Mayor Linda Elam: “I was FOR the sign ordinance before I was against it”

Poor Mt. Juliet. The City administration has been hamstrung and all but paralyzed by conflicting direction and legal advice on whether vacation bible school signs are legal or not.

Mayor Linda Elam is trying to blame the whole thing on former Mayor Kevin Mack. She’s quoted in today’s Lebanon Democrat (its free to access online, but you do have to register) as saying that the city’s current sign ordinance was none of her doing, that it was “written by Mack’s then attorney, someone who she said, ‘had no business doing it.'”

It looks to us like that’s three lies and two character assasinations in one quote. Mayor Elam apparently doesn’t believe she has to be accurate, or tell the truth when she’s trying to shift blame for Mt. Juliet’s current woes. She thinks she can just make stuff up – or, in the vernacular, lie. The problem is, as we’ve observed before, the internet never forgets.

The City’s website is a wonderful resource. All of the city’s ordinances, resolutions, and minutes, are available online. We’re betting that Mayor Elam wishes they weren’t.

You see, in December of 2001, when she was vice-chairman of the planning commission, Linda Elam voted to recommend passage of the current sign ordinance to the Mt. Juliet City Commission. It seems she was FOR the sign ordinance before she was opposed to it.

Then, in  October of 2005, when an amendment to the sign ordinance was proposed, Linda Elam is quoted in the minutes (see page 13) as saying, “the sign ordinance is sacrosanct and should not be amended.”

Only now, when there is a public outcry over how the sign ordinance is being enforced, does Linda Elam suddenly announce that it’s not her fault, it was all done by Kevin Mack and his incompetent attorney.

Except it wasn’t. The current sign ordinance, adopted in 2002, is derived from the previous version, which was adopted in 1997. The records don’t show who drafted it, but that was before Kevin Mack was elected to the City Commission. The changes made in 2002 were to eliminate portable signs and restrict signs on Mt. Juliet Road to “monument style signs.” The revised version was presented to the planning commission in 2002 by the City’s planning attorney, Louis Oliver – who is still the City’s planning attorney.

So, the sign ordinance wasn’t “written by Mack’s attorney.” And it was endorsed and recommended by Linda Elam when it was passed. In fact, she later called it “sacrosanct.”

Some would call that sloppy. Some would call that negligent. Some would call it lying. 

The problem is not the sign ordinance. The current sign ordinance has been on the books for five years. The problem is the inconsistent, incompetent direction being given to the public works department by the current City Attorney Paula Flowers and the acting City Manager Sheila Luckett. And who’s responsible for them being in charge?

– Publius

Go here for links to the official record on Mt. Juliet’s Sign Ordinance.



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4 responses to “Mayor Linda Elam: “I was FOR the sign ordinance before I was against it”

  1. Butch Huber

    The Unanimous Declaration of utter disgust.
    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. —

    Such has been the patient sufferance of these the city of Mt. Juliet; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present board of commissioners and city administration is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over city of Mt. Juliet and the employees of the city. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

    Mayor Elam called Bobby Franklin to attempt to persuade him, through hostile conversation and threats and intimidation, to remove a requirement on her developer/employer’s, (Commercial Realty Services) property known as Mt. Juliet Crossings. She acted under color of office to benefit another in that phone call as is evidenced by her subsequent phone call to retain a land-use attorney for the benefit of her employer in response to Bobby Franklin’s unwillingness to yield to her oppression. Although the mayor was censured for her actions, the laws of the State of Tennessee requires that when a person has acted under the color of office to benefit another, the person committing the offense “shall” be ousted from office.
    The city commission, the city attorney, and the city manager all have knowledge of this requirement, and they all are fully aware of the events as they are now part of public record. The city commission, the city attorney and the city manager all have a duty and responsibility to take appropriate action to direct investigation, bring charges against the mayor if an investigation determines that there is sufficient evidence that the mayor has acted against the law, and bring about official proceedings to determine guilt or innocence on the charge of Official Misconduct and Official Oppression.

    The Mayor took employment with Commercial Realty Services without notifying the city manager of her new position; a position that clearly is a conflict of interest with her duties as mayor and of which conflict of interest was evidenced when she called Bobby Franklin to try to obtain a benefit for her employer. The city manager repeatedly inquired of the Mayor as to whom her new employer was, to which she repeatedly refused to answer. The city manager has a duty to ensure that the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, the laws of the State of Tennessee, and the Charter and ordinances of the City of Mt. Juliet are upheld. Suppression of this information by the mayor is a clear case of Official Oppression in that she denied the city manager the power and right to do his sworn duty. Had she informed the city manager of her employ he would have been able to advise his staff, and Bobby would have been able to identify the purpose of the Mayor’s phone call immediately. Damage to the city has been caused as a result of the mayor’s actions, damage that cannot be rectified by censure alone.

