The Mayor caught in a lie, cutting a deal with a developer

The Lebanon Democrat has now posted on the internet the story that was published in the Mt. Juliet News last week. Access requires registration, but it is free.

Here’s a summary of the exchange between Vice Mayor Hagerty and Mayor Elam reported in that story:

Vice Mayor Hagerty: how did “up to eight acres” get changed to “just four?”

Mayor Elam: “I’m very comfortable now that no more than 4 acres are required.”

Vice Mayor Hagerty: “the commission should go back and ask for eight acres.”

Mayor Elam: “John Gipson never promised that, just whatever was necessary to build a police station.”

City Attorney Louis Oliver turned the conversation upside down when he presented the original resolution addressing the land donation.

“Condition No. 6 in the resolution says “not less than eight acres,” Oliver said, waving the document. “It was approved. That was the condition of the ordinance based on the original plan.”

Mayor Elam: “This is not what I know. It was not the original intent. What was written and agreed upon may be two different things.”

Jere McCulloch (attorney for the developer): “We need to roll. Just pass it. You’ve got eight acres of land. You’ve done a heck of a job.”

There are several astonishing things in this exchange.

One: the revelation that the Mayor, without any authorization under the city charter and without any authorization by the City Commission has taken it upon herself to “negotiate” with the developer. None of the five members of the City Commission has any authority to do anything in the name of the city on their own – including the Mayor.

6-20-206. Exercise of board’s powers. —

The board shall exercise its powers in session duly assembled, and no member or group of members thereof shall exercise or attempt to exercise the powers conferred upon the board, except through proceedings adopted at some regular or special session.

So, unless the City Commission voted to authorize the Mayor to negotiate on their behalf, she has no authority to do so. And even if she does reach some agreement with the developer, its not valid until approved by a vote of the City Commission.

Second: The Mayor is either lying about the original agreement with the developer or she’s grossly negligent. She wants us to believe that she negotiated with the developer without bothering to look up what the developer had already agreed to? The City Commission had already adopted an ordinance approving the Paddocks development as a commercial PUD. It passed on two readings in 2006. Mayor Elam voted for it. Linked below is the ordinance the Mayor voted for and signed. If it didn’t reflect the “agreement” with the developer that she had reached, why did she vote for it?

Here’s the text of the ordinance passed by the City Commission in 2006 rezoning the Thurman property and approving the Paddocks PUD. Note condition 6.

6. Developer shall convey a fee simple interest to not less than eight (8) acres of the Property to the City of Mt. Juliet, said 8 acres to be located on Pleasant Grove Road at the northwest corner of the Property.

There was nothing in this original condition that made any reference to a police station. There were no restrictions on what the city might choose to do with the property. It was a “fee simple interest” which, by definition, is unrestricted.

The Mayor is either lying or she’s an incompetent negotiator.

In either case, it makes you wonder what her motivation is to reduce the amount of land which will be donated to the city and to limit what the city could do with the land. Why would Mayor Elam seek to reduce the size of the tract by 50%? How can she defend that action as being in the best interest of the city?

– Publius

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23 Comments

Filed under ethics

23 responses to “The Mayor caught in a lie, cutting a deal with a developer

  1. Glen Linthicum

    Things that make you go Hmmmmmm?????

  2. Butch Huber

    During the investigation into the misconduct of the mayor concerning CRS property and her phone call to city planner Bobby Franklin, during which she attempted to use her influence as a public official to effect the removal of a condition the city had placed on CRS property, for the benefit of her developer boss, Mayor Elam cited her concern for the city being sued for “illegal taking of land”. (She was censured for making this call.)

    She was concerned for the city because the city had placed a requirement on her boss’ property that would have created a traffic through-way to adjacent property: a practice that is not only legal, but is customary. The CRS property that was being “taken” I believe was about a 50 foot to 100 foot wide swath of land that stretches perhaps 100 to 200 feet long. Let’s use the biggest numbers for this example…isn’t that less than half an acre?

    She was concerned that the city would be sued because they “took” a piece of land no bigger than half an acre yet here she is strong-arming a developer out of “up to 8 acres” in an illegal contract zoning scheme!

    Reading what is in the Lebanon Democrat I come away feeling I was right in an earlier post…the developer didn’t want to give them the land!

    Isn’t it time we did something about this commission? They just forced a developer to “GIVE” them 8 acres of land! This is Land the developer didn’t want to give up, land that they could have used for their development. One commissioner was upset that 8 out-parcels had to be eliminated because there was an issue with retention ponds, yet here we are ripping 8 acres of land out from under the developer.

    Let’s examine the value of those 8 acres. I am told that purchase price of that property was 20,000,000 dollars, and I believe there was about 400 acres included in the deal. That would place the value of each acre at approximately $50,000! That means that the developer had to “Give” the city as much as $400,000 worth of property to buy their vote. However, it gets worse, the 8 acres the city took are not low quality portions of the property, they are prime lots! If the developer were to subdivide the property and sell those lots I am sure that they would go for somewhere in the one to two million dollar range, perhaps more!

    But the number of Zeros is not the real issue…is it? This is your and my government illegally taking a developer’s property. They say “donated”, but it sounds like “surrendered” if you ask me.

    Now remember, the mayor was right smack dab in the middle of this deal! She isn’t an innocent bystander in this thing. She, on her own volition, went and met with the developers and “negotiated” with them. She acted as mayor when she made this deal…she exceeded her authority…that is official misconduct! (Which takes me back to Commissioner Justice and his attempt to negotiate with land owners over the bypass issue without being appointed by the commission to do so…exceeds his authority…exceeding one’s authority is official misconduct. But that is another issue.)

    How long are we as citizens going to allow this government to do these types of things? This is the type of thing you see in movies! Except in the movies it is a local rich guy that is taking advantage of everyone and the government looks the other way. Here it is the government itself that is the bad guy!

    Now, let’s look at another aspect of this issue…there were citizens who were upset about this development and didn’t want the commission to approve it. There were elements of this development that were really chapping some backsides of some citizens…citizens who were ignored by this commission. When a component of the approval process is the “negotiated” purchase of votes through the “negotiated” “donation” of land by the developer, what message does it send to the citizens? It tells me that unless I am willing to play ball with the government, and “Give” them what they want, there isn’t much hope for me in the real estate world. That isn’t a level playing field for all the people, which makes our government a “Government of the rich people, by the rich people, for the rich people”!

