Commission sweats the charitable contributions

Published 7:36 am Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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The Claiborne County Commission took a substantial amount of time sweating over the long list of charitable contributions made annually to the various county nonprofit organizations.

A few of the contributions were apparently reduced during the budget negotiations for the new fiscal year.

Commissioner Kim Large brought a request to the floor during the extended discussion. Large proposed making it mandatory that every recipient of a charitable contribution be required to submit receipts or a report outlining how the money was spent.

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“We have a taxpayer that comes to us and wants to know what they spent the money on,” said Large. “We’re talking about roughly $135,000 of taxpayers’ money which is almost 3 cents of land taxes. I just think that, if you ask for the money, show the budget committee or governing body receipts of what it was spent on.”

Commissioner Steve Brogan said the receipts should be in the organizations’ books. Some of the commissioners seemed to agree with the assessment.

Commissioner Shawn Peters said that, although he is in favor of the suggestion, he is concerned about the extra work involved for the Claiborne Finance Department.

Commissioner Whitt Shuford suggested the entities submit the current fiscal year receipts during requests for donations during budget negotiations the following year.

“That’s going to be labor-intensive for somebody,” said Shuford.

Later in the discussion, county attorney James Estep III clarified state statutes on this issue. Estep said each entity must submit an annual report of its business affairs and transactions along with the proposed use of the county’s funds in accordance with rules adopted by the state comptroller.

Earlier in the discussion, the commissioners unanimously approved amendments to the long list of charitable contributions.

The commissioners decided to allocate to the Animal Shelter an extra $10,000, making the total donation $20,000 – the same amount as was given last fiscal year. Also on the list was Cumberland Mountain Industries to whom the commissioners added an extra $10,000 to the original $5,000 – raising the donation to the same amount as was allocated last year. The extra funds will allow the facility to pay its portion of the match to a grant to purchase two vans.

Commissioner Steve Brogan further amended the original resolution to add $5,000 to each of the three county community centers with the caveat that those centers submit to the county proof of expenditures.

The contribution for “Stand in the Gap” was also increased from $2,500 to a total of $5,000.

After more discussion, the heavily amended resolution was unanimously adopted.

In other action, county mayor Joe Brooks decided to use his veto stamp on a resolution presented the previous month notifying the commissioners of the reappointments of four members of the Claiborne Economic & Community Development Board (ECD). Brooks said during the August meeting of the Commission that he had no choice but to veto resolution 2020-060, effectively making the reappointments null and void.

Brooks said he had been in contact with CTAS (County Technical Advisory Service) about the issue.

“The reason I vetoed it is to give you all control of the board that you should not have ever lost control of,” said Brooks.

It looks as though a mix-up occurred when the county decided in 2014 to change the board name.

“You only changed the name locally. But, on the secretary of state side, it’s still filed in annual reports as the Industrial Development Board of Claiborne County. It’s not listed as ECD. The state does not recognize the name change,” said Brooks.

The original resolution notifying the commissioners of the appointments states that the Industrial Development Board is given authority via its bylaws to appoint its own members. Brooks said that, by state law, this is incorrect.

Commissioner Brent Clark, who sponsored the resolution, agreed.

“The T.C.A. (Tennessee Codes Annotated) trumps their (the ECD) bylaws. The Industrial Board basically writes recommendations to us. We accept it or reject it from there,” said Clark.

The county attorney agreed, saying state statute provides the county legislative body with the authority to choose the members of the Industrial Development Board. By overriding the veto, the commission essentially approves the reappointment of those listed in the resolution, he said.

With a vote of 19 to 2, the commissioners overturned the veto, thereby appointing Elizabeth Giles, John Schneider, Ken Jones and Danny England to four-year terms.

The two ‘no’ votes were made by commissioners Charlton Vass and Steve Murphy.