    The mayor called a special meeting to try to obtain a benefit for Pulte home as is evidenced by testimony in the depositions in the investigation in the complaint brought against her by Hatton Wright. The mayor was apparently so vehemently trying to persuade the public works director and the city manager to extend a courtesy and not enforce the city ordinances that the city planning attorney, Louis Oliver, had to admonish the mayor for her behavior. The mayor’s actions, as evidenced by the sworn testimony in the investigation in the Hatton Wright Complaint, constitute official oppression and official misconduct. The remedy of which is ouster.

    Mayor Elam violated the spirit of the Sexual Harassment Policy (If not the letter of the law) by publicly identifying Hatton Wright as the target of another sexual harassment complaint. The mayor has publicly stated that she encouraged Mrs. Reitz to file her complaint. Rather than bring the matter to the attention of the city manager, the mayor “encouraged” Mrs. Reitz to file a sexual harassment complaint against Hatton Wright, then made a public spectacle of the complaint in a public meeting to draw attention to the complaint and to harm the reputation of the public works director.

    The Commission exceeded its authority by interfering with the power of the city manager to direct an investigation into the complaint against Hatton Wright, and instead placed city attorney Paula Flowers in charge of investigating the complaint. Their actions constitute a collective act of official misconduct and a blatant violation of the city charter.

    During the investigation into the Hatton Wright complaint, the city attorney became aware of the mayor’s actions regarding the phone call the mayor made to Bobby Franklin regarding CRS property. She, as an attorney, should have easily been able to discern that the mayor’s actions were a violation of law, a conflict of interest, and were grounds for ouster proceedings to be initiated, yet she limited her efforts to developing a defense against the complaint, rather than seeking justice. The city attorney simply said that the mayor’s actions could not be a violation of the ethics code because the ethics code did not exist in Mt. Juliet at the time the mayor called Bobby Franklin. The city attorney failed to do her duty as city attorney, which is to represent the city in all legal matters. Dereliction of duty is official misconduct and is therefore grounds for removal from office.
    This deficiency has been brought to the attention of the city manager, the city commission, and the city attorney, yet no action has taken place.

    During the investigation into the complaint filed by Hatton Wright, City Manager Rob Shearer submitted to the city attorney a file to memo he drafted shortly after a meeting between himself and Mayor Elam during which the mayor demanded his resignation. In that memo Rob Shearer asserts that the mayor told him that there were two other commissioners who are prepared to call a special meeting for the following Tuesday, the purpose of which would be to fire him for cause, and if he didn’t resign she would vote with them. The mayor violated the State Sunshine Laws in order to obtain the knowledge that two commissioners were prepared to call a special meeting to fire Rob Shearer, and in fact, according to Ray Justice, Mayor Elam initiated the course of events that led to the planned meeting to fire Rob Shearer by calling Ray Justice and Ed Haggerty and asking them if they were still interested in calling a meeting to fire Rob Shearer. There was no public notice of the meeting (Phone conversation is a meeting) between the mayor and the city commissioners during which they discussed the proposed removal from office of Rob Shearer. There were no minutes taken of this meeting either. Under the laws of the State of Tennessee, the city manager must be re-instated to his office with full rights, powers and privileges restored. The mayor acted under color of office to obtain the city manager’s resignation and used threats and intimidation to affect the same. Through her actions the mayor robbed Mr. Shearer of his office, his power, his rights, and monetary value. The mayor negotiated the city manager’s severance package without authority to do so; she exceeded her authority as mayor. This is a clear case of official misconduct and official oppression. The city attorney has a duty to direct an investigation when presented with evidence of a violation of the city ordinances or to at least advise the city manager and commission of their responsibility under the law. Despite having full knowledge of the evidence contained in the file to memo, the city attorney, the board of commissioners, and the city manager continue to ignore these violations of the law. Their continued neglect to give proper attention to these matters is official misconduct.

    The mayor and the city attorney neglected to present a six-page complaint, written by Mrs. Cathy Reitz, and delivered to the Mayor by some unnamed third party, to the city manager as is required under the city personnel manual. Their in-action is a violation of the city’s sexual harassment policy and is dereliction of duty. Dereliction of duty is official misconduct, the remedy of which requires ouster.