    How can the mayor use the defense that she was looking out for the city’s interest when she called Bobby Franklin and tried to force him through threats and intimidation to remove a condition from her employer’s property because she was afraid that the city would be sued for “illegal taking of property” and then at the same time negotiate, under color of office, with another developer to force them to “give” the city property in return for votes? Only a politician can get away with that kind of garbage!

    The commission’s instincts are very good, they appeal to the thing that most people are interested in…”Kids”. It is as if they are saying: “We are the good guys here. We made this big bad developer “give” the city 8 acres of land…land that our kids can play on.” They appeal to that part of our consciousness that strives to create a great environment for children. In just one or two sentences they make it sound as if what they are doing is “noble”! Folks, there is nothing noble about a crook….yes, I said “Crook”. What else can you call it when an entity that is endowed with power illegally and illicitly abuses that power to “Take” property from a private entity?

    This stuff strikes right at the core of my being…it says that the ideals that we hold dear as Americans are just an illusion. This kind of thing says that we are nothing more than pawns in the hands of government officials. When a company that has as much clout as this developer has to bow to a group of five commissioners in a little town like Mt. Juliet, it tells me that there is little hope for average citizens who are looking for a fair shake. This is very disturbing to me. Are the American ideals nothing more than an illusion, an illusion created by the rich and powerful, “or” are our ideals real? The law is on our side, even if the will of politicians is up for sale.

    One person can’t get much done about this kind of thing….I know, I’ve tried. (Not that I am done, but it doesn’t look like I am going to be able to force these folks to do their jobs.) They illegally dismiss your complaints, the district attorney is not interested in getting involved, the TBI doesn’t want to get involved in something unless the district attorney is involved. However, when there is more than one person involved in trying to effect an investigation, and the media gets involved, it makes it almost impossible for them to ignore the issue.

    Complacency and apathy are the things that allow freemen to become slaves…and not even know that it happened. Isn’t it time for action?

    Please don’t misconstrue what I have stated here as being my position that the project should not be approved…I am happy that they are building the development…I think that the citizens who had major concerns should have their concerns addressed…but I see no reason not to approve the project…I just think that the city should give this developer back their 8 acres of land. It is kind of like when a kid shoplifts and the mom marches the child back in the store and makes him give the item back and apologize…it is about character.

    If, after giving the land back to the developer, the developer still wants to “donate” the land to the city, and there are no conditions placed on them requiring that they give the land, then the city should graciously accept the offer. However, if the land is given back to the developer and they choose not to give the land back, nobody should look down upon them because they choose not to “give” their land away.

  3. raytears

    All True, But who can hold these people accountable?
    everytime a citizen points out something wrong, they
    look at us and say they’re above the law.
    What has happened to integrity, honesty, treating others with respect. I do apologize for yelling at everyone. But I was very angry at all the deceitful people. Now they want to charge you to get files from the city. I guess they half to pay for the 31 dollars an
    hour HR person, that was hired at that top pay,
    with no college. More truth needs to go to the media.

  4. Ed Hagerty

    I find it entirely appropriate for developers to contribute to the needs of the city. In this case, why should Mr. Gipson, an Atlanta developer, swoop in to Mt. Juliet, make a gazillion dollars, and leave a burden to the taxpayers? It seems reasonable that Mr. Gipson contribute off site road improvements, required traffic signals, open space, park lands, etc.

    The bigger story in this case is the issue of 8 acres of land versus 4 acres. The ordinance passed by the city commission clearly stated 8 acres, fee simple, with no conditions. The letter presented to the city commission, addressed to Mayor Elam, is only 4 acres, and had strings attached. The 4 acre land donation required the city to build a police station within 3 years. If the city did not, the land reverted back to the developer.

    I find it curious that the Mayor, allegedly acting in the best interest of the city, urged the commission to accept the 4 acres with conditions rather than the 8 acres with no conditions.

    If anyone would like a copy of the letter addressed to the Mayor, I will be glad to furnish it.

    Ed Hagerty

  5. Butch Huber

    Ed,

    I appreciate that you were the lone dissenting vote on this matter, although I don’t know why you voted against the measure.

    As far as a developer contributing to costs, you and I are not that far off, however, we may be miles apart in reference to the way that infrastructure costs are handled.

    I do not believe it is appropriate, or even legal, for a commissioner, acting on his or her own accord, without full commission approval, to negotiate anything on behalf of the city. When I say “anything”, I mean “anything”. Commissioners are only acting within their authority when they sit at a regularly called or special meeting of the commission or as decided by resolution of the full commission. Any activity on the part of a commissioner beyond what is specifically authorized by the TCA and that is legally allowed by resolution or ordinance of the city commission is an action that exceeds the authority of that position. Exceeding one’s authority is an act of official misconduct. It is very clear in the TCA that commissioners are not to exceed their authority, and if they do so they are to be removed from office…in fact, removal from office of a person who has committed the offense of official misconduct is “mandatory”!

    This form of government that we have makes the city manager the administrative head of the government. That means that if anyone were to be allowed to “Negotiate” with developers outside a regular or special meeting of the commission it would be the city manager who would do the “negotiating”.

    I believe that the process should work as follows.
    1) A developer decides he/she would like to build a development in Mt. Juliet. (It is of no concern that the developer is from Atlanta or San Diego, they are American Citizens and American Businesses and they should have the same rights as anyone else.)

    2) They develop the proposed project and present it to the government. I suppose the first official step would be to communicate with the city planner or the planning commission.

    3) Either the City Planner or the Planning commission (or both) determine the impact such a project would have on the city, the environment, the citizens, etc. The developer should be presented with a complete list of concerns that they should then address. Regardless of any-one’s personal opinion of the project, if the project is a legal use of the land there should be no basis for disapproval except for the costs the city will have to cover if the project is approved. If the project is going to place an undue burden on the city the city should disapprove the project based on cost and cost alone.

