Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14, 2015 Dr. Parks, Susan Widener, and Nancy Phillips Resign from MH Humane Society Board

[Due to editing/posting problems, the layout of this post may have excessive spacing. I will fix it later when time allows]


The Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society met last Monday in a hastily called special meeting in an attempt by several members and one faction of the Board to oust the following five Board members: Mary Ann Toffoletto, Susan Allen, Dr. Michael Bratton, Judy Stockard, and Bette Crawford. See prior post here.


The vote was 109-91 to keep those members on the Board.




At last night's meeting, the first held following that vote, President Daniel Parks, Vice-president Susan Widener, and Board member Nancy Phillips resigned right after the meeting began. Parks and Widener were present. Phillips was not there. Parks gave a brief statement and then handed in his resignation along with that of Widener and Phillips, effective "immediately." Widener and he then left the meeting.




The Board was obviously surprised but immediately named Dr. Michael Bratton to preside over the meeting and everything proceeded.












The Board received the recommendation from the committee that interviewed candidates for the Shelter Director position.












Stan Eversole was nominated for the position. Mr. Eversole told the Board that he was extremely honored but would not be able to take the position as he had recently received a threatening note that seemed directed not only at him but at his children.  The note and the threat were reported to the HC Sheriff's Department.












County Mayor Bill Brittain, who was a member of the Director selection committee, was asked by other committee members if he had told anyone about the selection of Eversole. Brittain stated that he had told Dr. Daniel Parks and Nancy Phillips. At the end of the meeting, Brittain asked to make a statement. He said that all he did was answer the question honestly and no one should read anything else into that.












The committee agreed to meet again and present another name for the Director position.









In other action, the Board formally voted to notify city councilman/realtor Paul LeBel that they will not pursue the purchase of a building on South Liberty Hill Road for which some former Board members, acting through Perry Hall, had initiated and supported some form of option to purchase agreement.












Voting on new by-laws and the annual May meeting were discussed.


UPDATE: After the meeting adjourned, Sonya Shipley, County Mayor Bill Brittain's appointee to the Board, resigned.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

April 7, 2015 MH Humane Society Votes 109-91 To Keep Five Board Members

The Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society met yesterday at 7 PM.
The large upstairs courtroom was full and members were in the "jury box" and in the halls.


The Humane Society has a 13 member Board of Directors, most of whom were recently elected by the membership in October 2014. Click here.


Last night's meeting was a special called meeting for the purpose of removing five of the 13 Board members.


The five proposed for removal were Bette Crawford, Judy Stockard, Mary Ann Toffoletto, Susan Allen, and Dr. Michael Bratton.


These five were part of the seven-member majority who voted on March 9, 2015, to terminate Shelter Director Robyn Robinson and shelter employees Andrea Brooks and Michaela McDonald for falsifying time cards. During the March meeting, time cards were reviewed and Director Robinson was questioned about the accuracy of the cards, her signing off on the cards, and whether employees were being paid by the Humane Society while performing personal volunteer work for other organizations.


At the end of the March 9th meeting, the Board voted 7-6 to terminate Robinson, Brooks, and McDonald.


Crawford, Stockard, Toffoletto, Allen, and Bratton voted for termination along with City Mayor Danny Thomas and Thomas' appointee Wayne NeSmith.  The six voting not to terminate were Dr. Daniel Parks, former county commissioner Nancy Phillips. Susan Widener, Kim Hall, County Mayor Bill Brittain, and Brittain's appointee Sonya Shipley.


A couple of weeks later, a special meeting was requested to remove Crawford, Stockard, Toffoletto, Allen, and Bratton for actions "severely detrimental to the integrity and function of the MHHS Board of Directors." [Mayor Thomas and his designee Wayne Nesmith could not be removed from the Board because they, like Mayor Brittain and Shipley, are not elected members.]


The special meeting took place last night, and the vote was 190-91 to keep the five on the Board.


