City Commission poised to go to court over charter amendment

The following resolution has been placed on the agenda  for the Mt. Juliet City Commission’s meeting this coming Monday, Nov 8,2010. It is co-sponsored by Elam, Sellers, Bradshaw, and Floyd.

RESOLUTION
[Approval] OF ENGAGEMENT LETTERS WITH ATTORNEY FRANK LANNOM AND ATTORNEY KATHRYN SASSER AND AUTHORIZING THE CITY MANAGER TO SIGN THE LETTERS OF ENGAGEMENT

WHEREAS, upon adoption by the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners Ordinance 2010-40 a proposed charter amendment was placed upon the November 2, 2010 ballot to prohibit a person from serving as the Mayor or as a City Commissioner in the City of Mt. Juliet while at the same time holding a county, state or federal elected office;

WHEREAS, the citizens of the City of Mt. Juliet approved the proposed charter amendment;

WHEREAS, on August 5, 2010 City Commissioner James Bradshaw was elected to the Wilson County Commission and was re-elected to the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners on November 2, 2010;

WHEREAS, on November 2, 2010 Mayor Linda Elam was elected to the State House of Representatives;

WHEREAS, the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners desires to seek a declaratory judgment in Wilson County Chancery Court to determine the effective date of the charter amendment; and

WHEREAS, the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners desires to retain attorney Frank
Lannom and attorney Kathryn Sasser to act as legal counsel in assisting in the
determination of the effective date of the charter amendment;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it hereby resolved that,

1. The Board of Commissioners approves the two engagement letters with
attorney Frank Lannom and attorney Kathryn Sasser and retains their
professional services upon the terms and conditions contained therein.
2. The Board of Commissioners authorize City Manager Randy Robertson to
sign the Letters of Engagement.

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36 Comments

Filed under City Charter

36 responses to “City Commission poised to go to court over charter amendment

  1. Butch Huber

    From what I remember, there were 5700+ citizens in this city who voted for the amendment not to allow public officials to hold an office on our board of commissioners while at the same time holding any other elected government office. There were apparently some 600 or so people (probably friends of Linda and Jim) who voted to allow them to serve in two elected offices. That sounds like a mandate to me. It sounds like the people who voted for Jim in this election were saying, “you can serve us, or you can serve the county, but you can’t do both”.

    Now it sounds as if the city is about to spend our tax dollars to determine what the will of the voters is. Really? I guess they can’t take a hint.

    Let me see if I can help. If 5700 out of 6300 people don’t want you to be able to do a thing, and if they are the people in charge, YOU DON’T GET TO DO IT!

    I would be willing to put up a little money, but not a lot, to help pay the costs of hiring an attorney to file a brief as a friend of the court as a citizen of this community if there are enough others who are also willing to put up their money as well. I have $100, any takers?

    This whole issue of taking this to chancery court is yet another attempt by certain members of this city to circumvent the will of the voters. For others, it is an attempt to keep Linda and Jim from circumventing the will of the voters.

    The question I have is this. How do they get four people to co-sponsor a resolution or an ordinance without violating the state’s sunshine laws unless they individually bring the proposed resolution or ordinance to the counsel meeting to share with each other and with the public? They are not supposed to be talking to one another about these things except while in a regularly called meeting of the board of commissioners.

    There is still way too much going on behind the curtain in this city. There is absolutely no reason they can’t be open with the work they do. We have a right to know what they are up to so that we can “bind down their mischief”.

    If anyone would like to help organize and finance an effort to ensure that the court hears from the public on this issue I would like to hear from you.

  2. Man of the People

    Another thing that should be looked at is a petition to remove the mayor from office. While this may end up being largely symbolic, a strong show of citizen disgust will go a long way in the forum of public discourse. Look at all the attention, not to mention the flip-flop by the mayor, that came from the red light camera petitions.

    This would not be relevant or appropriate in the case of Mr. Bradshaw as the only crimes he has been guilty of are obtuseness and confusion. The mayor has conducted herself shamefully in office and there are many specific incidents justifying her removal.

    However, the wording of the Charter Amendment was abundantly clear and hiring lawyers to clarify what it means at taxpayer expense shouldn’t be necessary. The effective date is November 2. And why hire lawyers when there is a city attorney? I have a theory- these are ‘courthouse regulars’ rather than ‘some Nashville liberal’, which goes a long way in Wilson County.

  3. MofP makes a good point. The city already employs a full-time city attorney, at a 6-figure salary. Why can’t he file the motion with chancery court for a declarative judgment?