    3) The developer should be given an itemized list of expenses that the city will not cover. The developer then has a choice…either cover the costs himself/herself “or” drop the project and move on. If the developer decides to cover the costs an Agreement between the city and the developer should be drafted and signed by the parties as a concession for approval.

    I know that there are many issues that I am not addressing here, and I realize that I don’t know everything about the system, but in the end what I am saying is that it should always be the developer who comes back and presents to the government, in a very open and honest manner, his/her concessions…it should never be a case where a commissioner acting outside a regular or special meeting “Negotiates” a deal with a developer.

    I have absolutely no problem with a developer “kicking in” to cover the associated costs with a development project, however, the costs should be reasonable and appropriate.

    An example of appropriate costs would be the installation of a traffic light at the entrance to the development.

    An example of inappropriate costs would be forcing a developer who is only trying to build thirty houses to spend five million dollars to straighten out a road that will then enable other land owners to develop hundreds of houses on their properties without sharing in the cost of straightening out the road. In a case such as this the developer should have his/her project denied. If he/she then comes back and says “I will pay for straightening out the road”, then you should approve the project if everything else is legal and appropriate.

    I believe the government should be neutral regarding growth. It should be neither for nor against growth. There are people who live in the city that desire the growth and there are people who would like to see it stop. The government should be more of a traffic cop than anything else. If a project is legal there should be little to no reason (except expenses) to stop it from moving forward. That isn’t to say that there can’t be additional requirements like sign ordinances and set back requirements…that is what I mean by being a traffic cop.

    However, all that being said, as a taxpayer, I don’t see it as being fair that I should pay one cent toward paying for another person’s project. If a developer wants to build a project he/she should be willing to incur the costs associated with his/her development.

    But then there is the gray area…what if a develop wants to build a project that would be a nice fit for where the city is in its growth cycle, but the costs necessary for infrastructure are “unreasonable”? For instance…if the owner of the Paddocks is required to change a road pattern in order to be approved, but the cost of that road pattern is unreasonably expensive, and changing the road pattern is a condition that is placed on the developer because it needs to be done anyway, then the city, in my opinion, should kick in for its reasonable share of the cost (Perhaps all of the costs in this case because it had to be done anyway.)

    I agree in principle that their is nothing wrong with a developer “kicking in to cover costs”, but the developer should be given a list of those costs and it should be the developer who makes the decision as to whether to cover the costs or pack up and move on.

    We as citizens should be made aware of everything that is going on in this city. There shouldn’t be anything that this commission does that we don’t get to see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears. Making deals like this allows for impropriety in government operations. I was involved with a development project in Davidson County that was adjacent to Frank Batson’s property…you should have heard the pressures that were coming back and the tactics that were being used to make this project favor Frank Batson. Our engineer designed the road in such a manner that it would cost us an additional $100,000 to develop the road because someone on the planning commission or city commission wanted a tab of the road to connect to Batson property. Some official or officials used a certain code for the basis for their demand, but when I redesigned the road in such a way that it met the code but didn’t favor Frank Batson the price of the build out dropped by $100,000! Tell me that sort of thing doesn’t go on in government! I saw it with my own two eyes! We finally got our approval, but only after close to 12 months worth of delays and lots of frustration. It was as if they were trying to force us to develop this land so that Frank Batson could purchase it from us at a bargain price or great value to him. Backroom deals favor one over another and it needs to stop.

    There can be no equity if one developer has to kick in 8 acres of land for his development and the guy down the street doesn’t have to kick in anything. The only way to fairly address these issues is to present the developer with real and appropriate costs associated with the project that the city will not cover and let them decide for themselves if they will cover the infrastructure costs…no negotiating. This way, the government is only performing in its role as traffic cop…you are saying to the developer, “we would love to have you build here, as long as your development is legal and as long as it doesn’t cost the taxpayer.”

    Again, everything you do as a commission should be able to stand up to scrutiny.

    BTW…I get the message about the mayor…isn’t it time you and the other commissioners call for a formal inquiry? Isn’t it time for the TBI to become involved with the actions of this commission.

    I think you are wrong (Legally) by requiring the donation of land. I believe that this arrangement arises to the level of contract zoning…which is illegal and which ushers in a whole host of issues you don’t want to have ushered in…but I don’t think you are evil….I just think you are misguided. I think your intentions in these matters are fair and appropriate…I think you are wrong in application and I think the law is on my side.
    I do however feel that the Mayor is acting illegally and I have to question who she is working for…has anyone asked her if she is working for Gipson? If she is now working for Gipson it would certainly explain why there is such sudden willingness on her part to accept 4 acres instead of 8 and it would explain her willingness to live with the conditions that are placed on the “Contribution”.

    Here is my suggestion…go back to the developer, give him a list of costs that are associated with the project that the city will not cover and give him back his land. If he doesn’t want to cover the costs let him pack up and move on…if he covers the costs it will be his decision. If he prefers to give the land instead of cover the costs the city should have an assessment conducted to determine the value of the land being donated. If the value of the land being donated is not at least equal to the cost the city will incur the project should be disapproved, otherwise we as taxpayers will be paying part of the cost of Mr. Gipson’s project…what is fair about that? If the land is worth more than the cost associated with the build-out of infrastructure the city should seek the advice of competent legal counsel to determine if accepting the land would be an act of contract zoning. If it isn’t contract zoning, and it makes sense to the commission, then and only then can you accept the donation of the land as an alternative to covering the costs.

  6. Vice Mayor Hagerty:

    If you will send a copy of the letter to p.v.publicola@gmail.com, we’ll post it here on RFMJ and provide a link.

    – Publius

  7. Bobby Franklin

    There are reasons the State of Tennessee requires all municipalities to operate under the rules of a specific charter. The Founding Fathers established three branches of government for the very same reasons – to divide power and establish checks and balances. To assure that “government by the people” couldn’t be taken over by one person or entity.

    The City Manager / Commission form of government divides the responsibility for policymaking and operations. The Commission has full authority to set all policy and to adopt a budget. The Commission has very limited personnel power as it only hires two people – the City Manager and the City Judge.

