse shape than I am even though I just got over cancer surgery and everything. People that is in worse health conditions that are just struggling and I am not – I am blessed. That would have been what I would have done. I have dug into it since it came to a head and I would direct you to talk to Caroline at the Health Department. There are two sides to everything. I am a retired criminal investigator and I start looking at high points and I know journalists do too. You have to be correct and I have no complaints. It all came back to communications between the Health Department and the Mayor. Them two will be able to enlighten you.
Nancy Brown (2nd District) – I don’t have anything to say. The paper don’t never get it right anyway. So I don’t have anything to say.
Thomas Proffitt (8th District) – No. I think it kind of got blown up. I don’t think it was the mayor’s fault. There were a lot of people who received that email through the Carter County and Elizabethton City Schools and I think there was just a big miscommunication on the health department’s side of it and that’s just my opinion. Even if I was to take the vaccine I definitely would not want to be in front of a health care worker or a front line worker or even someone at a higher priority than me. I am young and I am not saying that I can’t get it but there are a lot of people that are a higher priority than me.
Mike Hill (2nd District) – Yesterday, in addition to Christmas wishes, I received this graphic from a citizen. I believe it speaks volumes about the public’s dim opinion of the Carter County Commission. 
For the record, I did not punch my “ticket”.
While I have found myself embarrassed and disgusted by many of the decisions rendered by the Commission over the past six years, this apparent diversion of vaccinations is a particularly repugnant all-time low for Carter County.
I have received inquiries from medical professionals who state they registered as instructed, only to find that the vaccines had “run out” by the time they arrived at the Great Lakes building.
I have to wonder how many of those folks’ vaccines were inappropriately given out of turn to nonessential elected officials instead of essential workers. Dozens, maybe hundreds of the most at-risk individuals among us should have been the recipients of any “unexpected extra vaccine” that might have become available. 
I’m curious as to who the imbecile was that coined the term “unexpected extra vaccine”. In the news cycle, the finger of blame was pointed at the health department, but that was not where the email I received originated.
For the record, there is no such thing as “unexpected extra vaccines”-the supplies are carefully allocated according to a very specific plan administered by the state.
Real people have now been subjugated by the actions, willful or not, taken by our County Mayor and some commissioners. While I do intend to get vaccinated as soon as it is my turn, I fervently believe that being a Carter County Commissioner does not make me any more deserving than anyone else in my category of age and comorbidity.
This “office” certainly does not entitle me to step ahead of the elderly and infirm members of our community who are at higher risk than myself, nor the first responders and medical professionals who are all serving admirably even given the great personal risk.
At some point around 1789, when being told that her French subjects had no bread, Marie-Antoinette  supposedly said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.” With that callous remark, the queen became a hated symbol of the decadent monarchy and fueled the revolution that would cause her to (literally) lose her head several years later.
Based on the email to “Carter County Commissioners and County Attorney”  (which definitely contained an offer for special treatment to elected officials and their families) it appears that our newly appointed Mayor has much in common with Marie. 
A brief discussion with a trusted attorney leads me to believe that there may actually be criminality both in the email and the resulting actions taken by some elected officials.
Whether or not there is an actionable offense, in this case, is for someone above my pay grade to decide, but I do believe it was immoral, reckless, and inappropriate.
I am disappointed in any of my colleagues who may have allowed themselves to be duped into participating in this scheme ahead of their designated turn. Even if such an offer was made by the health department, the Mayor should have immediately recognized this as special treatment and declined.
The actual law on the subject reads,
“No official, employee or appointee shall disclose or use information not available to members of the general public and gained by reason of her or his official position to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for herself, himself or any other person or business entity.”
Fulfilling my sworn obligation to advance any reports of alleged fraud, abuse, or malfeasance, I have made an inquiry with the Tennessee Comptroller’s office to determine if this case rises to that level. 
I stand firmly with my constituents who deserve a good answer in calling for a thorough investigation and appropriate penalties.
Those commissioners who did not respond to either phone calls or emails were: Willie Campbell, Mark Tester, Charles Von Cannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, Ross Garland, Layla Ward, Gary Bailey, and Robin McKamey.

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