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Bill Would Exempt Some Planning Commission from Ethics Reporting

A bill that could exempt planning commission members in six East Tennessee counties from disclosing their financial interests has been introduced by Sen. Ken Yager and Rep. Kent Calfee.
Calfee, a freshman Republican lawmaker from Kingston, said HB15 was introduced at the request of Roane County Mayor Ron Woody.
The measure also would apply in Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Pickett, Rhea and Scott Counties which are included along with Roane in Yager’s state Senate district. Yager said the other counties were added because of a “communications error.” The senator said he has written officials in the other counties and will amend the bill to delete those counties where an objection is raised.
Planning commission members were not required to file the disclosures until last year, when the Legislature enacted a bill adding them.
The disclosure statements in question require public officials to list their financial holdings and sources of income, but not the amount of income. Planning commission members were not on the list of those required to file the statements until the General Assembly added them in legislation approved last year with little debate and by almost unanimous margins.
The first disclosure reports since the new law took effect are due on Jan. 31, according to the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
Woody said in an interview that the new law is “kind of intrusive” and a deterrent to finding people to serve on the commissions, which typically pay very little or nothing for their services. They are in a different situation than elected officials such as himself, he said.
“It may have been adopted for good reasons and this is an unintended consequence. Or it may have been adopted for bad reasons… (with the intent of) killing our planning commissions. I don’t know. But I’m a firm believer in the need for planning commissions,” Woody said.
The bill approved last year was sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, who was not available for comment. A spokeswoman, however, said it was the senator’s own idea. In a committee meeting last year, Tracy said the bill was “just common sense” and that those overseeing development should have to disclose potential conflicts of interest.
Woody said the Roane County Planning Commission has “ethical members,” including some who retired in the area after a business career “up north” and who may have substantial stock and real estate holdings.
By making their holdings public, he said, “you get to the point where people don’t want to serve.”
Yager said he basically agrees with Woody.
“In these rural counties, they (planning commissioners) are essentially volunteers – in Roane County, I think they get $50 a month – and it’s hard to attract people anyway,” Yager said.

Michael Mayfield’s Court Appearance Moved to After Election

A top Kingston, Tenn., police official denied giving “special treatment” to Michael Mayfield after admitting he changed Mayfield’s initial court date from May to Aug. 27 — three weeks after an election that Mayfield’s father must win to reach Congress.
More from Chris Carroll:
“There’s no special treatment at all,” Kingston Assistant Police Chief Gary Nelson said. “It had nothing to do with the election coming up. It was totally my choice to pick that date.”
The court date for Mayfield is scheduled 25 days after the Aug. 2 Republican primary election in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District. That’s a crucial test for the political future of his father, Scottie Mayfield, who’s running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
On April 26, Michael Mayfield, 33, was charged with vandalism under $500 after he confessed to slashing a Fleischmann aide’s tire. The incident took place April 24 at a campaign event for his father at the Roane County Courthouse. In a public apology, Scottie Mayfield said he asked authorities to treat his son “like anyone else.”
A Chattanooga Times Free Press review of the 70 initial appearances in Roane County General Sessions Court for people arrested or cited between April 23-30 shows that the court date for the younger Mayfield is the last one. Two other dates are set for August, but the remaining 67 — some of which were assigned after Mayfield was charged — are scheduled for April, May, June and July.

Taxing Typo = $70,000

An accidentally dropped digit in the city’s property tax rate — sent to printers last fall for the latest tax bills — ended up costing the city of Kingston about $70,000, reports the News Sentinel.
It also wound up costing the employee who made the mistake 30 days of unpaid administrative leave.
City officials caught the error about 10 days ago during a check of current-year revenues when they saw that property taxes were “coming in a little low,” City Manager Jim Pinkerton said.
That’s when they found that the wrong tax rate was sent to the state for printing the city’s 3,519 tax statements. Those bills were sent to taxpayers around Oct. 1, and were due at the end of February.
Instead of the correct certified tax rate of $1.0834 per $100 assessed value, the bills “reflected a tax rate of $1.034,” Pinkerton wrote in an email to the mayor and council members.
Each penny in property tax generates about $14,000, so that 5-cent error cost Kingston $70,000.
“It’s amazing that nobody caught this,” Mayor Troy Beets said. ”Certainly, nobody came up and said, ‘You charged me too little.'”
For the average homeowner, the tax bill was about $6 to $8 less than it should have been said, Beets said