Local News Articles

Knoxville Mayor and GOP Governor Candidate Bill Haslam Visits Smithville

June 25, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb GOP Chairman Jennifer Winfree with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam made a campaign stop in Smithville Wednesday.

The Knoxville Mayor, who was first elected to that office in 2003 and re-elected in 2007, says he now wants to be the Governor of Tennesseee.

Haslam stopped by WJLE to share his views on various issues. "I would consider myself a conservative. I think in terms of believing in limited government, believing that government has to live within its means and understanding that while government has a big role to play that government is not necessarily the answer to all of our problems, I would say that I'm a conservative. Now I do believe that government can be an effective servant tool of the people and that's our job, to make sure we deliver the best service for the lowest price."

"The state right now has a $1.2 billion shortfall in the budget that ends June 30th. We're going to fix that shortfall by using our savings account, our rainy day fund and by using some of the federal stimulus money. The problem for the next governor is that money is not going to be there so you're really going to have to solve that shortfall. I think it's important that our next governor be somebody who is used to dealing with tough financial situations. Having been in business for twenty five years, having been a mayor where I've led the city in a way that our credit rating is the highest that it's been in the history of the city, our debt is 25% lower than it was when I came in, and our savings account is up three times higher than when I came in, I understand how to manage in tough financial situations."

"There's really two other primary concerns that people talk about a lot. The first is jobs. Unemployment in the state is above 10% now and in some of our rural counties its at 20% or more so this is a serious issue. Families are struggling. We need a governor who knows how to recruit businesses to Tennessee to create jobs and for the state's own economic condition. Again, since I've been mayor of Knoxville, for the last three years we've been ranked one of the top ten cities by the people who do those rankings like Forbes magazine and Expansion magazine, as a place to recruit and retain businesses, and as a place to do business, so I understand how to do that."

"The other issue that comes up big for folks everywhere is K-12 education. We rank 42nd out of the fifty states and if we're going to be the state that we want to be long term, we can't continue to follow the pack in education."

"I do not want to see us have an income tax. I actually think not having an income tax is a competitive advantage for us as a state. When we're out recruiting businesses and recruiting people to move to Tennessee, not having an income tax is one of our biggest selling points. It helps to have a full quiver of arrows when you're out there selling and not having an income tax is a big advantage. And if you look at the states around us that have income taxes, they are in as bad or worse shape than we are financially, so I do not think a state income tax is the answer."

"I don't think we can remove the sales tax either, just because competitive wise we have so many areas that border other states where you are at a competitive disadvantage. So I think the answer is to get a handle on spending. We have to live within our means. That's what we're asking families all across the state to do is to live within their means. Well, the state needs to do the same thing."

"TennCare is a big chunk of our budget. It's actually 25% of our budget and at one point in time it was creeping up to 31 or 32% of the budget so we really can't allow it to grow to become a bigger part of the budget. We're going to have to keep doing the things that we can to keep our rolls from expanding and making certain we don't have people that are enrolled in TennCare who shouldn't and making certain that we're buying medical coverage as efficiently and effectively as we can. But that's going to be an on-going struggle. We have to face that fact that TennCare is a big chunk of our budget and due to the cost of medical care, we're always going to be fighting with keeping TennCare where it's a service to those folks who need it but doesn't eat up too much of our budget."

Haslam is running for the Republican nomination for Governor in the August 2010 state primary. Winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries will square off in the 2010 November State General Election.

DeKalb May Jobless Rate at 10.8%

June 25, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County unemployment rate for May was 10.8%, up slightly from the revised rate for April of 10.6% and significantly higher than the 5.6% rate recorded in May, 2008

The local labor force for May was 9,850. A total of 8,790 were employed and 1,060 were unemployed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was at 10.7 percent, 0.8 percentage point higher than the April rate of 9.9 percent. The United States' unemployment rate for the month of May was 9.4 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for May show that the rate increased in 88 counties, decreased in 6 counties and remained the same in one county.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, up from 6.3 in April. Perry County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 24.6 percent, up from 24.0 in April, followed by Lauderdale County at 19.2 percent, up from 18.2 percent in April. These figures do not reflect the impact of job-creation efforts in Perry County that were announced in May.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 8.0 percent, up 0.6 percentage point from the April rate. Davidson County was 8.6 percent, up 0.6. Hamilton County was 8.8 percent, up 0.6 percentage point, and Shelby County was 9.6 percent, up 0.7 percentage point.

