Historic mistake leaves county commissioners underpaid for 37 years?

Excerpt from a Times-Free Press story:
Hamilton County commissioners this week scrambled to avoid giving themselves $4,000 raises. But it turns out they’ve been underpaying themselves for 37 years.

At commissioners’ wishes, state Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, withdrew a bill Thursday that would have removed a 1991 amendment to state law that tied commission pay to the county mayor’s salary.

But in fact, the commission not only amended the wrong law in 1991, they’ve been using the same wrong law to set their salaries since the commission was founded in 1978. And they are not the only ones.

The House Fiscal Review Committee determined that if the amendment in Tennessee Code Annotated 5-5-107 were removed, Hamilton County commissioners would be paid under a 1975 law, T.C.A. 8-24-115.

That law says salaries for commissioners in counties with 100,000 to 600,000 residents must be $25,000 or more. That group would include Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties. Shelby County’s population exceeded the limit in 1970.

Currently, Hamilton County commissioners are paid $21,368 a year.

Eddie Weeks, legislative librarian for the Tennessee General Assembly, said the 1975 law has never been changed.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor, who was on that first County Commission in 1978, said commissioners set their pay at the first meeting at $3,600 a year.

He wasn’t aware of the 1975 law until this week — and neither were officials in the other three affected counties.

“The statue, it clearly says that, but nobody knew about it. And nobody’s following it,” Taylor said.

In fact, commissioners in Knox, Sullivan and Davidson counties all make less than Hamilton County commissioners, Taylor said.

“That’s all I know about it. And nobody knows why nobody knew about it. It’s in a different section of the code than all the other county items, maybe that has something to do with it,” Taylor said.

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