The next meeting of the Humane Society is slated for next Monday, April 13.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

March 8, 2015: Solid Waste Investigative Audit Indicates That Ronnie Brady Used Stancil Ford's Signature Stamp To Write $192,206.00 Worth of Checks to Himself

The Comptroller's Report and TBI investigation into former Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste Director Ronnie Brady's forgery and theft are complete. Brady was recently indicted by the Hamblen County Grand Jury for theft over $60,000.00.


The Comptroller's Report is here. The report is short.


It shows one of the many unauthorized checks that Brady wrote to himself. The check in the report is for $2,026.59. Brady apparently wrote many other unauthorized checks to himself over a 3-1/2 year period for a total of $192,206.00.


The unauthorized check shown in the report has then-SWB Chairman and current County Commission chairman Stancil Ford's stamped signature on it. Unless Ford claims that Brady stole Ford's signature stamp, it appears that Ford allowed Brady to have access to Ford's stamp, giving Brady the ability to write checks ($192,206.00) to himself with the required "two" signatures.


Brady also made personal charges totaling "at least" $31,875.00 on the Solid Waste's AMEX credit card. The report gives two examples of personal charges that Solid Waste customers paid for, i.e.  repairs to Brady's BMW and a $2,175.00 mattress delivered to Brady's residence,


In addition, Brady wrote Solid Waste checks to pay for personal charges on a non-Solid Waste Board Capital One card.

Monday, December 08, 2014

December 8, 2014 Significant Open Meetings Act Hearing in Greene County Chancery Court Today

Tennessee has an Open Meetings Law which requires that governmental bodies meet and deliberate and vote in public.


Today, there is a hearing in Greene County before Chancellor Doug Jenkins concerning that law.
The issue is whether the public has a right to actually "hear" the discussion at a public meeting.


The current case results from an Industrial Board meeting in Greene County, TN where most of the public in attendance could not hear the discussion and debate because most of the Industrial Board members had their backs to the audience, were speaking softly, and had no microphones.


In a 2012 Tennessee Attorney General's opinion the following was stated:


QUESTION:


2.a. Does the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, codified at Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 8-44-101
to -111, require a county commission meeting to be held in any particular type of space or
facility?


ANSWER:


2.a. Tennessee courts have not addressed this specific issue. Under the Open Meetings
Act, county commission meetings are public meetings and must be open to the public at all
times. For this reason, county commission meetings should be held in a facility that can
accommodate a public audience reasonably expected to attend. The audience should be able to
hear the proceedings. [Emphasis added]


If Chancellor Jenkins holds that the state's open meetings law just means a citizen has the right to attend and "see" the meeting but no right to "hear" the discussions and deliberations, current Open Meetings Act will have been gutted.


At that point, the Legislature may as well repeal the Open Meetings Act or come back in January and immediately amend the Open Meetings Act to make it clear that an "Open Meeting" means one that the public can see AND hear.


Here is a Knox N-S article about today's hearing and what happened at the Greene County Industrial Development Board to lead up to today's hearing:


Pipeline meeting at crux of battle

Groups say interpretation of law absurd

By Hugh G. Willett


Special to the News Sentinel

Tennessee journalists and open government advocates are expressing concern that the outcome of an open meetings trial scheduled to begin next week in Greene County could reduce citizen access to public meetings.

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the East Tennessee Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists on Wednesday issued a joint statement of concern about efforts to interpret the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.

The lawsuit, brought by a group of Greene County residents, seeks to void actions taken by the local industrial development board that enabled a controversial 12-mile pipeline that would take water from the Nolichucky River for use by the US Nitrogen industrial chemical plant before returning the treated water to the river.

The issue arose after a July 18 meeting of the Greene County Industrial Development Board during which a local resident named Eddie Overholt was ejected from the meeting and arrested after asking the members of board to speak up.

Residents later filed 59 complaints with the state Office of Open Records Counsel Elisha Hodge. She agreed the meeting was probably illegal.

The Industrial Development Board of Greeneville, Greene County and US Nitrogen have filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the premise that the Tennessee Open Meetings Act does not require citizens be able to hear proceedings at a public meeting, only that a governing body give citizens an opportunity to be present .

