Note: This is a copy of an Oct. 9 e-mail that Anderson County Commissioner Myron Iwanski sent to the other commissioners and county officials. The sheriff’s salary lawsuit against the county mayor was not discussed during the Oct. 21 County Commission meeting, as Iwanski had hoped, but it is scheduled to be considered during a special meeting this evening.
I am very concerned that the legal battle between the mayor and sheriff has not been resolved. This battle will have huge impacts on our budget this year and in future years. I have asked that this item be placed on the agenda for the Operations Committee meeting, and I would like to see it discussed by the full County Commission at its next meeting.
Costs continue to mount in this legal battle. If the large attorney fees are included with the cost for staff time to prepare all the documents and evidence being demanded, I believe this case could end up costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
More importantly, no matter which side prevails in this case, I fully expect we will be told by Tennessee Corrections Institute and/or the federal courts that we must fund the jail. As we wait for this legal case to be resolved, nothing is being done toward bringing in the federal inmates we need to help provide the funds we need to operate the jail in future. This will likely mean that we will be forced into a tax increase next year. This could have been avoided had this case been worked out and we instead focused on getting the revenue we need to operate the jail.
I believe the mayor and sheriff have it within their power to resolve this case immediately, and that County Commission has done its part to provide the funding needed for the jail. Unfortunately, nothing has happened to resolve this case, and the costs for the county are growing exponentially.
I think it is important that everyone understand what was approved by County Commission during the meeting on the 2013/2014 budget. To refresh my memory, I have gone back and listened to recordings of each of our meetings on this year’s budget, specifically regarding staffing of the jail.
I have attempted to provide a summary of what I believe are the key point made at these meeting in the attached paraphrased statements from County Commissioners and others at the meeting. If you are able to, I encourage each of you to watch these videos on the ACTV website (Anderson County television, Channel 95).
In reviewing the videos, I think there are some key conclusions that can be drawn regarding jail staffing:
- County Commission passed the budget with $750,000 included for the sheriff that would allow him to hire up to 36 jailers for the last six months of this year.
- County Commission wants to pursue renting beds to federal inmates to help fund the jail operations rather ask for a tax increase. (These would be low-risk inmates similar to those currently in the jail.)
- County Commission recognizes that the county will need revenue next year from renting beds or other sources to cover the cost for these 36 jailers for a full year.
- Everyone that spoke—including many commissioners, the mayor, the chief jailer, and the budget director—were in favor of this approach. No one spoke against it at any of these meetings before the budget was passed.
County Commission should not have to intervene in this battle at this point. When County Commission approves a budget for other departments, we approve a funding level and leave it for the department head or elected official to decide how many employees they can hire with those funds.
However, without a willingness by the mayor and sheriff to sit down and resolve this matter to avoid this long and costly court battle, I suggest the County Commission consider passing a resolution that states:
- The County Commission agrees that the sheriff can hire the jailers needed (36) to operate the new jail using the extra $750,000 already in the budget
- County Commission requests that the county immediately begin working on arrangements to house federal inmates to help pay for the cost of operating the jail.
This case must be resolved immediately so that we can avoid the rapidly mounting legal costs and begin working on ways to generate funds to operate the jail. Otherwise, County Commission will be forced into a situation of needing a tax increase next year.
Note: Iwanski has since revised the two-part resolution included above, and the modified proposal was recommended to the full commission by the Anderson County Operations Committee on Monday. We will add more information as soon as we are able.
The special meeting today (Wednesday) starts at 6:30 p.m. in Room 312 of the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton. See the agenda here.