    The City Manager has no policymaking authority but has authority over all operations. He is required to implement the policies set by the Commission. The Commission can only exercise its power when assembled in either a regular or special publicly noticed meeting. No elected official has any individual authority over any city employee including the City Manager. No elected official has the authority to negotiate anything on behalf of the city unless authorized to do so by a vote of the City Commission.

    The elected officials in Mt. Juliet are required to know the charter. They all took an oath of office to uphold the charter when first elected. The City Commission also has the authority to discipline itself. In fact, the Commission can remove any member from the board by majority vote. It can also vote to “censure” a member.

    Employees of the city have powers too. Those powers can be established by the City Manager. Employees also have the same powers and rights of any other citizen. Those rights include the freedom to talk to all elected officials and to other citizens. They have the right to speak out on matters of public concern.

    I exercised my citizen rights all six and half years I was an employee at the City of Mt. Juliet. I talked to Commissioners, citizens, friends, and family. My belief was that the best way to have an open and honest government was to be open and honest.

    My job as Director of Planning placed me in the middle of some of the most important decisions the Planning and City Commissions made. My department had to ensure that the development community honored the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulation. There were times elected officials encouraged me to extract land and / or money from developers above and beyond what was required by the regulations. I refused. The City Manager always stood behind my decision to honor the regulations instead of an individual elected official.

    Some of the elected officials (not all) began negotiating and extracting things from developers behind the scene (not in public meetings). I told the City Manager, Commissioners, City Attorney, citizens, friends, and family. Most of the other Commissioners didn’t really care (except Jim Bradshaw) – after all, “the Mayor was just getting the development community to contribute more to the city.” No harm, no foul?
    I thought this was wrong because no one could really know what was being negotiated. The developer was being “shaken down” behind the scene by one individual with no authority to do so. If more contribution was the will of the Commission the Commission should amend the Ordinance and let staff require it as part of the review process. Planned Unit Developments should have been totally negotiated in public meetings.

    The Mayor got quite good at extracting behind the scene. She even bragged about it in public meetings. The Commission didn’t really object (except for Jim Bradshaw). Developers were not happy but didn’t want to object publicly for fear of jeopardizing their projects. They were “donating” land and money and getting their projects approved. Staff was in no position to stop this. I told everyone I knew about it and no one really cared.

    But then things changed. The Mayor went to work for a developer but concealed her change of employment. I found out from the Mt. Juliet Chronicle. She was still negotiating behind the scenes but her goal now was to lower the City’s development standards. She called and asked me to withhold a Tech Review comment from the Planning Commission. I found out later that her employer didn’t want to provide access to an adjacent parcel so he could purchase it cheaper.

    The Mayor also called a meeting to pressure the Public Works Director to issue building permits against city policy. Mt. Juliet staff was now in a position to stop the Mayor. She was trying to change policy without getting a vote of the City Commission. The City Manager stood behind the Public Works Director and the Mayor was furious.

    I told everyone I knew about this when it happened – the City Commission, City Attorney, Planning Attorney, Planning Commission, citizens, friends, and family. Every member of the City Commission knew this was happening long before Hatton Wright ever filed his Ethics Complaint. Not one Commissioner did anything about it.

    But there was a reaction. Every staff member that said no to the Mayor lost his or her job. The City Manager, City Planner, Public Works Director, and Zoning Administrator are all gone. Not one Commissioner has done anything about that either.

    Now I see the Mayor is still negotiating with developers. She was recently caught trying to give back half of the acreage “donated” to the city by the Paddocks developer. Ed Hagerty caught her (he is the Commission’s representative on the Planning Commission).

    I wonder what the City Commission plans to do now? The Mayor was censured for meddling behind the scene once already. Looks like she has done it again. If the City Commission does nothing, the mayor is likely to arrange for the firings of more employees. Do you think this will improve things?

  8. Here’s a link to the letter (Gipson letter) mentioned by Vice Mayor Hagerty. It was sent on January 28 by the developer to Mayor Elam.

    The Mayor should have known that the developer was adopting a “Russian” negotiating strategy by reopening an issue they had already agreed to in 2006.

    – Publius

  9. Butch Huber

    Well said Mr. Franklin, thank you for speaking the truth so that all can see for themselves what is going on in this city.

    I first heard about the mayor negotiating with developers from the mayor herself. She was bragging to me personally about how she forced the developer of Providence to “donate” land to the city for a firehouse. She went on to build up how much she goes after developers to “squeeze” as much as she can out of them. I walked away from that conversation a little perplexed. I wanted to give Linda the benefit of the doubt, but I just couldn’t reconcile in my mind the justification for the city forcing developers to “give” their land to the city. However, until Sonny Griffin educated me about contract zoning I didn’t realize just how illegal her actions really were.

    To Commissioners Bradshaw, Haggerty, Justice and Sellers: what are you going to do to correct this issue? The mayor is illegally negotiating with developers on your watch…what are you going to do about it? Do you have the will to do the right thing and self-discipline this commission and the mayor?

    Mr. Franklin, I care…I am sorry if you made me aware of a problem and I missed it (Think you know that had I realized there was a violation of the law I would have raised the issue)…anytime you want to do something about what has happened to you and/or anything you have witnessed in this city I am there with you. I am ready to stand arm-in-arm with anyone who has the will and courage to bring order and justice to this government. We only need 8 more and we have enough for relator citizen action. Ray, Ed, Jim…are you ready to stand up for law and order in this city yet? You could be citizen’s three, four, and five…do you have the courage? Do you have the character? Do you have the integrity? Do you have the honor?

    Read the letter from the developer again…it is clear they really don’t want to give the city this land. Read the last line…they are obviously buying votes…you can’t blame them…the mayor caused this problem. They are simply following her lead. However, what is happening here is not just nor is it legal. Give them back their 8 acres of land and an itemized list of expenses the city will not cover regarding their project. Let them decide where to go with it and what to do with it from there. Look into contract zoning, if what I have read and what I have been told about contract zoning is correct you don’t want to enter into an arrangement like this.