Deborah Fisher, executive director of TCOG, described the motion to dismiss as absurd. TCOG and ETSPJ believe such a narrow interpretation would make a mockery of the state’s Open Meetings Act, also known as the sunshine law, and allow or even encourage absurd scenarios where a governing body could hold a public meeting but prevent attendees from hearing what they say, she said.

Fisher said the IDB had the option to redo the meeting to come into compliance with the law but chose not to do so within the required time frame.

Greene County resident Don Bible is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He believes the July 18 meeting marked a turning point in public opinion.

­I believe that several members of that board would now like to have the opportunity to redo that whole event. I think that most of the members of that board now realize that by their actions they burned a lot of bridges that day, he said.

Representatives of the Greene County Industrial Development Board did not respond to requests for comment.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

December 7, 2014 Pearl Harbor Day

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on American ships at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.


A surprise attack that led to the entry of the United States into World War II.




In his speech to Congress asking for a Declaration of War, President Franklin Roosevelt termed it "A Date Which Will Live in Infamy."







TEXT OF ROOSEVELT'S SPEECH TO CONGRESS:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27, 2014 HAPPY THANKSGIVING




Thanksgiving Day. A time for our great nation and its people to pause and give thanks for our many blessings.

Thanksgiving Day. A time for remembrance of the past. A time for expressions of gratitude for our many blessings -- both past and present. A time of hopefulness as we look to the future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18, 2014 Tony Cox Uses Taxpayer Dollars to Push Jay Moore Out with a "Settlement"

The City agenda today includes a settlement reached between Tony Cox and longtime City Building Inspector Jay Moore.


Moore "retired" and got $12,000.00 plus his accrued benefits to the date of retirement.


With the payout of $12,000.00 tax dollars, Tony Cox then gets to pick Moore's replacement.


Moore requested to be considered for the City Administrator position back in 2009 when Cox was selected to replace Jim Crumley.


There were a lot of "oddities" in the selection of the four finalists at that time. Click here.


Today's agenda is here.



Monday, November 03, 2014

November 3, 2014 Food CIty Popkin Beer Permit: City Creates Special Measurement Rule To Get Around 150' Distance Requirement

The City Council will meet as the "Beer Board" tomorrow afternoon immediately after the 5 PM council meeting at the City Center.


On the Beer Board agenda are numerous changes to the city Beer Ordinance--the most significant of which is removing the distance requirement from a park, school, or church if there is a four-lane highway between the store selling beer and the property line of the park, school, or church.


Why did the City decide to change the beer ordinance to remove the 150' distance requirement when there is a four-lane roadway?


Because Food City Popkin--despite knowing that the City Beer Ordinance required 150' from its store and Popkin Little League Park--went ahead and built its store less than 150' from the Little League Park.


Why would Food City do this? Because Food City knew that council would turn around and change the beer ordinance so Food City Popkin could get a beer permit. And that's exactly what is happening.


Click on the image below to enlarge it, and you will see that Food City had a copy of the City Beer Ordinance on September 19, 2014, and thus KNEW that the City Beer Ordinance required a store selling beer to be 150' from any park, school, or church. Click here for a prior post on this issue when City Council passed the new "Food City Popkin" beer ordinance on first reading.

But Food City also knew that it could build its building wherever it wanted to and then get council to change the ordinance. And that is what Food City and Council did. Food City told the City that the beer ordinance would have to be changed, and council will be voting today to make some general changes to the beer ordinance, but the primary change is to say that a store selling beer CAN be within 150' of a school, church, or park if there is a four-lane roadway. 


Special change in the beer ordinance for Food City Popkin. The only councilperson to vote against this special "Food City Popkin" change on first reading was Dennis Alvis.  Mayor Thomas, Vice-mayor Gary Chesney, Bob Garrett, Key Senter, Chris Bivens. and councilman Paul LeBel voted for the "Food City Popkin" change. Tuesday is the second and final reading.


If Joe Smith had built a small store at the same location as Food City Popkin, do you think councilmembers would have passed a new beer ordinance to make Joe Smith's store eligible for a beer permit?