Tag Archives: loudon

Some Find Mulitple Ways to Serve for a Taxpayer-Funded Salary

The News Sentinel reports on people who hold multiple positions in local government with Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens as the first example.
In addition to his duties as mayor of the county’s largest city at a salary of $5,400 per year, Aikens serves as chairman of the Lenoir City Utilities Board, a post that pays $5,400 per year plus benefits. …He also works full time for the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office. As chief deputy, he is second in command at a salary of $57,472 per year.
…When it comes to serving in office and working a taxpayer-funded job, there are only a few explicit limits under state law.
The County Technical Assistance Service, part of The University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service, was created by statute in 1973 to offer governing guidance to the state’s 95 counties.
According to CTAS Ethics guidelines, “countywide officeholders, such as the county mayor, sheriff, trustee, register, county clerk, or assessor of property, are statutorily prohibited from being nominated for or elected to membership in the county legislative body.”
The Tennessee attorney general has opined it is a direct conflict of interest for a county commissioner who is a county employee to vote on the budget that contains his salary.
Roane County Executive Ron Woody, a former consultant with CTAS, said he knows of no one in Tennessee who holds office under circumstances that violate Tennessee laws.
…Nashville Tea Party Leader Ben Cunningham said he believes it’s only a matter of time before leaders consolidating power in multiple offices begin to push the limits of their authority.
“Power corrupts. More than sex or drugs or anything else that you can think of,” he said.
Cunningham said he doesn’t believe the state’s laws are specific enough regarding potential conflicts of interest. The standard conflict of interest disclosure read by many elected officials before voting is not adequate, he said.
“They are saying, ‘It’s a conflict of interest. I know it’s wrong, but I’m going to do it anyways,'” he said.
The only cure for the situation, Cunningham said, is to get more citizens involved in the process, not just by voting but also by running for office themselves.
Linda Noe is an attorney and political activist in Hamblen County. Noe said she has been working to bring conflicts of interest to light.
“If we had term limits and a state law that only allows one job per person, that would help clean things up a lot,” she said.

Promised Pay Cut Doesn’t Make Commission Agenda

Members of the Loudon County Tea Party are calling on Loudon County Commission to make good on a promise to discuss cutting their pay in half, reports the News Sentinel.
The issue should have been on Monday’s commission budget workshop agenda, according to Wayne Schnell, a leader of the Cross-County Tea Party group.
“We are concerned that this issue is being swept under the carpet and will not be addressed,” he said.
When the commission’s budget committee recommended in May that commissioners take a pay cut to help balance the 2012-13 budget, most commissioners seemed to agree it was a good idea.
The committee proposed that yearly pay for commissioners be cut from $8,000 to $4,000.
“I thought that it was appropriate because we were asking other departments to make sacrifices,” said Commissioner Sharon Yarborough.
At the June commission meeting, Commissioner Don Miller provided data showing that Loudon commissioners are the fifth highest paid among Tennessee counties.
When it came time to vote on the budget amendments, however, the pay cut wasn’t included.
After a lengthy discussion, the commission voted to table the issue until the next budget committee meeting.
Schnell said he expected to see the item on Monday’s workshop agenda.
“Was this issue settled behind closed doors?” he said.
After Monday’s meeting, Yarborough said she had asked for the pay cut proposal to be put on the agenda. She later learned that other commissioners, as yet unidentified, asked that the issue not be on the agenda, she said.
Among their concerns was the fact that not all commissioners would be at the workshop. Commissioners Bob Franke and Austin Shaver were absent.
If some commissioners decided privately to remove the item from the agenda it would in effect be deliberating on the issue and a violation of the state’s open meetings act, according to Loudon County activist Pat Hunter.
“Agreeing in private not to discuss an issue is like voting against,” she said.

On the Death of a Property Tax Assessor in Loudon County

Jack McElroy looks at the political pressures that apparently were involved in the suicide of Chuck Jenkins, who had been property tax assessor in Loudon County since 2006 and who previously worked for the Republican National Committee and the administration of the first President George Bush.
Jenkins looked into what appeared to be inappropriate assessments of property by his predecessor and provided his findings to the local district attorney general, who decided not to prosecute.
Reporter Hugh Willett, who wrote many stories about the Arp-Ross shenanigans for the News Sentinel, relied on Jenkins as a source in his reporting. But whistle-blowing turned Jenkins into a pariah in some GOP circles in Loudon County, where Arp had become mayor.
“He stuck his neck out and went on the record in the face of tremendous political pressure from supporters of Arp and other powerful people in the county,” said Willett. “While I was interviewing him he often made reference to the notion that the only reason he was doing this was because he knew what happened was wrong and he didn’t want to be a part of covering it up. He knew that he was making a lot of powerful enemies in Loudon County.”
More recently, Jenkins had been battling Tate & Lyle and Kimberly-Clark, two of Loudon County’s largest businesses, over their assessments. The companies recently appealed to the state equalization board, triggering a yearlong process.
Suicides have no simple explanations or causes, and no one can tell what demons haunted Jenkins in his final hours. But the burden of being an honest and dedicated public official must have taken a toll.
“It really hurt Chuck when the special prosecutor found that there was nothing to prosecute in the Arp case,” Willett remembered. “He laughed and told me, ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ “