Tensions Rise at County Commission Committee of the Whole Meeting

June 27, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

A social media feud between a county commissioner and the director of the 911 center over first responder response time to a minor injury three car accident in Alexandria earlier this month has made its way to the full county commission.

During a county commission committee of the whole meeting Thursday night (June 23) Brad Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb Emergency Communications District, called out First District Commissioner Julie Young for comments she had posted on Facebook questioning when first responders were dispatched to the accident on June 9 in front of her home in Alexandria. Young had echoed those same concerns at a June 9 budget committee meeting held the same day as the accident.

Mullinax claims Commissioner Young posted what was perceived by him and others to be disparaging remarks against the 911 staff over the June 9 incident without first obtaining the facts. He further claims that the story she posted and later told at the county budget committee meeting June 9 is not consistent with what the actual 911 recordings reveal.

Mullinax said he got involved after learning what Commissioner Young had said and posted and asked that he be permitted to address the county commission to set the record straight. Mullinax was given that opportunity Thursday night (June 23).

Knowing that Mullinax was planning to address the commission, Commissioner Young had sent out emails to County Mayor Tim Stribling and members of the commission seeking a copy of the June 9 budget committee meeting as well as a referral to the county commission’s ethics committee over what she considered rumors and slanderous comments made toward her in response to her Facebook posts.

County Mayor Stribling read young’s email to the county commission Thursday night (June 23) and then responded to her call for an ethics committee probe.

“It says Tim and fellow commissioners I have been accused of throwing our emergency service workers under the bus at our budget meeting (June 9) by Brad Mullinax. Tim, I am requesting a complete copy be made available to me and all the commissioners prior to our workshop (Thursday, June 23). Also, a copy can be sent to Brad Mullinax and to the 911 department. If we need to it can be released on WJLE for the county to hear. We might need the ethics committee to look at who started the slander of me by starting the rumors that Brad Mullinax posted on my Facebook page”, said Stribling reading from Commissioner Young’s email.

“I don’t have a copy of the meeting,” said County Mayor Stribling during Thursday night’s meeting (June 23). “We don’t tape budget committee meetings. Kristie (Nokes) takes minutes and records the motions and seconds and what we do that require a vote, but I don’t tape any committee meetings. All of you have an ethics policy but ethics deals with two things: conflict of interest and accepting gifts, bribes, or money,”

Following Stribling’s remarks, Mullinax was allowed to address the county commission Thursday night (June 23).

“I was told that Ms Julie Young was airing out things and that one of our county commissioners had commented on something she had posted. Julie Young posted I have asked three times that Alexandria first responders be paged out to the wreck. The county commissioner who responded to the post wrote “not good”. This was an hour after the incident (wreck June 9). Julie Young never called me. She never contacted either of the 911 board members that are here tonight. She chose to air out laundry on social media without first verifying the facts,” said Mullinax.

Mullinax then went on to give a timeline of how the June 9 accident was handled by the 911 dispatch center and he played for the county commissioners actual recordings of the 911 calls and pages that were received and dispatched by 911 to support what he was saying.

“This incident occurred on June 9, 2022 at 16:23 (4:23 p.m.). That is when we (911) received the call,” said Mullinax. “All (calls) are GPS timed. When calls are received recordings are started and once calls are dispatched every piece of equipment is documented. It is a requirement by the State of Tennessee. It’s also required that we have a voice logging recorder that logs every 911 call”.

After the initial call came in about the wreck, Mullinax said 911 had to establish the location of the crash and in this case the man on the line, one of the wreck victims, was at first disoriented and slow to respond.

“For the first 30-40 seconds of this call we had no one on the line This was kind of like an Onstar call. He (wreck victim) didn’t realize his car or phone had called 911. Caleb (911 dispatcher) was trying to talk to him but nobody was responding. He finally came on the line, but this guy (wreck victim) was not from here and had no idea where he was or what road he was on. He was actually probably in a little bit of emotional shock. Due to some of the technology we have he (dispatcher) was able to do a phase two lookup and plot him on Nashville Highway and within less than two minutes from the time the call was received, and we determined that he was in a wreck and where he was, we dispatched a deputy,” Mullinax continued.