    Think about the message that is being sent out in the development community about this city. If this city stays on it current course who will want to do business in Mt. Juliet? I will tell you who…people we don’t want doing business here…that’s who. What has been happening here is illegal and shady; and who is attracted to illegal action and shady deals? Criminals and shady people, that’s who! It is time for this city to clean up its act.

    There are only a few months left before the next round of elections fellows, what are you going to do? Are you going to stand up and take care of this problem or are you going to pass it off to the next administration?

    Folks, it is time for change in Mt. Juliet. It is time for an oversight committee of some sort to review what has been going on in this city and weed through the issues and determine what action is necessary to right the wrongs and set this city on the proper course.

    It certainly would be refreshing to see a group of politicians admitting that things have gotten out of control and they need help. You can’t keep playing politics like this forever…sooner or later it all comes crashing down.

    Let’s fix it.

  10. John Reitz

    Maybe time to get the Attorney General involved.
    As Bobby has said all commissioners were involved
    except Bradshaw. The same cancer grows in Public
    works. The public is afraid to speak knowing that the
    next inspection they might need would not be passed.
    All the cancer has to be removed. Talk to some of the builders out there.

  11. John Reitz

    Let’s bring in the attorney general.
    What’s everyone afraid of ?

  12. Butch Huber

    John,

    If you are speaking of Tommy Thompson, I have first hand experience dealing with Mr. Thompson. A few years back I tried to get General Thompson involved in an issue that was happening in this city. He told me that he was in no way interested in getting involved with the politics of Mt. Juliet. When I pointed out his duty under the TCA he began to yell at me and tell me not to tell him how to do his job. He told me that if the mayor or the commissioner or the city manager were to call him he might look into the matter, but other than that he wasn’t getting involved. You know this because I have posted this many times…

    If you are talking about the state attorney generals office…I contacted them about the recent issues with the Mayor…they were simply not interested.

    I called the TBI…they refused to do anything unless General Thompson was willing to prosecute…and since General Thompson is not willing to get involved with the politics of Mt. Juliet…nothing gets done.

    I called the FBI…not much interest there.

    I contacted the Governor’s office…who referred the matter to the TBI…who won’t do anything because General Thompson isn’t interested in getting involved with the politics of Mt. Juliet.

    There is the route where I could take with the chancery court or grand jury…if I take the issue to Chancery court or the grand jury and I am successful guess who has to become involved…you guessed it…General Thompson…who, by the way…isn’t interested in getting involved with the Politics of Mt. Juliet.

    Then there is the relater citizen issue approach…where we could force an investigation….guess who becomes involved that way…General Thompson…who, in case I wasn’t clear enough earlier…isn’t interested in becoming involved with the politics of Mt. Juliet.

    Kinda sucks, doesn’t it?

    There is still hope…if enough people get their fill of this we can get three new commissioners on the commission next year…if we are lucky they will have the will, courage, honor, and integrity to conduct their own investigation into what has been going on in this city. Three of them can out vote the two remaining and launch an investigation.

    Another glimmer of hope would be a ground-swell of citizens demanding that order be restored in this city. Enough people raising a stink with the Governor, with media in tow, can bring about amazing results. I am sure that the governor doesn’t want to spend a lot of political capital protecting the mayor and this commission. If we scream loud enough to get the media involved someone will have to do the right thing eventually.

    Sounds like you might be willing to demand an investigation…do you know anyone else who would be willing to force an investigation?

    For the rest who are reading this post…your government just accepted 8 acres of land from a developer as a condition for approval of a development project…the way this came about is illegal. It is against the law. This type of thing, as Mr. Franklin has pointed out here, is not new to this city, in fact it has been going on for awhile. Our mayor, on her own, decided to “negotiate” with this builder to force him to give land to the city in return for approval of their project.

    Laws have been broken, justice must be served. As I have pointed out here, nobody in authority has the will to do what is right and bring justice. I have already taken just about every avenue I can think of to fix the problem…one man working alone cannot fix this situation…so the question is, are we going to sit idle and watch as this commission continues to violate the law or will enough people with honor and courage stand and force justice to be served?

    Ray, Ed and Jim…there is still time for you to weigh in on the side of justice and join forces to bring order to this commission…if I ever get enough people together to force an investigation I am sure you each will want to be counted as having been with the people who wanted to see order restored.

    Ray, Ed and Jim….you can make this all very simple…sponsor a resolution to launch an investigation into everything that has happened over the past couple years…with a single vote the three of you could make things much easier for everyone and you could be seen as having the courage, will, honor, and integrity to do the right thing; Unless of course you think it is okay for the mayor to negotiate such deals without full commission authorization and unless you think it is okay to enter into contract zoning even though it is illegal, and unless you think it is okay to retaliate against people for standing up to the mayor when she is illegally trying to get them to do things that are illegal. Go back and read the testimony given in the investigation brought in the Hatton Wright complaint…read it through carefully…how can anyone come away from reading the testimony given and not know that laws were broken? Ed and Ray…you and I know that you know that I am right…we’ve talked.

    I certainly can’t speak for everyone else in this city, but as for me, the only bone that I have to pick with the rest of the commission, other than the mayor, is your willingness to ignore the law and that you haven’t taken action already, you can still redeem yourselves in my eyes by now standing with those who want to see order restored.

    No more backroom deals!
    No more harming employees!
    No more paying games!
    No more politics by ambush!
    No more antics!
    Follow the law!
    Follow the rules!
    Maintain integrity!
    Maintain Honor!
    Conduct yourselves with dignity!

    It really isn’t that hard guys…let’s open the lid and take a look at what has been going on…or do you have skeletons you don’t want us to know about. Because, at this point, that is the only thing it can come down to, either you think I am wrong and there are no problems “or” you lack the nerve to do the right thing and restore order “or” you have skeletons in your closet you don’t want us to know about…which is it?

    John…it is refreshing to see you post under your real name.

  13. Ed Hagerty

    Butch:

    You asked a question in your next to last paragraph above.

    I’ll be glad to answer, although I am certain my answer won’t please you.

    I think you are wrong.