Smithville Water Plant Back in Operation

June 25, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Water Treatment Plant-

The Smithville Water Treatment Plant is back in operation again.

Hunter Hendrixson, Secretary-Treasurer for the City of Smithville says the electrical problem was resolved this afternoon with a temporary fix. "At 3:15 p.m. today we were able to restore power down here at the water plant. Our high service pumps that fill our water storage tanks are now in operation and are currently working."

"M& D electric found another "used" breaker board in Sparta and we were able to put that into our existing electrical panel. Caney Fork Electric Cooperative came down and restored the power and the pumps are now up and running. We also have a new breaker box ordered which should be here, hopefully by tomorrow (Friday), and then we'll have a brand new one in there."

Mayor Taft Hendrixson, in a brief statement, said he wants to assure the public that the problem at the water plant did not result in a crisis and that "no one even came close to running out of water. We just wanted to keep the public informed about the situation and everything is now back up and running."

Early this morning, an employee at the water plant discovered that the electrical problem prevented the pumps from operating and with no water being produced, subscribers including city and DeKalb Utility District customers were being asked to conserve.

Just before noon, Hunter Hendrixson, gave the local media an update on what happened and efforts to correct it. "The main breaker on the electrical panel that runs the pumps that sends the water out to the water tanks in the city is burned up. We've got J & S Construction Company and M & D Electric, they're in Sparta looking for a temporary "used" one we can use for right now. If not, the nearest one is in Columbus, Ohio, which we will have shipped overnight. What we may have to do is bypass that breaker to get the pumps up and going to pump water into the city."

"As of right now, the tank near the high school was right under half full and the airport tank was at half full, so it's not bad, but by the end of the day it's going to be getting to where we need to pump more water back into the system for tomorrow's use. Usage usually drops off pretty good toward five, six, and seven p.m. so if we can get through this main part of the day, I think we'll be alright."

Water Plant Supervisor Kenny Dyal, in his statement at 6:00 a.m. this morning, explained when the problem was discovered. "My employee came in this morning to start up the plant at 2:00 a.m. and discovered bad electrical problems down there. We can't pump any water."

Dyal says the issue is not with the pumps, but in the power source. "We can't get enough electricity to them (pumps) to run them. Everything down there runs on three phase, and it's single phasing."

The water plant does not have back up generators, but Dyal says in this case, that would not have solved this problem. "It wouldn't make any difference because more than likely it (problem) is inside a transformer that is inside our electrical boxes and even with a generator, you still couldn't get power to the pumps or to the motors because it's got to go through the inside controls."

Meanwhile, Alderman Tonya Sullivan, responding to today's announcement about the water plant problems, says she is not surprised. "I would like to say I'm in disbelief that the water treatment plant shut down is a surprise, but it was not a surprise. When I toured the plant and made the discoveries of inefficiencies, I brought all the findings to the forefront, but getting anything done has been like pulling teeth. I've been told that things were fine, that I'm over reacting, and that all I want to do is spend money, and that we will for sure have water no matter what. Mr. (Aaron) Meeks added in his (political) advertisements that maybe I'm pushing for a Cadillac when a Chevrolet would do."

"I think the citizens deserve clean water. They deserve water. This is not a third world country. We have citizens that depend on water. We have businesses and factories that must have water to operate. Jobs are on the line and with this tough economy, we can't afford to lose any jobs or any factories. There can be no growth in Smithville or DeKalb County until the infrastructure of this city is brought up to date."

"Employees at the water treatment plant are still not certified. We're operating with only a few people when we are understaffed. It is time to take drastic action with proper staffing and proper renovations. Some of the problems will be addressed but whatever is done today to rectify the immediate problem, I feel is only a band aid effect to the massive problems at the Smithville Water Treatment Plant."