“The next thing we wanted to find out was how many cars were involved and how many people were injured. He (wreck victim) said he didn’t think anybody was hurt and that everybody was out walking around. We sent an ambulance down there and from what I understand there were six refusals (wreck victims refused transport to the hospital). But at 16:27 (4:27 p.m.) he (wreck victim on the line) said there was a lady there with a scratch on her arm. Once we made that determination at 16:28 (4:28 p.m.) we paged all of our responders. We paged DeKalb County First Responders, Alexandria First Responders, DeKalb EMS, DeKalb Fire, and Alexandria Fire with the voice pagers. This is the audio that goes over the air to all the responders. I have verified that some fire department members and EMS personnel that were paged did go out and it was on the recorder. Then after we got our primary agencies dispatched, we called the THP because at this point, we know there are injuries. The county sheriff’s department does not work motor vehicle accidents. We (911) have no control over how long it takes them (first responders) to get from point A to Point B. At 16:33 (4:33 p.m.) EMS went enroute. Four seconds after EMS went enroute we got a call from Ms. Julie Young on 911 stating that THP was there and (during the call) she asked three times if responders had been dispatched and she was answered three times by Caleb (911 dispatcher) that responders had been dispatched and were enroute. That went on three times. She then concluded the call saying, “this is Julie Young, first district county commissioner and I will be timing your response”. Mullinax added that this comment from Commissioner Young was a little bit intimidating to the staff because “usually our county commissioners don’t greet us like that when they call”.

Mullinax played for the county commission Thursday night (June 23) the actual recording of the call Commissioner Young made on the emergency 911 line reporting the crash June 9.

Dispatcher: “DeKalb 911 what is your emergency?”

Commissioner Julie Young: Yes, there is a wreck in front of my house in Alexandria 31492 Nashville Highway.

Dispatcher: “Can you tell me what vehicles are involved?”

Commissioner Young: “It’s a head on. It happened about 15 minutes ago so I assume someone has called. There is a gray small car like a Ford. There is a kid and a woman. There is a white truck and then another white truck tailgated that white truck. The guys that are injured are trying their best to direct traffic, so I was just wondering if Alexandria has been paged out to get up here and do something?”

Dispatcher: “They did call just a couple of minutes ago right before you did. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the same accident, but we do have everybody headed that way”.

Commissioner Young: “Yes. Ok. This is Julie Williams Young I am the county commissioner down here and I was just wondered if anybody is coming?”

Dispatcher: “Yes they are headed that way”

Commissioner Young: “Have you paged Alexandria first responders?”

Dispatcher: “Yes we have”

Commissioner Young: “Alright I am going to time them and see how long it takes to get here”.

Dispatcher: Alright. They are headed that way”

Commissioner Young: “Thank you. And you did page Alexandria?”

Dispatcher: “Yes ma’am”

Commissioner Young: “Thank you very much. Who am I speaking with?”.

Dispatcher: “This is operator 814”

Commissioner Young: “Operator 814 thank you very much”

Dispatcher: “You are welcome”

Mullinax also played for the county commission Thursday night a WJLE recording of Commissioner Young’s comments during the June 9 budget committee meeting in which she referenced the June 9 incident in making her case for the county funding another ambulance based on need.

“I sat on my front yard today (June 9) and there was an accident at my house. I called 911 and had to ask the 911 person three times because it had been 20 minutes for them to page Alexandria first responders. The state trooper got there before anybody in this county. Alexandria, Liberty, Smithville, nobody. The state trooper was on the scene before anybody in this county came to help those people. A woman and a child and six other individuals,” said Commissioner Young during that meeting.

County Mayor Tim Stribling responded to Commissioner Young at the June 9 budget meeting that the county already has three ambulances, and they were all available that day (June 9). “We had three ambulances today. We have already funded a third ambulance to run from 8 in the morning to 8 o’clock at night if it can be staffed,” said Stribling.

After playing the recordings for the county commission Thursday night (June 23), Mullinax concluded his presentation by saying “Clearly there is a pretty big difference in the story that was on Facebook and social media and what was actually said at the budget committee meeting compared to what the actual call was. This is not about politics with me or any kind of personal vendetta. Its about professionalism and having the common courtesy to give me a call. I welcome anybody to call me anytime and if there is a problem I will get to the bottom of it,” said Mullinax.

While admitting she could have chosen better wording in her Facebook posts, Commissioner Young denied allegations that she doesn’t support EMS as she claims Mullinax tried to imply in Facebook posts responding to hers

“I think common courtesy goes both ways. I would have never known anything if you (Mullinax) hadn’t popped up on my Facebook post nor anything about anybody leaving the meeting after the budget meeting (June 9) and telling you I threw EMS under the bus according to your Facebook post. I can read all the back-and-forth posts out loud. I’ve got them calling me a liar. I have been to your 911 center multiple times since I have been a commissioner. I have thanked and appreciated you (Mullinax). I supported you (Mullinax) at the hospital (former chief administrative officer) and tried to work with you to see if you could get the hospital to pay $69,000 a year for a shift on an ambulance crew. I kind of feel a knife stuck in my back by you because you of all people saying I don’t support but playing like I support EMS after as many years as I have been a commissioner over this one kind of a misunderstanding due to my poor word choice (in Facebook post). I will be the first one to admit that was my poor word choice, but you can’t crucify me on a Facebook post and then come in here and say oh, I don’t do that,” said Commissioner Young.

Mullinax shot back “Yes, I can. You called out our agency (E911) specifically and you told a blatant lie and you sat right here at this meeting (June 9) and said the same thing. If you polled these people right here (county commissioners) about what you said in that budget committee meeting (June 9) and what was said on your Facebook page I’d bet you nine out of ten would say you was attacking 911”.

Commissioner Young then asked, “who in here thought I was attacking 911?”

“It did kind of sound negative toward 911 because when you posted that out on Facebook it’s going to give the public a negative image that it took them (911) 20 minutes to page anybody,” answered Commissioner Matt Adcock.

Despite the tape recording of the June 9th budget meeting, Commissioner Young denied making the allegation that it took 20 minutes for 911 to page first responders to the June 9 accident but added that she had a photograph showing only a state trooper on the scene when she made the call.

Young said the reason she placed that 911 call on June 9th was because of a wreck the Sunday before (June 5) that occurred at Alexandria in which she claims Alexandria first responders had not been paged.

“There was an accident where they had gone airborne off the road. Our first responders in Alexandria were not paged. It’s my understanding that within a five-mile radius of Alexandria first responders and Alexandria Fire Department are supposed to be called. When I came upon this accident Liberty Fire Department was there but not Alexandria so when I called 911 about the (June 9) accident I wanted to make sure if they had called Alexandria First Responders because there was nobody on the scene. My apologies to you (Mullinax) and your people if my wording sounded ugly. In that budget meeting (June 9) I was fighting for 24/7 coverage with three ambulances because at some point this county is going to have to decide are we an ambulance service or an emergency service. Two ambulances and a part-time third truck is not getting it done” said Commissioner Young.

Commission to Consider ARP Funded Bonuses for County Employees

June 25, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

Full and part time county employees may soon be getting premium pay (bonuses) for their service during the height of the pandemic from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The proposal to pay these bonuses using ARP money will be presented to the county commission for final approval during Monday night’s regular monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Mike Foster Multi-Purpose Center.

