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Hornbeak OKs city employees running for office

Hornbeak OKs city employees running for office

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
A revised ordinance which will allow a Hornbeak city employee to serve as an alderman was approved by the town’s board Tuesday night.
The newly-written ordinance was approved by a 4-0 vote, replacing a similar ordinance approved by the board almost two weeks ago.
The action came on the heels of the board’s decision earlier last month to ask alderman Paul Truett to resign in order to avoid a possible conflict with his also working for the town.
Truett does contract labor for the town and works to maintain its sewer system. He is retired from Goodyear and he runs the Hornbeak Water Utility District.
At the town’s Jan. 8 board meeting, it was revealed that Truett is now a certified sewer collection agent for Tennessee and, according to the state, a problem could exist with his possibly illegally serving on the board because he works for the town. The Municipal Technical Advisory Service had recommended against his serving as an alderman, but Hornbeak Mayor Dennis Dozier had emphasized what MTAS offered was simply “advice.”
Dozier had explained that, according to the advice given, the only way Truett could continue to serve as an alderman was if the board passed an ordinance allowing city employees to serve in that capacity. Some board members had questioned the liability on the town and the board ultimately voted 4-2 at the Jan. 8 meeting to ask Truett to resign from the board.
In the aftermath, though, aldermen met in called session Jan. 24 to specifically discuss the sewer collection operator position and the alderman position. At that time, they voted 4-0 to approve the first reading of a proposed ordinance which would allow a city employee to serve on Hornbeak’s board of aldermen.
The second reading of the ordinance was scheduled for Tuesday night, but Dozier instead presented aldermen with a newly-worded ordinance suggested and written by the Municipal Technical Advisory Ser-vices’ legal department.
The new ordinance simply changes some of the wording the town had used in drafting the first ordinance and also authorizes city employees to run for elected office in Hornbeak. It also requires two readings.
According to the ordin-ance, Tennessee Code Annotated specifically prohibits city employees from qualifying to run for elected office in the local municipal governing body unless the town board authorizes such service on the board by ordinance.
The same right for every citizen of Hornbeak to seek and hold public office is also being extended to employees of the town through the ordinance.
Dozier said the new ordinance was written by MTAS’ legal division and “is legal,” making it possible for Truett — and any other city employee — to serve on the board. He urged the aldermen to examine it thoroughly and to vote their consciences.
Alderman Debi Jerden made the motion to approve the ordinance on first reading, prompting some discussion among the seven-member board about the legality and any liability on the town. Dozier said a similar ordinance was approved in Bruceton and he said, “This is our town.”
Board members also discussed other options for maintenance of the town’s sewer system in the event they lose Truett’s services and they learned other options could be extremely costly. Truett has completed extensive training and is very familiar with his hometown’s system.
“Mr. Truett is a benefit to this town,” Dozier said.
The mayor said the ordinance also protects Truett and there was discussion of the possibility of his having to pay back any money he had ever earned from the town.
Alderman Leon Walden said he also spoke with someone at MTAS and was assured the ordinance would protect the town, and he urged his fellow aldermen to “do what’s best for Hornbeak.” Alderman Don Petty said the town functions largely due to volunteers and he said he was initially deterred from keeping Truett on the board because of the use of the word illegal. Ms. Jerden said MTAS would not suggest something which would be illegal for the town.
Truett said he also spoke with the state comptroller’s office and was told the town will be fine, as long as the ordinance is approved.
Vice Mayor Lynn Finch seconded Ms. Jerden’s motion to approve the ordinance and it was approved by a 4-0 vote. Voting in favor of it were Finch, Ms. Jerden, Petty and alderman Randy Phelps. Among those who abstained were Truett, Walden and alderman Robbie Riley.
Other action
In other action during Tuesday night’s 45-minute meeting, opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer led by Walden, the board:
• Approved a sewer resolution to tentatively accept a bid of $480,053.45 from Revell Construction for the third phase of the town’s sewer project, pending Rural Development approval.
Bids were opened Jan. 24, with two received, according to town officials. Revell did the first two phases of the sewer project.
• Learned there have been a number of complaints about dogs and discussed the need for a vicious dog ordinance in the wake of a pit bull complaint. Discussion of the dog problem will be placed on the agenda for next month’s board meeting.
• Approved payment of a number of invoices, including $250 for a bar code reader for the fire department; $276.20 to O’Reilly Auto Parts for repairs to the town’s police patrol car; $338 to Cam Electric for maintenance work on a generator; and $530.37 to Blackley Motors for servicing a fire engine. The invoices pertaining to the fire department were paid from the fire department’s fund.
• Appointed aldermen to serve on the town’s various committees.
• Learned city recorder Joyce Truett will graduate Feb. 22 in Nashville after completing training to become a certified municipal finance officer.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 2.6.13

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