"For two years I've been talking about trying to take action at the water treatment plant and for two years I have continuously addressed these problems. I've had evidence every step of the way, presented photos to the mayor, and all of the aldermen of the serious problems that didn't just start, but have been a long standing problem. The board that will take over July 1st is responsible for the outrageous shape of the water treatment plant, because they have refused to spend money to make needed repairs and maintain equipment as we have needed throughout the years."

"I will leave my position effective July 1st at the people's request, but I'm asking for the people to be involved and outraged at the condition of our water treatment plant. I'm asking that you be vocal and demand the city leaders to follow through with the water treatment plant renovations and not just have a band aid effect on these problems, because there are more problems to come if the money is not spent on these renovations."

Parker Named Manager of Smithville Electric System

June 24, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
SES Board Chairman John Nixon Welcomes New Manager Michael Parker

Smithville Electric System has a new manager.

Michael E. Parker of Aberdeen, Mississippi was recently hired by the SES board of directors to succeed Jim Wall, who has served as manager since 2002. Wall is stepping down primarily due to health concerns.

Parker was among twenty five applicants for the job and John Nixon, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Smithville Electric System says he was the best. "We put out applications through the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association (TVPPA) and received twenty five applications and I would say that most of them were good strong applications. We got one (application) from Mr. Mike Parker who was manager of a municipal system in Mississippi. I talked to him personally and the board talked to him personally and although we received a lot of applications, we thought Mike was the best one (applicant). So we hired him and he went to work on June 15th. We have not been disappointed at all."

Smithville Electric System has been in existence since 1969 and Nixon says Parker is only the fourth person to hold the position of manager of the utility in that forty year period." The first manager was Ed Williams who only stayed a short while until he got a promotion. We then hired Mark Ashburn who stayed here until he retired in 2002. At that time we hired Jim Wall. Mr Wall's health has deteriorated some so he thought it would be best for him to do something else, or retire basically."

Parker, who is originally from Alabama, comes to Smithville after serving as General Manager for an electric utility in Okolona, Mississippi. "I was born in Arab, Alabama and we migrated to Mississippi when I was young. I spent most of my life growing up around the Columbus Air Force base in Mississippi. I've spent most of my working career in the utility business, going on thirty four years now. It's something I got into I can't seem to shake. It seems to be a fit. I've worked in a district office for a four county electric cooperative for twenty seven years and was employed for a municipal system, Okolona Electric for almost seven years. I've been very blessed and very fortunate to have this opportunity in Smithville and hope that I can carry forward what's been in place and has worked for a number of years and to address the challenges that we'll face. I hope we'll prosper and continue to grow at the same rate we have and I sincerely appreciate the confidence that this board has placed in me."

During his years for the City of Okolona, Parker managed twenty seven employees operating in Monroe, Lee, Chickasaw, and Clay Counties serving 5,300 electric consumers and 1,600 water, sewer, and sanitation consumers and oversaw a 2009 annual revenue budget of more than nine million dollars for the electric department.

Parker, who has never been to Smithville before, says he heard about the job opening here from a vendor. "I had someone who is a vendor out of Huntsville, Alabama tell me about this opportunity and suggested that it was probably something I would like, that it was a great community to live in, and that I should check it out."

Parker and his wife Debra have one daughter who is a student at Brenau University at Gainesville, Georgia. She also has a degree in Biology from Ole Miss. The Parkers will be making their home in the Green Meadows subdivision in Smithville.

Smithville Electric System is governed by a five member board of directors, who are appointed by the Mayor. Both John Nixon and Dr. W.E. Vanatta have been members of the board since the utility was established in 1969. Other current members of the board are Tony Hagan and Smithville Alderman Cecil Burger. John Bill Evins was also on the board for many years but he recently passed away. That seat currently remains vacant.

Following a luncheon and prior to the regular board meeting Wednesday, Chairman Nixon and all other members of the board thanked Mr. Wall for his years of dedicated service to Smithville Electric System and the employees of the utility were also on hand to present him a gift.