    Several other points:

    The effective date of the charter amendment is of little interest. It was effective either on the date of the election, or it will be effective on the date the election is certified by the Wilson County Election Commission. Whether it is one or the other makes no difference.

    Here’s why:

    The amendment does not prohibit someone from RUNNING for two offices. It prohibits someone from HOLDING two offices.

    The amendment is simple, clear, and specific. “A person who holds an elected office within the county, state or federal government shall resign that office prior to taking the oath of office as a commissioner or mayor.” This is the provision which affects Mr. Bradshaw. Whether it took effect on election day or whether it takes effect on the day it is certified by the election commission, it will certainly be in effect before Mr. Bradshaw will take his oath of office for another term as commissioner. He cannot take that oath (unless he resigns his office on the county commission) without violating the city charter.

    The amendment is equally clear and specific with regard to a member of the City Commission elected to another office. Before being sworn in to another office, the City Charter (as amended) now requires that “a person who holds office as a commissioner or mayor shall resign that office prior to taking the oath of office as an elected official in the county, state or federal government.”

    The amendment specifically identifies the prohibited actions – being sworn in as a member of the city commission or being sworn in to another elected office. It does NOT say being ELECTED to another office.

    Neither Mr. Bradshaw nor Ms. Elam can legally take their oaths of office unless they comply with the city charter as amended.

    Voting to spend city money, hiring two outside attorneys, appealing this matter to Chancery Court betrays their desperation to hold multiple offices in defiance of the citizens of Mt. Juliet. It reveals that they are much more interested in themselves than in serving the citizens – or listening to them.

  4. Southsider

    Any commissioner who votes for this is just as guilty as Bradshaw and Elam.

    Ignore 87% of the people at your own peril.

  5. Old Blevins

    Sellers has been eating sour grapes and will vote for this as a farewell. Elam and Bradshaw will vote for it out of selfishness, although Jim could show some class by at least abstaining. Ed won’t vote for this, and maybe Floyd will come to his senses. By the time second reading rolls around, Mr. Maness won’t vote for it either. So it’s up to Mr. Floyd.

  6. Southsider

    There is no second reading required for resolutions.

    Elam and Bradshaw should abstain due to a direct monetary conflict of interest.

  7. There won’t be a second reading. This is a resolution.

    They’d need an ordinance to appropriate money, so this is going forward under the premise that they’re using money already in the budget.

    Somebody should ask where in the budget the money for the attorneys is coming from.

  8. Doc Cider

    This is a ‘no’ brainer. As in, commissioners who want to show some integrity will vote ‘no’. We already know at least one of the five has zero integrity, and one will vote ‘no’, that leaves three commissioners to explain themselves to the citizens.

    Anyone pull Elam’s financials for the assembly race? Worth a look.

  9. Southsider

    I have heard about “putting the cart before the horse” but I have never heard of a City trying to take itself to court.

    There are three branches of government – legislative, administrative, and judicial. In the case of this charter amendment the legislative branch had placed a charter amendment on the ballot and the public overwhelmingly approved it – 87%.

    Now the same legislative branch is going to spend taxpayers money asking the judicial branch what the amendment means? Really?

    Ms. Elam will soon be on national television embarrassing the Republican Party over this.

  10. Loud and clear

    Some people do not understand why the Tea Party has had such a broad appeal in this election cycle. It is really quite simple; people are sick of politicians using their elected positions to dictate policy instead of representing the will of people. Higher taxes, health care mandates, cap and trade are just a few example of elected officials governing against the will of the people.

    Locally, there is a glaring example right here in Mt. Juliet. The people here have spoken loudly that they do not want elected officials to hold multiple seats. Eighty-seven percent is a very large mandate.

    What does Linda Elam do? She wants to ask a judge if this really applies to her and Jim Bradshaw!

    Linda, can you not see what the citizens want? Does it not matter to you?

  11. Pop Korn

    She will be the ‘Republican’ equivalent of the Atlanta congressman who was worried about Guam tipping over.

  12. Concerned Citizen

    The city attorney has some 125k budgeted for legal expenses. (So I’m told) Better spend it or he might not get it back.

  13. Butch Huber

    The first thing that needs to be addressed is the fact that this commission is ignoring state law by allowing Will Sellers and Jim Bradshaw to sit on the Board of Commissioners tonight. Our Charter says that the new commissioners are to be seated at the first meeting of the Board of Commissioners following the election. This city attorney has “changed” this city and who we do things by ignoring the wording of the Charter.

    Will and Jim should have been removed from the board tonight. Will Should have been removed because he lost. Jim should have been removed because his term was up and he cannot take office on our commission until he has resigned as a county commissioner.