    Respectfully, Ed Hagerty

  14. Butch Huber

    Ed,

    I am sorry to hear that Ed. Let me play that back for you…to say that I am wrong is to say that it is okay for an individual commissioner to meet with developers, negotiate deals without commission oversight, approval and authorization, arrange deals in backroom meetings, and accept deals whereby developers are able to get approval for their projects over citizen objection because they make “donations” to the city. I know that there were citizen objections to this project…we know that the mayor negotiated with the developers without commission oversight, without approval of the commission, and without authorization. We kn0w that this deal was contingent on the developer “donating” 8 acres of land to the city. Beyond that, you and I had lunch during which we discussed many things…you agreed with me then that a lot of things were out of control and that something should be done…it is ironic that you now would “think” I am wrong. I filed a complaint that contained a lot of things that you agreed with me on…you voted to launch an investigation…interesting that you now think I am wrong. Could it be enlightened self-interest that causes you to now say that I am wrong?

    In reference to this issue with the Paddocks….I don’t disagree that developers should pay the costs associated with their development…but the costs should be standard laundry list types of costs that consider both direct and indirect impact on the city. We have something similar in the residential side of development called impact fees. The same thing could be developed in the commercial side of things through which there are reasonable impact fees charged on a per square foot basis with an up-charge for uniquely associated infrastructure costs such as road development and traffic lights. As I said before, I think your intentions with regard for making the developer pay the freight for their project are right, or nearly right, but the application is misguided. A developer should not have to pay for quality of life issues within a community as a condition for approval for developing their property. They are in business to make a profit…not to provide for the welfare of citizens. You use the tax dollars that are generated though retail to provide for the welfare of citizens…that should be enough.

    Ed, you can’t sit at a table with me over lunch and agree with me that crimes have been committed and then when it is convenient say that you think I am wrong. It is time for you to do a soul search, Ed. You don’t “think” I am wrong…you “wish” I were wrong….so do I.

  15. Common Sense

    Tip of the iceberg…

  16. Bobby Franklin

    Ed Hagerty never attempted to micromanage my department behind the scene while I was at the city. I cannot think of one time he extracted something from a developer behind the scene either. He did negotiate right-of-way and special per lot contributions during the Planning and City Commission meetings many times. That is completely appropriate and allowed as part of the Planned Unit Development approval process.

    Here is language from the Mt. Juliet Zoning Ordinance outlining the choices of actions the Planning Commission must take on a Preliminary Master Development Plan:

    Within forty-five (45) days after initial submission the Planning Commission shall take action on the preliminary application by any one of the following:

    a. Unconditional preliminary approval.
    b. Conditional preliminary approval, in which the Planning Commission expressly denotes modifications, which must be a part of the preliminary approval.
    c. Disapproval

    You see, the Planning Commission has the authority to “denote modifications” as part of a conditional approval. Planning Commission meetings, of course, are held in public.

  17. Butch Huber

    Considering how Mayor Elam went to work for a developer without disclosing that fact to the public and considering her subsequent phone call to Mr. Franklin trying to get him to remove a condition placed on her employer’s property, I think we have seen how things can become colluded with regard to development projects. And while I understand what Mr. Franklin last posted, what would restrict this commission from forcing developers to “contribute” exorbitant “donations” in return for approval for their projects? Further, what would restrict the commission from requiring exorbitant “Donations” from one developer that they didn’t like and allowing developers that they did like to have free reign? Without standard fees and checks and balances what will determine equity? Commissioner Haggerty has already tipped his hand in his first post regarding this matter:

    From Commissioner Haggerty:
    “I find it entirely appropriate for developers to contribute to the needs of the city. In this case, why should Mr. Gipson, an Atlanta developer, swoop in to Mt. Juliet, make a gazillion dollars, and leave a burden to the taxpayers? It seems reasonable that Mr. Gipson contribute off site road improvements, required traffic signals, open space, park lands, etc.”

    When Commissioner Haggerty comments about this developer being from Atlanta and leaving a burden to the taxpayers he exposes his postion regarding Mr. Gipson. This is a position taken against an atlanta developer in contrast to a local developer. What does it matter where the developer is from? As far as open space…this developer is trying to build a retail shopping center in the core of our retail shopping area…what does that have to do with open space?

    You know, it just occurred to me why the developer put the language in the letter regarding use of the land…they know that the land will increase in value over time and that the city might just sit on that property for a period of time so that they can flip it at a huge profit! Oh, this just gets deeper and deeper. There simply isn’t anything right about this whole matter!

    We are all entitled to equality under the law…aren’t we? Planned Urban Development Projects may currently be a legal way of doing business…but without strict oversight they leave the door wide open for inpropriety.

    I am not sure that the freedom to shake-down developers was quite what the original intention of P.U.D.s were anyway. I believe the intention of P.U.D.s were to make it easier for developers to develop land and at the same time address concerns of commissions, not to create a type of government shylock ring.

    Many people see no harm in shaking down developers and “squeezing” them for everything that the city can get from them…I disagree. Nobody should be shaken-down by government…or anyone else for that matter…and shake-down is exactly how I view this whole matter.

    As I remember it, the developer is moving the road that runs adjacent to the development (At his expense), installing traffic lights (At his expense), etc. What is the city’s cost in all of that? I would be interested to find out exactly what the paddocks project is expected to cost the city in real dollars. I mean dollars that the city wouldn’t have to spend anyway. Then I would like to see an appraisal of those 8 acres. I am not aware of any costs that the city will incur with regard to the Paddocks…not saying that there aren’t costs…just saying that I am not aware of them. The argument that the increased retail will increase the need for parks really doesn’t make sense to me considering that there already is an impact fee on residential that is supposed to go to parks and roads. I would like to see some justification for extracting this land from this developer.

    Also, I challenge anyone to show me how it is legal for one commissioner, acting alone, without authority or appointment, to “negotiate” with a developer on behalf of the city.

    I believe that this deal is illegal based on what has been divulged so far…give the developer his land back and give him an itemized bill for the costs the city will not cover…let him come back to the table with his offer. (By table I mean commission.) If he comes back and offers land in lieu of paying for the costs out of pocket, and the land is of equal value, and there are no other legal restrictions to making a deal then so be it…but to “negotiate” the way this deal has been “negotiated” is illegal.