Gandhi Peace Walk brings California man to Smithville

June 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bert Driver, Sadie Driver, and Dermot Butterly

A California man, who set out thirteen months ago on the Gandhi Peace walk enroute to Washington D.C. stopped over in Smithville this week

Dermot Butterly, a native of County Meade, Ireland has lived in Los Angeles for the past eight years. He came to this country hoping to launch an acting career, but found a greater calling to spread a message of peace, in the tradition of Gandhi. "I moved to the states for fame and fortune, the American dream and all that good stuff. I was an actor so I thought I'd go to L.A. I had an accent and back then I had hair. I thought I'd be the next James Bond but that didn't happen. So I started getting involved in peace studies and really started educating myself about the world."

Butterly, who stayed with the Bert Driver family while he was in town, says he hopes to arrive in the nation's capitol by late summer. "I'll be on the road for about another three months, I'm walking from L.A. to D.C.. I'm just promoting, inspiring, and at times creating peace by talking to high schools, colleges, detention centers, and with anyone and everyone I meet on the road. So the purpose of the walk is to inspire and promote peace from a personal level. We're also raising funds. We're building a community center and an education center for a poor village in India.'

"I just talk to people about peace, what they think about it, and what it means to them, and how they can create more of it in their lives. I teach people some meditation techniques if they want it, some yoga, and a lot of that California stuff..'

"For the first eight months I dressed as Gandhi, with the shawl, the glasses, the stick, and the dhoti, otherwise known as a huge manly diaper. I was dressed as him, but I found that it kind of freaked out a lot of people so for the last three or four months I let go of all that and now I just wear my Gandhi tee shirt and hat and that seems to make it a lot easier to talk to people.'

"When we arrive in Washington, we'll have a twenty four hour peace vigil outside the White House. We'll have meditation for peace, singing for peace, chanting for peace, dancing for peace, and poets for peace. Anything and everything to just draw some attention and get as many people out there as we can."

To learn about the Gandhi Peace Walk visit http://gandhipeace.com/

State Democratic Party Chairman Urges Local Democrats to Unite for 2010

June 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester and Faye Fuqua
State and Local Democratic Leaders

The Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party says a grassroots effort is being organized across the state to put more Democrats in office next year.

Chip Forrester was in Smithville Tuesday night at city hall to address the party faithful during a meeting of the DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee. Many local Democratic leaders and public officials attended.

Forrester says the mission is to launch an Obama like campaign to hold on to the Governors seat and to win back control of the State House and State Senate in the 2010 elections. "I'm here to talk about 2010 and the critical work for Democrats in this state. My job tonight was to talk to the Democrats in DeKalb County about what steps we need to take to link us altogether in 2010."

"We're going to adopt Barack Obama's playbook. We saw the most incredible Presidential campaign in modern history that Barack Obama put together including the communication skills and the fundraising capabilities so we're adopting the Barack Obama playbook and that means communicating and building a group of connected, committed Democratic activists to do this work for 2010."

"My job right now is to work with House Caucus Chair Mike Turner to provide the boots on the ground, the trained Democratic activists to do this work for 2010. We will target eight to ten races in this next election cycle. We know State Senator Mae Beavers is not running for re-election. This is a Senate seat that we definitely can take. We have a couple of good candidates who are looking at it already. State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver's seat is one we're going to target. We know we can win this one back. What's important about that is redistricting comes up in 2011 and it's important that we assure that Democrats control that redistricting pen to make a fair and honest redistricting process take place."

"One of the reasons people are enthused and excited is that they've seen what it's like to live with a Republican controlled legislature. Of the ninety five county election commissions, they've all changed to Republican control and forty plus election coordinators have been fired for purely partisan reasons. We've seen the kind of legislation that they focused on. Governor Bredesen focused on jobs, health care, and economic development, and the Republicans focused on everything but that. So people have had a taste of what it's like to live under a Republican controlled legislature and I think in 2010 they're going to know that it's important that Democrats be in the driver seat.."