The budget committee earlier this month voted to recommend to the county commission that full time county general employees each get a bonus of $2,500 and that part time staff each receive $1,250. Although they too are county employees, the proposal did not include the current 26 workers of the DeKalb County Highway Department nor the current 400 employees of DeKalb County School District. The Highway Department and School System, along with the County General operation which includes courthouse, sheriff’s department, county complex, solid waste department employees, offices of most elected and appointed county officials, libraries, senior center directors, etc. all operate under the umbrella of county government, but each (Highway Department, School System, County General) have their own separate budgets, subject to approval by the county commission. Originally, the budget committee specified that in order to get the full $2,500 bonus, county general employees must have worked for the county at any time during the fifteen-and-a-half-month period of March 13, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and they must still be employed by the county. However they revised the proposal last Wednesday, June 22 in one respect and that is to prorate the pay for full time employees who only worked a portion of the fifteen-and-a-half-month period or for those who went from working part time to full time or vice versa. Employees who work for more than one county department would not be allowed to double dip on bonus pay.

The proposal specifies that part time EMS staff must have worked a minimum of 400 hours to get the part time bonus pay of $1,250. All other part timers must have put in at least 250 hours during the fifteen-and-a-half-month period. Twenty-nine volunteer firefighters who met the criteria would get a bonus.
Firefighters who made 75% training attendance would qualify for a $300 bonus and those with 100% training attendance would receive a $350 bonus for the period from March 13, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Two county funded employees and eight employed by the state at the DeKalb County Health Department would also be included in the ARP bonus plan.

During a committee meeting of the whole Thursday night, members of the county commission requested that employees of the DeKalb County Highway Department and volunteers of the non-profit Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad who meet the requirements also be included in the ARP bonus plan proposal, subject to approval by the full commission.

Road Supervisor Danny Hale Thursday night asked the county commission that his staff not be left out.

“We didn’t get any relief from nowhere. We (highway department employees) worked every day (during the pandemic). We would like to have something,” said Road Supervisor Danny Hale.

“We (budget committee) did not intentionally leave anyone out. We were just following the pattern of what counties around us had done,” said budget committee member Anita Puckett.

Budget Committee Revises Recommendation for County Employee Wage Scale Plan

June 25, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Budget Committee has revised its new wage scale proposal for county general employees. Although this plan was adopted Wednesday night, June 22 by the budget committee to be included in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget, an amendment was made for the two employees of the county mayor’s office.

Under a plan presented to the budget committee two weeks ago by Circuit Court Clerk Susan Martin on behalf of her office and the offices of Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, Assessor of Property, Clerk and Master, and Administer of Elections, employees would receive step raises at a percentage of $82,396 per year, which is what all these public officials will earn next year except for the county mayor who is paid more and the administrator of elections who is paid less. The starting pay in year one for new employees would be at $32,134 and top out after 30 years at $46,142. In addition to the scheduled step increases, salaries of all employees of these offices would automatically increase at the same percentage as their employer (office holder) when he or she gets a raise by the state.

According to a motion made by budget committee member Beth Pafford Wednesday night, the two county mayor’s employees would receive step raises at a percentage of $95,168 which is what the salary of the county mayor will be next year and top out after 30 years. As with the other employees, the county mayor’s staff would automatically receive the same percentage increase in pay by the county as the county mayor’s percentage salary increase when he gets a raise by the state.

“I would make a motion that we base their (county mayor employees) salaries off the county mayor. We are fortunate that the county does not have to pay for a financial administrator to do the line items (because of the work of these employees),” said Commissioner Pafford.

Commissioner Scott Little offered a second to the motion and it was adopted on a 4-1 vote. Budget committee members Sabrina Farler and Anita Puckett joined Pafford and Little in voting for it. Commissioner Jeff Barnes voted against it. Budget committee members Jenny Trapp and Julie Young were absent.

A similar proposal was adopted six years ago by the county commission but was changed two years later after several county officials complained that the plan was unfair in that the county mayor’s staff was being paid more than their clerks.

The sheriff’s department and DeKalb EMS currently operate under their own pay scale systems previously established by the county and would not be affected by the proposal adopted by the budget committee Wednesday night.

The budget committee also updated the wage scale for full time library employees, the senior citizens center directors, and custodians.

Under this plan, these employees would receive step raises at a percentage of $82,396 per year and get the same percentage increase in pay by the county as the percentage given to county office holders by the state.

These pay plans are subject to final approval by the county commission.

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