    Besides, those 8 acres are worth more as part of the retail development project…how many tax dollars will be lost due to those 8 acres not being utilized for tax generating purposes? Let the developer do what developers do…build income producing properties that create tax revenues for the city.

    There are much better locations for fire houses, police stations and parks than to put them in the middle of the high rent district of the city. Again, it is time to start looking at this city in reference to the twenty-year growth plan rather than its current boundaries.

    Mr. Haggerty, in case I prompted Mr. Franklin’s last post because I gave the impression that I think you have done something wrong with regard to developers, I mean intentionally illegal when I say that, I assure you that I don’t believe that about you. How on earth you could have the mindset that it is okay to force developers to give up their property in return for approval for their projects I don’t know, but intentionally violate the law…no, I don’t think that about you. I think you unintentionally violated the law when you approved this project based on receiving the 8 acres….but I understand that you disagree with me…I could be wrong…but until I see some convincing proof that I am wrong, other than you simply telling me I am wrong, I am going to believe I am right. I do however believe that I could line up a lot of proof that illegal actions have taken place here…unfortunately, politicians get a pass on anything they want to do in Mt. Juliet so it doesn’t matter anyway.

  18. John Reitz

    Butch do you think these people forget who they work
    for ? They think they live in an intouchable fortress, to do what suits them and not the community. It’s really a house of cards.

  19. Butch Huber

    John,

    I think it is a lot deeper than them just forgetting who they work for. Everything that has happened in this city, in my opinion, comes down to opposing philosophies…one philosophy that dictates that people are servant to the government and another that dictates that government is servant to the people. It is about whether we are going to live by rule of law, which is a republic, or are we going to live by the rule of popular opinion, which is a democracy. In case anyone reading this post doesn’t know…America is a Republic.

    Power in the hands of the wrong people, even well intended people, is a bad thing…always a bad thing. Power in the hands of the right people is probably always a good thing.

    Unfortunately, most of the right people don’t want to run for public office. They look at what public officials go through and what most of them are willing to do to hold on to power, and they simply don’t want to wallow in the mud. The people you want to have in office are those who don’t lust after power…who don’t need the ego pleasing position of power. Unfortunately, for most of those people the prospect of going through such antics is just not worth it….it would be worth it to them if there were enough other good people in politics, where they felt they could actually cause a fundamental change, but alas, there are all-to-few good people in the political landscape of society.

    John, the gray hairs on my head come from dealing with people…in my experience, people, both good and bad, can always find a way to “justify” their behavior. I do it to. You do it. We all do. Some more than others, but we all do it to one degree or another. We do 54 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone and we say “Everyone does it, the police expect it, they don’t give tickets for 9 miles over the speed limit, so there must not be anything wrong with it.” Regardless of how much we “justify” our behavior…when we do 54 MPH in a 45MPH zone…we are breaking the law. We lie to salespeople…”oh, I am just looking.”, when we do that we are lying through our teeth…but we “justify” by telling ourselves “that is what everyone says; besides, it’s just a salesman.”. It is still a lie.

    I say all of that to say this…I think that everyone of these commissioners “Believes” that they are right or justified in what they personally do and/or say. When you are inside their skin what they do is okay, even if it breaks the law. They may not agree with the other commissioners, and they usually don’t agree with me, but they all believe that what they are doing is “justified”. Take for instance this issue over the 8 acres…if I were “for” this taking of this developer’s land I could say: “These developers are going to be here making a fortune in this city, they are going to attract a lot of traffic and they will attract a lot of people to come live here. The city doesn’t have an impact fee on commercial development, so “negotiating” a deal with them is the same as an impact fee. Why should they get a free ride?” It could “Justify” in my mind “why” I was breaking the law, but it still doesn’t “authorize” me to break the law; “justified” and “authorized” are not the same thing. Justified is a matter of opinion…authorized is a matter of fact (sometimes it comes down to a matter of interpretation, but even then, you have to account for philosophical differences…which brings it back to “justified”, not “authorized”.)

    However, no matter how much we “justify” in our minds that what we are doing is fine…there usually is this still, small voice that speaks to us from our inner self, our spirit, that says, “you are wrong”. We tend to ignore that voice way to often. That voice is our moral compass, for those of us who are in Christ, it is our Spirit crying out to us. We cheapen ourselves when we act against the advice of that still, small inner voice. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do it…we all do it…each and every one of us…including me.

    I don’t believe this commission can fix itself, John. I believe that there is too much history, to much acrimony, to much annomocity, to much personal agenda, and to much hurt, bad feelings, and unforgiveness involved for this commission to right itself. This commission, in my opinion, has lost its moral underpinning. I believe that this commission is so far gone that the only way to fix the problem is to remove them all from office (regardless of whether we think they are good or bad people.) and replace them with five fresh faces. We need to elect and/or appoint five new people to the commission. We need to find and elect five new people who are people of character and integrity, and who have no bad history to contend with and who have no personal agenda or cause to champion for.

    As much as I disagree with Mayor Elam’s actions…I believe she can “justify” what she has done in her own mind…however, her justification doesn’t make her right and it doesn’t mean that what she has done is legal. (Remember: Just because those entrusted with offices, who can and should prosecute, don’t prosecute, doesn’t mean the law hasn’t been broken.) I believe that everything that any of them do is justified in their minds when they do it…or shortly thereafter, or they wouldn’t do what they do. No matter how much we “justify” what we do, Justification doesn’t make a us right. I have had some people do some really bad things to me in life…somehow they all manage to find a way to justify what they have done…but in the end they all seem to eventually recognize that what they did was wrong, even though they somehow still feel justified. Funny how the mind works.

    As far as living in an untouchable fortress…John, unfortunately, they do live in an untouchable fortress. There doesn’t seem to be enough people willing to stand up for law and order in this city to bring change. General Thompson won’t take action, they appoint city attorney’s who won’t take action against them, the TBI won’t take action…they really do live in an untouchable fortress.

    As far as a house of cards…it really isn’t a house of cards, either. There isn’t likely to be anyone of any caliber that will run against them in the upcoming election. The positions they hold are thankless jobs with very low pay. Only someone who is convicted to bring positive change and law and order back to this city “or” someone with a big ego need and a personal agenda would run for one of those offices. If they want to remain in office, they will remain in office. It is sad, but we will most likely be dealing with the same issues, or similar issues, and the same people next year at this same time…no change.