(Top Photo- Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester with DeKalb County Democratic Party Chair Fay Fuqua)

(Bottom Photo- left to right- State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, DeKalb County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Jim Judkins, DeKalb Junior High Young Democrats President Jordan Wilkins, 17th District State Executive Committee Member David Harper, and DeKalb Democratic Party Chair Fay Fuqua)

Jeep Wrangler Stolen from Car Lot

June 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police are investigating the theft of a 1997 Jeep Wrangler last week from the Auto Hut at 317 West Broad Street.

Officer Matt Farmer reports that John Alsup, owner of the business, told police that the vehicle was on the lot parked under the carport when he left at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 17th. Alsup said he noticed the vehicle missing when he came to work the next morning around 8:30 a.m. The missing vehicle is a 1997 Jeep Wrangler with a black soft top. It appears that the vehicle was driven out the back of the lot across the grass to Wade Street. The keys to the vehicle were still in the office. In the report, Officer Farmer states "I canvassed the neighborhood talking to most of the residents surrounding the business. One of the neighbors said they heard a loud noise sometime after midnight. Another said they heard a loud boom around 3:00 a.m. I could not find anyone who saw anything."

Meanwhile in other recent crime news from the Smithville Police Department, 27 year old Deanna B. Pedigo was charged on June 10th with simple possession of a schedule III and V controlled substance, resisting arrest, a second offense of driving under the influence, and a third offense of driving on a revoked license..

Officer Mark Milam reports that Pedigo was stopped for operating a motor vehicle erratically on Walker Drive. A computer check revealed that her license was revoked for a DUI on March 3rd, 2005 in Smith County and other offenses on June 2nd, 2005 in Smith County and June 2, 2004 in DeKalb County.

According to police, she refused to be handcuffed and officers had to take her to the ground to cuff her. She tried to pull away from them. She was very unsteady on her feet and had very slurred speech. She performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks and she refused to take a blood test.

Pedigo was arrested for driving under the influence and while inventorying the vehicle for a tow, a cigarette package was found containing three pieces of suboxone pills, a schedule V drug, and six pills of a different drug believed to be a schedule III controlled substance.

24 year old Armando R. Celaya is charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident on Sunday, June 14th. His bond is $2,000 and he will be in court June 25th.

Officer Matt Holmes reports that Celaya was operating a motor vehicle on Highway 70 and was involved in an accident. He was later found at 1190 Smith Road. Celaya had an odor of alcohol on his person and was unsteady on his feet. He blew a .177 on the Breathalyzer and performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. The accident damaged the side walk on Broad Street and his vehicle.

23 year old Brandon Lee Cantrell is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court July 2nd. Officer Nathan Estes reports that he responded to the area of Brown Street and Forrest Avenue on Friday, June 19th to a possible intoxicated person. Dispatch advised that the male subject was causing a disturbance by yelling and cursing at another resident on Forrest Avenue. Upon arrival, Officer Estes says he saw the man go behind the house. Upon making contact with him, Officer Estes found the man to be very impaired. He was very unsteady on his feet, had slurred speech, and had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person.

48 year old Kenneth Odom of Murfreesboro is charged with public intoxication, simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and theft of property under $500. He will be in court June 25th.

Officer Travis Bryant reports that on June 13th, police were called to Kwik-N-Ezy where an intoxicated person was in the store. Upon arrival, they learned that Odom was locked in the bathroom. When they got in the bathroom, officers found that Odom had slurred speech and he was unsteady on his feet. Also in plain view on the sink were a hypodermic needle and a yellow pill believed to be Dilaudid, a schedule II controlled substance. When officers got him out, they also found a bag of partially eaten pork skins, which the clerk claims Odom had not paid for.

45 year old Paul Andrew Hall is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court July 2nd.

Officer Matt Farmer says he responded to a domestic at the hospital emergency room on June 18th. Upon arrival, police were advised by nurses and other personnel that Hall had assaulted his wife. He hit her about her face, causing visible marks. She had swelling and bruising to the left side of her head. She had a cut to her ear where her earrings were ripped off. She had red marks on her neck. Police say Hall admitted to hitting her.