    The acting city manager fired the city planner based on false accusations and causes. The actual cause of his dismissal is obviously retaliation for past actions. Bobby Franklin’s testimony in the complaint against the mayor was very damaging to the mayor and it led to her censure by the board of commissioners. Since none of the accusations against Bobby Franklin appear to be true, the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that city planner Bobby Franklin paid with his job for his sworn testimony in the investigation in the Hatton Wright Complaint. Retaliation for past actions is a felony. The city manager, the city attorney, and the board of commissioners have been given notice and rebuttal to the accusations brought against Bobby Franklin, yet nothing has been done to correct the situation. Their failure to act is dereliction of duty. Dereliction of duty is official misconduct, the remedy for which is ouster.

    This commission has refused their assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

    The board of commissioners, the city attorney, and the acting city manager have neglected to investigate, as is their sworn duty, the evidence that is contained in public record, even when purported violations have been brought to their attention, to determine if laws have been broken or violations have occurred.

    The Board of Commissioners continue to conduct closed door, back-room meetings in violation of the state’s sunshine laws.

    The board of commissioners have neglected to re-instate the former city manager to full power, rights and privileges he is entitled to in-spite of having been shown that they are required to do so by law.

    The Board of Commissioners, and the mayor more specifically, have developed an atmosphere of oppression within our city government, targeting those who come against them or who stand firm in the law.

    The City commissioners and others who are required to take a proper oath of office before entering onto their offices have failed to take their proper oath, and in some cases haven’t taken an oath at all, and continue to neglect to do so long after having been shown their deficiency.

    The Board of commissioners, the city attorney, and the acting city manager have all had many issues brought to their attention that are obvious violations of the law, and yet they continue to neglect to take appropriate action, and in some cases continue to violate law after law, and ordinance after ordinance to effect their nefarious and sinister plot.

    The city attorney, the board of commissioners, and the city manager have obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing their assent to laws.

    The mayor and at least two commissioners have effectively abolished our city charter by removing the city manager and neglecting to fill the position with a permanent city manager, and in the place of a permanent city manager, they have appointed someone who will do their bidding. They have effectively altered fundamentally our form of government.

    The Mayor has repeatedly exceeded her authority to obtain a benefit either for herself or for others as is evidenced in the testimony in the investigation into the Hatton Wright Complaint.

    The board of commissioners, the city attorney, and the city manager have abdicated government in Mt. Juliet, by refusing us our rightful protections guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, the laws of the state of Tennessee, and the ordinances of the city of Mt. Juliet.

    The city mayor has a plan to plunder our city revenues on a community center project that only a small minority of the citizens want while neglecting to meet more pressing needs of the city.

    In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Board of Commissioners and city administration, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to rule free people.

    We have not neglected to advise and admonish this city Government, rather we have stood firm in our rights and have done our duty has citizens to address the government where wrongs have been committed; at a great cost to those who follow the law. Those who have had the will to stand for justice in this city have been met with forced resignation, removal from office, and forced retirement. We have reminded them of the laws and ordinances, We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. We must, therefore, fulfill our duties as citizens of this great nation, as citizens of the state of Tennessee, and as citizens of this community, and remove the current city administration and put in its place a city government that will endeavor to follow the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, the laws of the State of Tennessee, and the Charter and the ordinances of the City of Mt. Juliet, and who will act for the common good of its citizens.

    We, therefore, the good citizens of the City of Mt. Juliet, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that the citizens of the City of Mt. Juliet, shall endeavor by any legal means to alter our city charter to enable us to throw you bums out of office and put some people in your place that understand the meaning of the words character, honor, justice, liberty, virtue, integrity, courage, dignity, self-control, peace, harmony, and self-sacrifice. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to do whatever is legal and moral to see to it that you are removed from office and never have a chance to waste our time again.

    What I have written here are simply my thoughts, opinions and feelings; the reader should not misconstrue what I have written as a legal opinion or counsel as I am not an attorney at law and should not consider it an official declaration (yet), but should simply observe it for its literary content and reflections so that he or she may draw his or her own opinion.

    I believe with true sincerity that the Mayor, Board of Commissioners, city attorney, and acting city manager are out of order and out of line, and should be replaced in the entirety. Every charge and accusation I have leveled here is based on my opinion of what is contained in public record and the conclusions I have drawn are the only natural and reasonable conclusions I can come to in good conscience.

    Where I have used the word we I am including those who have the same thoughts, opinions, and feelings I have, and also those who have stood strong against the tyranny that has been brought against this city by the mayor (and those who side and act with her.)

    To Sheila, I am sorry to have to include you in the group with Mayor Elam, but your willingness to fire Bobby Franklin over baseless accusations and your unwillingness to bring action against the mayor and city attorney in light of obvious violations lead me to believe you are acting in concert with them. However, if I am wrong, I am asking you once again to direct investigation, as is your right and duty as city manager, into the actions of the mayor and city attorney. If I am wrong, and you are simply acting (or not acting) because of any threat or intimidation please contact me and I will do my best to help you in whatever way I am able.