    Hate to be the bearer of sad news, but at least I am telling you the truth.

  20. Butch huber

    I just read, for the first time, the actual ordinance regarding this matter. Clearly the developer is required to pay for the costs to improve the roads and install traffic lights, so why the need to force him to give the city 8 acres of land?

    Folks, I am sorry that I didn’t read this ordinance before I started posting, I just missed it I guess. There are a couple of things that I want to point out to you. The mayor called Bobby Franklin to try to persuade him to remove a requirement the city was placing on her then employer’s property, Mt. Juliet Crossing. This requirement would require that the developer construct a tab (or extension) that would lead to an adjacent property. As Mr. Franklin has pointed out above, this was an unpleasant prospect for her employer because her employer wanted to purchase this adjacent property, and if there were a road connection to it the value of the adjacent property would increase. In essence, the developer would be causing an increase in value of property he hoped to purchase. I believe we can all empathize with his position, we wouldn’t want another person to benefit from our project if it meant that it would cost us. The mayor “justified” her actions by saying that she was afraid of the city ending up being sued for “illegal taking of land”. She went on to cite a couple of other instances where there were problems regarding “illegal taking of land” in this city. I believe her examples were irrelevant to her case, but that didn’t stop her from using them. I know we covered this earlier, but stick with me for a moment. This phone call occurred in September of 2006. Now, go read the date on the Ordinance regarding this project…Feb, 2006. This mayor, prior to Feb 6, 2006, took it upon herself to go and meet with the developer of this project and “negotiate” a “donation” of no less than 8 acres of land to the city as a “condition” for approval of their project. Folks, this is not a donation. It is clearly a requirement for approval…read the ordinance for yourself.

    This matter is evidence that she was of the mindset that it is okay to take property from a developer in Feb, 2006…but then in September of 2006 she is acting under color of office to benefit her employer and using the guise of illegal taking of land as the basis of her position. Not only was she in favor of taking property from developers in Feb, 2006…she was the leader of the gang.

    Mr. Haggerty, you said you thought I was wrong. Okay, we can disagree…but you made the following statement as well:

    “I find it entirely appropriate for developers to contribute to the needs of the city. In this case, why should Mr. Gipson, an Atlanta developer, swoop in to Mt. Juliet, make a gazillion dollars, and leave a burden to the taxpayers? It seems reasonable that Mr. Gipson contribute off site road improvements, required traffic signals, open space, park lands, etc.”

    It clearly states in the ordinance that the developer is responsible for off-site road improvements and required traffic signals…so what was the contribution for…open space and park lands? Am I to understand that in order to get this project approved this developer had to give the city a piece of land worth perhaps as much as two million dollars, maybe more, as “Park land or open space”? Now, it wouldn’t be “open space or park land” if we developed it for a police/fire department/senior center/youth center…would it? So, please, tell me “why” this developer was required to give the city this land? Someone please provide me with their “justification” for this requirement.

    For those who have a sense of fair play and decency, this project requirement stinks. This is a matter of greed and unbridled power. This developer hasn’t done a thing to anyone in this city, (except irritate those who are against this project…however, if he has a legal right to use this property in the manner he intends, it is fair play.) and yet he is being held up for millions of dollars of his wealth by our government.

    If I were this developer, I would continue with this project and I would sue to get the requirement for the donation of the 8 acres removed from the ordinance…look at the bottom of the ordinance…it says that if one part of this ordinance is found to be illegal or unconstitutional the rest of the ordinance remains in place. That means that he can have this requirement of the taking of land removed from the ordinance, but he can still build the project. I believe it also means that he can continue his project “while” he sues the city…which is exactly what I would do.

    On another point…please think about how Rob Shearer, Bobby Franklin, Hatton Wright, and Debbie Moss are no longer working for this city for issues stemming from actions of the mayor and others connected to the mayor and think about how she remains in her position regardless of what she has done…Feb, 2006 (before she went to work for a developer) she is championing the taking of land from the developer of Paddocks…Sept. 2006 she is championing the cause of her employer claiming illegal taking of land. You simply can’t have it both ways.

    There has to be a standard way to deal with developers…back room deals and good ol’ boy politics should not rule the day…but they do. Isn’t it time to clean up Mt. Juliet?

  21. Bobby Franklin

    The Mayor knew the Planning Commission had the right to require access to adjacent land where future resubdivision is foreseen. It is one of the most basic powers a Planning Commission has. Some would say it is planning 101 – in Mt. Juliet’s Subdivision Regulations it is actually 1-108.2:

    1-108.2 Subdivision Procedures Where Future Resubdivision Is Foreseen
    Whenever a parcel of land is subdivided and the subdivision plat shows one or more lots containing more than one acre of land or double the minimum required area for any zoning district in which the lot is located, and the planning commission has reason to believe that any such lot(s) will be resubdivided into smaller building sites, the planning commission may require that the subdivision and development of such parcel of land allow for the future opening of public ways and the ultimate extension of adjacent public ways or that such lots be restricted from further subdivision through a permanent conservation easement.
    The planning commission may also require that dedications providing for future opening and extension of such public ways be indicated on the plat.

    Mayor Elam chaired the Planning Commission prior to being elected Mayor. I think you can find many examples of Section 1-108.2 relied upon to require access while she was chair. I’m pretty sure she voted for these Subdivision Regulations while on the Planning Commission too.

  22. Butch Huber

    Now is a good time to go back and re-read…or read for the first time for those who haven’t, the testimony taken during the investigation into Hatton Wright’s complaint against Mayor Elam. Contrast the information you see in those testimonies to what you see and hear today. It is very interesting.
    IF I have time I will develop an expos’e outlining what I have found…until then, please take the time to read the testimony for yourselves. The testimony can be found here on RadioFreeMJ under ethics…scroll to the bottom of the article.

  23. Pingback: Vice Mayor Hagerty challenges Mayor Elam’s right to “shred” ordinance « Radio Free Mt. Juliet

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