    I read something today which quotes Jim as having said that the voters elected him knowing that he was on the County Commission. The problem with that logic is that the voters at large voted that he can’t serve on the county board of commissioners “AND” on our commission. Only the voters of his district voted for him to be city commissioner. The voters of his district don’t override the will of the voters at large.

    This issue isn’t over by a long shot. This could get very, very interesting.

  14. They voted tonight 4-1 (only Hagerty against) to authorize letters of engagement with two attorneys.

  15. Paul Deyo

    I emailed Mr. Bradshaw asking him to do the right thing, but apparently he either knows the election is over or he doesn’t know how to open email.

    I agree with Butch, Sellers and Bradshaw were present in violation of the charter, if the election has been certified. No surprise that they voted the way they did.

    Ted Floyd, shame on you. I had more respect for you and Mr. Bradshaw than either of you apparently deserve.

  16. Concerned Citizen

    The election commission will meet on the 16th to certify the election. I assume that covers the city as well.

  17. Butch Huber

    I could be wrong, but from what I remember, the charter doesn’t say a thing about after the election is certified, it says, the first meeting after the election. Now, if they want to make it after the election has been certified, then they should put that on a referendum and make it so, but from what I remember, it isn’t supposed to be “after the election has been certified”, it is supposed to be before they vote on another item.

    They all know the will of the voters, that is very clear, we don’t want our elected officials serving in another elected capacity….period. The voters in Jim’s district voted for him, and they may even want him to be able to serve them and still serve on the county court. But the will of the voters throughout the entire city is that he can’t serve in both capacities. The will of the voters in totality overrides the will of the voters in one district.

    Linda wasn’t voted into office in the house by people of this district, she was voted in by the people in district 57. While we may be in that district, certainly we don’t have enough sway all by our lonesome as a city to vote her into that office. In this case, we are in control in that we, the voters of this city, have sent a loud and clear message that, although the voters of district 57 don’t seem to care that she serve as a mayor of Mt Juliet while she serves as a district 57 representative in the state legislature, we care that she serves as a district 57 representative while she serves as mayor of Mt. Juliet.

    I would bet, though, that they both get to serve in both capacities, even though the voters are so obviously against it, because that is how things seem to work in this city.

    Bradshaw is largely inconsequential, because he is usually marginalized in the vote and the voters of his district are just disenfranchised because he can’t get anything done and he almost always votes the opposite of the others (unless it serves him personally). However, Linda is a different story. She has already proven that she is self-serving and that she will vote for anything and push any agenda and she will cook up any plan that helps her personally. She is the dangerous one. Bradshaw would get so confused if he tried to do the kind of things Elam does his head would pop off.

  18. Southsider

    The City Commission of Mt. Juliet has effectively voted to take itself to court. The City Attorney is paid (well) to render legal opinions but in this case cannot produce one.

    Instead, the City will pay two different attorneys to render two different opinions to the court in hopes of an “acceptable” opinion.

    There are several things wrong with this:

    1) It is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer’s money. The Commissioners are elected to pass legislation and enforce it. They placed a charter amendment question on the ballot and it passed with 87% of the vote. How can anyone claim to not understand the ballot question? They approved it. They public approved it. Now nobody understands it?

    2) Who will pay for the appeal? Tough question because Mt. Juliet is taking itself to court. Will Mt. Juliet pay to appeal the Chancellor’s opinion either way? I know this sounds absurd but only because most entities never take themselves to court in the first place. Mt. Juliet is going to court because its City Attorney cannot (or will not) render an opinion for some reason.

    3) Can Jim Bradshaw’s vote be counted until the Chancellor rules? This is a divided Commission on many issues. Bradshaw’s vote could decide many things. How can this indecision extend the term of someone who is violating the charter?

    4) How can they elect a Vice-Mayor? This is the first order of business after every election. Bradshaw’s nomination (and vote) for Vice-Mayor violates the charter too.

    The city is subsidizing two people trying to violate the charter. I doubt either would spend the political (or real) capital suing the city over this issue. So the city steps up and sues itself on their behalf.

    Does anyone else see how absurd this is?

  19. Butch Huber

    I just realized, the vote that they took is illegal! Both the Mayor and Commissioner Bradshaw have to state that they have a conflict of interest before they vote on something in which they will have a personal benefit if the outcome of the vote favors them! Oh, Yeah, this is Mt. Juliet, they can do whatever they want until a judge tells them they can’t. City Charter? We don’t need no stinkin’ charter. State Laws? We don’t need no stinkin’ state law. Constitution? We don’t need no stinkin’ Constitution. We will just do whatever we want and wait to see if a judge tells us we can’t.