29 year old Jose Alfonso Hernandez is charged with disorderly conduct. His bond is $2,500.

Officer Randy King, in his report, states that on June 21st he responded to a disturbance call at 920 Short Mountain Trailer Park. Police saw a male subject outside the residence who fled on foot upon seeing the officers. The victim, through an interpreter, told police that Hernandez was beating on the door attempting to enter the residence. He is not to be at the residence. Due to his actions and being intoxicated, this caused the residents of the trailer park to be alarmed.

20 year old Jacob R. Daley is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court June 25th.

Sergeant Joey Jones reports that on June 17th at Royal Oaks Apartment on Miller Road, Daley assaulted his girlfriend by pushing her up against the wall and yelling at her about a cell phone and camera.

Two Injured in Monday Afternoon Crash

June 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Two Injured in Monday Crash on Highway 70 East (photo by Callie Matthews)
Two Injured in Monday Crash (photo by Callie Matthews)

Two people were injured Monday afternoon in a two vehicle crash on Highway 70 at the top of the hill east of Sligo Bridge.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, 35 year old Christopher R. Friant of Sparta, who was traveling west on Highway 70 in a 1998 Kia Sportage, slowed for a vehicle turning left in front of him, when he skidded and lost control, making contact with an eastbound vehicle near the center line. The eastbound vehicle, a 1994 Chevrolet GEO, was driven by 21 year old Shaleen Mooney of Adams Street, Smithville.

Mooney was extricated from her vehicle by members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department Extrication and Rescue Team. She was then airlifted from near the scene by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Friant was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

The accident was investigated by Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Trooper Darrell Knowles assisted. Also on the scene were members of the Sheriff's Department and the Johnson's Chapel Station of the county fire department.

Meanwhile, a 17 year old Alexandria girl was treated and released from the hospital at Carthage following a one car accident Monday afternoon on Walker Creek Road in DeKalb County.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says the girl, whose name he would not release because she is a juvenile, was driving east in a 2000 Hyundai when she ran off the edge of the road, overcorrected, then ran off the road again. The car went into a clockwise spin and came to rest in a creek bed facing west.

The girl, who resides on New Hope Road, was transported to the Carthage hospital by DeKalb EMS.

Peterson Files Lawsuit Against Election Commission

June 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lisa Peterson

Lisa Peterson, former DeKalb County election administrator who lost her job in April when a Republican-majority election commission took over has filed a lawsuit against the commission claiming they conspired before taking office to fire her.

Peterson, who had been election administrator for DeKalb County since 1998, filed the suit in Chancery Court Friday.

In the lawsuit, Peterson is asking the court to declare the action of the election commission terminating her as arbitrary, illegal, and void.

Peterson is further requesting that the court, pursuant to state law and upon a final hearing, order the election commission to immediately reinstate her to the position as administrator of elections and award her back pay, compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000 and the penalty allowed by law, and that the court grant all other relief it deems equitable and appropriate.

During a meeting of the election commission on Friday, April 24th at the courthouse, Nolan Turner, a Democrat, made a motion to place Peterson's name in nomination for re-appointment to the position. Democrat Kenneth Moore seconded the motion. Republican members Barbara Vanatta and Jim Dean voted against Peterson and Republican Chairman Walteen Parker chose not to vote.

After Peterson failed to get the three votes she needed, Dean then placed Dennis Stanley's name in nomination for administrator. Vanatta seconded the motion. Chairman Parker joined them in voting for Stanley while Turner and Moore voted no. Stanley is now the Administrator of Elections for DeKalb County

The lawsuit states that "At all times during her tenure as administrator of elections, Ms. Peterson ably performed her job and carried out the duties of the office with political impartiality and in accordance with the law and the trust placed in her to be responsible for the daily operations of their office and the execution of all elections."

"Members of the Commission are appointed in compliance with state law. Three appointees on the Commission are required to be members of the majority party in the state legislature and two appointees are members of the minority party.'

