tic-tac-toe: county overturns mayor veto

Published 12:24 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

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The county is back to square one with the overturn of a veto by county mayor Joe Brooks, who effectively halted a resolution requiring quarterly reports from Claiborne road superintendent Ronnie Pittman. The Claiborne Commission handily wiped out the veto during its meeting last week, which means Claiborne finance officer Angelia Tucker will also be required to submit monthly reports listing all check disbursements.

The adoption of a new resolution has upped the ante for the sheriff and the county mayor, who are now required to submit monthly, rather than quarterly reports detailing certain aspects of their respective offices.

Resolution 2020-011, as amended, also requires all committee members to submit a monthly report. Virtually every commissioner sits on at least one committee.

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The Claiborne Commission voted 18 to 3 last week to overturn the county mayor’s veto of resolution 2019-091. Commissioners Whitt Shuford, Charlton Vass and Nathan Epperson were in favor of allowing the veto to stand.

The long and winding road to this point began in December when a resolution was adopted, requiring Pittman to submit quarterly reports detailing work being done with money raised through the county wheel tax. Just prior to the vote, commissioner Kim Large amended the resolution to include quarterly reports from the sheriff and county mayor. The proposed document was further amended by commissioner Steve Mason to include monthly reports of every check disbursed from the county finance office.

Mayor Brooks drafted a letter, dated Dec. 24, explaining why he had vetoed the resolution. In the letter, he proposed two new resolutions. The first one would have acted as an amendment to the original 2015 wheel tax resolution fixing an apparent oversight by requiring quarterly reports from the road superintendent.

That resolution was indefinitely tabled by a vote of 20 to 1. The motion was made and seconded by commissioners Carolyn Brooks and Shawn Peters. Commissioner Vass was the lone no vote.

It is safe to assume that this resolution was no longer necessary once the veto of resolution 2019-091 was lifted.

The commission spent a good chunk of time discussing the merits of resolution 2020-011, the second document proposed by the county mayor and sponsored by commissioner Shuford.

“This resolution was an attempt to clarify the muddy waters after last meeting. There’s some language in this one that was not in Mr. (commissioner Brent) Clark’s original resolution.

“Down four lines (in the resolution), it says ‘monthly agenda shall be amended to include the following office reports in section one: county mayor’s report and county sheriff’s report’ – that has already been voted on in old business. But, also will be county commissioner reports. Also, down to the bottom of the resolution it includes committee reports. And, what that is, is all these outstanding committees out there that are meeting monthly, bimonthly, quarterly – whatever they may be. That’s just to get that information to us as well, so that we know what’s being discussed in these committees prior to a committee bringing a resolution here and asking us to vote on it after being discussed for several meetings,” said Shuford.

He said the resolution, sponsored in December by commissioner Clark, was drafted in an attempt to get a true account of the work being done with money from the wheel tax revenues.

“As the original vote last month showed, it was unanimous. I think all of us want those because all of us are getting tired of being hit in the grocery store, church or coop with ‘what’s going on with my road.’ This information will truly help us to get that information without everybody hitting Mr. Pittman’s office,” said Shuford.

He said stipulating that the county mayor and sheriff also submit reports “was fine” with him.

“I would never ask anybody to do anything I’m not willing to do, myself. I need to be accountable as much as any elected official in this county.

“As many of you know, I actually started this about four years ago about getting committee reports because, at that time, there were committees meeting all the time and no information (was) brought to this body (the commission) until it was time to vote on something.

“I’ll give you a case in point. The original jail committee met for three years about building a new jail and never once reported back to this body. When you’re looking at those kinds of numbers, we need to know that,” said Shuford.

He said he had just attended the buildings, grounds and personnel committee meeting.

“They discussed several things in that meeting that we need to know.

“They meet every other month. By the time we get the information that they just spoke about at 5:30, you’re looking at May before we get that information. But, if we have any questions when the (monthly committee) reports come in, there’re commissioners that sit on all these committees. They can be questioned and it’s not six months down the road,” said Shuford.

He asked that unapproved minutes be included in the monthly reports as well.

After more discussion, the county mayor suggested the commissioners establish monthly, rather than the current quarterly district town hall meetings. Those could be staggered a week or so prior to the regular commission meetings, he said.

Commissioner Sherry McCreary said her last town hall meeting was attended by just two people – the school principal, who was there to open the doors, and her husband.

“The thing is, we’re voted in office. If we’re not doing our job, we’ll get voted out of office. There’s no point in having to do a report to write down everything – I talk with my constituents and I’ve asked them. None of them think it’s a good idea. They don’t see the point of this,” said McCreary.

She made a motion to have items on the monthly agenda further amended to require monthly committee, rather than commission reports. She also requested that the paragraph calling for monthly commissioner reports (including the keeping of a constituent contact log) be stricken from resolution 2020-011.

The amendment carried with a vote of 16 to 5. Commissioners Shuford, Charlton Vass, Nathan Epperson, Anthony Rowe and Steve Murphy voted against the amendment.

The resolution, as amended, was adopted by a vote of 16 to 5. Commissioners Shuford, Vass, Epperson, Murphy and Shawn Peters voted against the document.

Other district town halls seem to have fared better than McCreary’s latest District 7 one.

Mayor Brooks offered to post information on upcoming town hall meetings and other events on www.ClaiborneCountyTeam.gov. Anyone may do so by contacting his office.