    To Commissioner Bradshaw. I believe you are a honest man, but your lack of action in the face of obvious tyranny is not a quality that I look for in a leader. I don’t believe for a second that you are behind what the mayor and the city attorney are doing, but since you are endowed with power and you have a responsibility to take action, and you fail to live up to your responsibility, you are complicit by default. I can’t help but feel let down by your neglect of your sworn duties in these matters, even though you are not my commissioner.
    It is time for serious change in Mt. Juliet. We need to set an example in this city that a corrupt government will not long stand in this community. Publius, isn’t there a provision in Home-rule that would enable the citizens to change the city charter to allow us the right and privilage to throw out a corrupt government and replace it? How do we get started?

    From a very disappointed citizen.

    Butch Huber

  2. Glen Linthicum

    Well done Butch! I cannot agree more. What has happened to our City Commission? It seems that axe grinding has become the hallmark of our current Commission and our Mayor in particular. I feel for Sheila; the pressures of being assailed by special interests and hidden agendas must be unbearable. What happened to the civility of the Commission and respect for those who work for the city? It is no secret that several Commissioners had no love for Rob and would have fired him in a heartbeat, so it did not surprise me. Evidently, a new day has dawned and it makes me nervous. I have sat by and waited for the waters to calm but they continue to be muddy. I ask, “when will this end” and we the citizens can have a City Commission that will go about the business of creating direction and not managing the “day to day” operations of the City? I guess if Mayor Elam wishes that the Mayor’s post be more than ceremonial, maybe she should use Home rule, which she opposed, to create more sweeping powers for the Mayors position.

  3. Apolitical Observer

    Meanwhile, back at the sign ordinance….Publius is correct that the ‘sign ordinance’ is being made a scapegoat, and not just by the Mayor (see “piece of crap” quote in Lebanon Democrat and most likely in tomorrow’s local weeklies).

    The changes to require monument signs along Mt. Juliet Road in 2002 resulted in an outcry from businesses with the ugliest signs. Never mind that their dilapidated pole signs were grandfathered in. They wanted to put up another ugly pole sign when it was time for a replacement, or when the road was widened.

    Skip ahead to 2007 and we have a man on the cover of the Chronicle in front of a giant Monument sign with a busy, unattractive logo. He is whining that the ‘system is broken’ because he cannot light up his sign so it can be ugly 24/7. Has enforcement and permitting been uneven and at times lax? Certainly. But as Publius has stated, the sign ordinance has been online for several years, and a man who can run a business certainly knows how to access the internet as well as how to read.

    If the sign ordinance is watered down further, as commissioners Bradshaw and Justice tried to do in 2002 before voting against it, it will have the same effect as dumbing down a school curriculum so the laziest child can pass. It will lower the bar and open the door to more unnattractive signage. The sign ordinance doesn’t need to be made weaker, it needs to be made clearer. Mt. Juliet Rd. doesn’t need to end up looking like an outdoor video arcade because someone wants a sign that is bigger and brighter than the one next door.

  4. Butch Huber

    Sorry to use every chance I get to scream about the injustices that are taking place in this city, but I must.

    The city commissioners are essentially taking votes and discussing issues behind the scenes (as evidenced by Ed Haggerty’s statement: “I believe we are unanimous on this, we seemed to be unanimous in the e-mails that were going around”)! Unanimous in the e-mails that were going around?! Meetings are to be held in public! Meetings are supposed to be given proper public notice! Meetings are supposed to have minutes taken!

    Thomas Jefferson, speaking on the topic of public meetings being “public”, said that we must be able to see what they are up to so that we may “bind down their mischief”. Apparently, we are not the only people in history to have to deal with corrupt politicians.

    The reason all of this is important is simple. If three commissioners are allowed to hold backroom meetings they can essentially do whatever they choose and virtually render our form of government null and void. They can in effect, decide to do just about anything they want and there is little, if anything, we can do to stop them.

    Let’s examine some of the facts. The mayor made an address to the Chamber of Commerce (I believe that is correct) during which she sang Rob Shearer’s praises. She went on in her speech from what I am able to gather about how well the city is doing and thanked Rob for doing such a fine job. Then, a couple days later, the mayor is in Rob’s office wrestling a resignation from him. (Illegally, I believe). Doesn’t that strike you as “odd”?