    I cannot remember a case, anywhere, anytime, where something like this comes up and the candidate, the officer elect, or the loser isn’t the one who files suit rather than the government. It isn’t the “government’s” job to stand up for the aggrieved in an election, it is the person in the race’s job to stand up for him or herself.

    The commission should interpret the meaning of the vote of the citizens in this issue and take appropriate action. In this case it is quite clear what the people want. We don’t want our commissioners to serve us and on another board at the same time, that is so clear it is Crystal. They should not allow Jim to serve on the commission unless he steps down from the county commission. If he is ineligible at the time of swearing in the commission should appoint another person to take his seat, preferably Dick Kasnick, and move on. Notice should be given to Linda Elam that, in the event she is sworn in as a State Representative, she will immediately be removed from office. Let Jim and Linda pay to take this to court. At least that way we only have to pay for one attorney!

    How can they get things so wrong? Oh, yeah, I forgot who I was speaking about.

  20. Doc Cider

    A large public presence should be put together for the next commission meeting. I’m getting word out about this latest stunt at City Hall.

  21. Pop Korn

    Kasnick garnered 800 plus votes so if Bradshaw chose to be a county commissioner that would be a logical appointment, Butch. But Bradshaw will keep the city ‘job’ when forced to choose because it pays more and it is a shorter drive.

    Unfortunately, if he resigns the county post, it will likely be a less democratic process, as in ‘hey, my cousin Cooter lives on Belinda Parkway, let’s appoint him!’.

  22. Butch Huber

    Pop Korn, you are probably correct on all counts in your last post. Jim hardly counts anyway though, he is usually the only one not to vote for doing something no matter what it is that someone is trying to do.

  23. Southsider

    The waste of taxpayer’s money continues. This is what TCA requires a City Attorney to do as “duty”. Note the use of the word “shall”.

    ________________________

    6-21-202. Duties and compensation

    (a) The city attorney shall:

    (1) Direct the management of all litigation in which the city is a party, including the functions of prosecuting attorney in the city courts;

    (2) Represent the city in all legal matters and proceedings in which the city is a party or interested, or in which any of its officers are officially interested;

    (3) Attend any meetings of the board of commissioners when required by the board;

    (4) Advise the board and committees or members thereof, the city manager, and the heads of all departments and divisions, as to all legal questions affecting the city’s interest; and

    (5) Approve as to form all contracts, deeds, bonds, ordinances, resolutions and other documents to be signed in the name of or made by or with the city.

    (b) The city attorney shall receive a salary to be fixed by the board.

    ________________________

    Mr. Hollerman is clearly not doing his job as City Attorney (see #2 and #4) resulting in an unnecessary taxpayer expense. He is shifting his duties to outside contract labor and to the Wilson County Chancellor.

    The City Manager should be looking for a competent City Attorney ASAP.

  24. Butch Huber

    That is something we haven’t had since Leslie Newman was onboard. She seemed to know what she was doing. Also, before her, Lawrence (I think that was his name) seemed to be a good attorney for the city.

    I just read in the Chronicle that Linda stated that she wouldn’t fulfill the remained of her term regardless of the outcome of this court case. So, with that said, she must have only agreed to this court issue for Jim’s sake.

    I am happy she isn’t going to be on our city commission much longer. Perhaps now we can actually get something done in this city.

  25. Pop Korn

    Elam wasn’t real specific about her resignation date. And she’s not known for keeping her word.

  26. Doc Cider

    Holleman is distancing himself from this turkey. He has his own political career to take care of in Nashville and beyond.

  27. For city commissioners that are so worried about “duplication of services”, you sure don’t mind it when it is to your personal benefit. Shame on the four of you. This vote has defined each of you.

  28. Man of the People!

    Check out the “Citizens for Responsive and Accountable Politicians in Mt. Juliet” page on Facebook.

  29. I dunno.. sounds like CRAP to me…. [heh]

  30. Butch Huber

    Any news on this issue?

  31. Check you cabal decoder ring. Message coming in shortly….

  32. Butch Huber

    Does your decoder ring turn blue whenever Linda is near? She lives just down the street from me so the dang blamed thing is always glowing blue at my house!

  33. Pop Korn

    My decoder ring turns plaid….

  34. Butch Huber

    Pop Korn, that can only mean you are in an area where it detects Linda and Jim at the same time. Usually something bad is going to happen when your decoder ring turns plaid…duck!

  35. Pop Korn

    When Jim is near, it shows swirling question marks.

  36. Butch Huber

    Don’t look into the ring when it is doing that. If you do you may go insane.

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