"Upon information and belief, prior to their appointment or reappointment as County Election Commissioners, the majority party appointees to the Commission committed and pledged to members and officials of the state and county Republican party, as a requisite condition of their appointment to the Commission, to replace Ms. Peterson and appoint a member of the Republican party to replace her."

"Prior to the April 24th, 2009 public meeting of the Commission, the three majority party appointees to the Commission held a meeting and communicated and deliberated in private; secretly decided and agreed to terminate Ms. Peterson's employment and secretly decided and agreed to appoint a Republican to the position of administrator of elections."

"At the April 24th, 2009 meeting of the Commission, the three majority party members of the Commission appointed a new administrator of elections, effectively terminating Ms. Peterson's employment on the sole basis of her perceived political party affiliation which differed from the majority party members of the Commission."

"At the April 24th, 2009 meeting of the Commission, which was chaired and controlled by a majority party member, the Commission failed to consider "the knowledge and experience of such prospective appointee in the following areas: administrative, managerial, instructional, communication, budgetarial, purchasing, promotional, legal, and general office skills and other related skills necessary to fulfill the statutory requirements of administrator" when evaluating its prospective appointee as mandated by state law."

"It is unlawful to impose a political test for the office of administrator of elections. Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee states as follows: That no political or religious test, other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State."

The lawsuit alleges that "The termination of Ms. Peterson was arbitrary and illegal, without cause, and contrary to the legal obligations of the Commission; it was in direct violation of the Open Meetings Act, State law, and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee."

Peterson further alleges that "The Commission violated the Open Meetings Act, State law, which applies to the DeKalb County Election Commission, by a majority of its members' meeting, communicating, and deliberating in private, secretly decided and agreeing to terminate Ms. Peterson's employment, and secretly deciding and agreeing to appoint a Republican to the position of administrator of elections prior to the April 24th, 2009 public meeting of the commission."

"The Commission's act of terminating Ms. Peterson and appointing a new Republican administrator of elections should be deemed null and void."

Peterson is being represented by the law office Blackburn & McCune, PPLC in Nashville. Gary Blackburn is the lead attorney of the firm.

Beavers and Weaver Vote Against State Budget and Bridge Bonding Bill

June 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Opposed to the idea of the state borrowing money, State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver both voted against the bridge bonding bill last week in the General Assembly.

The legislature initially considered a bill to issue $350 million in bonds next year for approximately 100 bridges around the state, but rather than borrow the money all at once, state lawmakers adopted a version of the bill to spread it out over four years, giving them a chance to reconsider if the state's financial situation continues to worsen.

Senator Beavers, in an interview with WJLE Friday, said Sligo Bridge remains on the list of "high priority" bridges and she is hopeful that the Tennessee Department of Transportation will use available funds to replace it without the state having to issue general obligation bonds. " I'm against bonding. We're in a place where in Washington they're absolutely borrowing our children and grandchildren into the biggest hole we've ever seen in this country. And for the state to take the same path as the federal government and pass the bonding bill on roads, bridges, or anything, I think was irresponsible. It was more of a statement about my principles personally and the way I've lived my life. We don't borrow money using credit cards when you can't afford to repay it. I think Government should be run the same way."

"What happened on the bonds, there were $350 million in bonds on bridges proposed. The Governor had planned to pay for those over a twelve year period and to pay the interest with stimulus money. It was irresponsible to do that because we knew that the stimulus money would not last that long. So the version of the bill that passed was one to issue $87 million a year for the next three years. It did not extend it out over twelve years," said Beavers

Senator Beavers says lawmakers have been told the state could eventually get more federal stimulus money and those funds, if they come in, could be used for highest priority bridges including Sligo. "The State Comptroller thinks more stimulus money is coming in. He said the money was there."