    Everyone who follows the antics at city hall has known for a long time that Ed Haggerty and Ray Justice have wanted to get rid of Rob for a very long time. So it is of no surprise to find that they were involved in some form or fashion in his resignation. What is odd is that the mayor would call them to ask them if they were still interested in calling a special meeting to fire Rob for cause and then use that information to wrangle a resignation from Rob. (Illegally, I believe)

    But what is even stranger is that she said that the commission has lost confidence in him. I checked, there is no mention of any frustration having been expressed in any commission meeting with regard to Rob’s ability! So where did she find out about the “lack of confidence” in Rob’s ability?

    The term quid pro quo comes to my mind…how about you? Since there is a cone of silence over this commission, I can only come to the belief that there is some quid pro quo going on. Could it be that the mayor and the other commissioners got together in some backroom meeting and worked it out that the mayor would hand Ray and Ed Rob Shearer’s head on a platter in return for their affirmative vote for her $20,000,000 pet project; The aquatics center. The aquatics center is Mayor Elam’s trip down memory lane to a time in her youth when all the world was right with her. Now she must think that if she is able to get the aquatics center in Mt. Juliet her world will be complete. This center is nothing but a legacy she is trying to leave behind, and I say that because only 9% of the citizens polled want the center she is proposing, yet she is hard at work to make sure we get to pay for her dear aquatics center. May we call it the; “Linda Elam aquatics center”? (Something like Don Fox park or the Jimmy Floyd center.) The aquatics center is a small tribute to pay for such an outstanding mayor such as herself: After all, it will only cost us $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the city of Mt. Juliet! So could her acquiescence to Ray’s and Ed’s determined effort to rid the city of Rob Shearer have anything to do with promises that they will vote for her girlhood memories? The world may never know because they do their work outside public view.
    In the same commission meeting during which the commission accepted Rob’s resignation, Ed Haggerty went on and on about how the city was doing so well, naming some of the great accomplishments that have occurred over the past six years. It sure didn’t seem like the commission had any reason to have “lost confidence in Rob”.

    Could the reason the mayor made such a u-turn with regard to her relationship with Rob have anything to do with her anger with Bobby Franklin for not buckling under her oppressive effort to get a condition taken off her employer’s property or her anger at Hatton Wright because he didn’t issue permits to pulte homes and embarrassed her in a meeting during which she was trying to force the city to issue illegal permits?

    Have you ever heard her terse, condescending remarks she is famous for delivering whenever someone goes against her in a commission meeting? She seems to feel that it is okay for her to fire anyone who gets in her way. She thinks “she” is in charge of the city. I get the impression that she feels that the other commissioner are just a necessary inconvenience she must endure. Make no mistake, the mayor is running the city at this time and place. The city attorney appears to me to be willing to play her part, the city manager appears to be willing to play her part, and the mayor is simply toying with the rest of the commissioners. Will Sellers appears to me to be Mayor Elam’s mini-me. Jim doesn’t seem to even be able to figure out what she is up to. Because they are in it up to their necks, Ray and Ed are kind of stuck with her for now. She has figured out how to pull their strings to get what she wants. Right now, the city belongs to mayor Elam…for now, but not forever.

    Did you observe how she treated Cajun in the last commission meeting. She held her hand out flat in the air and moved her hand downwardly as if she had her hand on top of Cajun’s head pushing him back in his chair. (Cajun had stood to speak on the sign ordinance) When Cajun once again stood to speak, the mayor made it clear that she was not interested in hearing him speak? Did you see the glare in her eyes when he spoke anyway? I felt she was treating him like a child and with tremendous disrespect. Cajun had the audacity to speak when the mayor didn’t want him to….how long will it be before Cajun is looking for a job?

    Don’t think for a moment that I am not concerned about other issues, because I am, but all things must be placed in order according to their importance. I don’t think anything else going on in this city comes close to the travesty that is taking place in city hall at this time.

    The problem with backroom politics is that, even when you discover something has occurred, you can never know to what extent. Was the quid pro quo something like this: “I will give you Rob, if you will give me Hatton, and we all want Bobby, so let’s just get rid of all of them.” We may never know exactly what took place that led to Rob’s Resignation…but we know three people who were behind it and we know at least two others who turn their heads and look the other way.

    One lesson that I have learned in life is that, when a person is willing to sacrifice his/her integrity once, he/she is prone to do it again and again…its like losing your virginity, you can never quite put it all back like it was, so the next time you encounter a difficult situation you find it easier to sacrifice your integrity than to do the right thing. Another lesson I have learned is that a snake is a snake is a snake. And no matter how many times the snake says, “I am not a snake” it doesn’t change the fact that it is a snake. All I need to see is that forked tongue and I know…”that’s a snake”.

    Butch Huber

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