If additional stimulus money does not come in, Senator Beavers says the state would have the authority to issue general obligation bonds to fund the Sligo project. "The list (of bridges) that we originally had in the budget, the highest priority list that we had seen, had the Sligo bridge as the number two bridge. So if the (Transportation) Commissioner does the right thing and the stimulus money comes in, it (Sligo bridge) will be number two to be funded. If the stimulus money does not come in and they do end up issuing these bonds, it should still be in that first issue of bonds in November. I think you'll see some decision made. You know how political decisions can get on the hill and I would make no guess but I would certainly hope that the Commissioner would do the right thing for the people of DeKalb County, especially those people who would be so seriously affected by the closing of that bridge should that have to occur in the next two or three years. I have stressed that the Sligo bridge and the Cordell Hull bridge (in Smith County) have got to be done."

Senator Beavers also voted against passage of the state budget, preferring instead a Senate version of the spending plan, which the House rejected. "At the end of last week, the Senate thought they had a good version of the budget worked out that I could vote for. Actually they had taken about $67 million in cuts that the Governor had on a proposed list of cuts back before the revenue projections came in on June 6th. Well on June 6th the Governor decided to go with the high end of the revenue projections for the next year and he based his budget on that. We thought that was a bad idea, not knowing what the economy was going to do, and seeing the decreasing revenues in the State of Tennessee. So we (Senate) came up with our own budget. The budget did not include the bonding for the bridges but it set out language in it that when the next stimulus money comes in, it would be for the top six high priority bridges, two of which are Sligo bridge and Cordell Hull bridge in Smith County. But all of that went sour the first of the week. The State House did not like our (Senate) budget and they started negotiating and unfortunately what we came out with, I didn't like, so I voted against the budget, voted against the bonding bill, and voted against breaking the "Copeland Cap" which ties the growth of the state government budget to the growth of personal income. With the stimulus money, it put us over that (cap) and it will put us in a dire situation next year unless the economy really gets going, and we just don't see that happening. I thought it was inconsistent to vote against breaking the "Copeland Cap" and then vote for the budget because I think they go hand in hand."

"We have to have a balanced budget in the State of Tennessee. With the budget that was passed I think we're going to see some dire circumstances this next year and more drastic cuts. I saw this year as one in which we could ward off some of the drastic cuts that would have to be made next year but I think this budget was pretty irresponsible in that respect."

"Unfortunately some state employees lost their jobs this year. I really have an issue with that when I still see some pork in the budget for museums, fish hatcheries, and other things. I took issue with some of the things that went on this year."

Meanwhile, in her weekly legislative wrap, State Representative Weaver gave her reasons for opposing the budget and the bridge bonding bill. "You just can't spend what you do not take in. Tennessee cannot act like Washington and just print more money. We must act responsibly by taking a conservative fiscal approach."

" The budget we were given contained many good things I support however it also consisted of many irresponsible principles that I could not swallow. Rather than making the tough cuts this year that every other state is making, this budget passes the buck assuming that our revenues are growing. Basing our budget on what we think we will take in is a recipe for disaster. So along with eleven other fellow members, I voted to send it back to the drawing board. This is not the time to borrow money we cannot afford. If the Governor is so intent on borrowing why not borrow money to fund the "pork" projects like the museums in Memphis? But no, instead he chose to put our most important bridges at risk of being funded at all."

" Although this budget decreased the Governor's original plan by 10%, we are still $1.2 billion dollars short in revenues, growing the government by $6 billion dollars during this administration and now using one time stimulus funds on recurring expenditures. It would be like making your monthly mortgage payment with your one time tax refund! This would not be done in our household budget and it certainly should not be done on our State Budget."

" Again I stood true to my principles and did what I believed was right for the state of Tennessee. I believe history will prove that a "no" vote was the right vote on this budget."

"Concerning the two bridge projects, Sligo and Cordell Hull, I worked hard to ensure they both be placed in the budget, of which they are. However the Governor instead chose to put our most important bridges on the Bonding Bill. Last I looked both were top priority bridges for 2010."

"Due to the fact that I had the privilege to work closely with the top financial officers of the state, our Treasurer and Comptroller, it gave me the opportunity to understand this most complicated bill called the Governor's budget. Our Constitution requires a balanced budget be passed by June 30th. In order to prevent a government shut down this budget passed and I could not support it."

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