The sad decline of the City of Mt. Juliet’s web site

[while we are waiting for eyewitness and online reports from the Jan 10, 2011 City Commission meeting]

Once upon a time, the City of Mt. Juliet had an actively updated, current web site  – http://www.cityofmtjuliet.org

That time is no more.

The BEST way for any government body to be transparent and open about its actions is to make access to its agendas, meeting items, and minutes easy for citizens. An internet website is the fastest, most convenient way for the government to make documents public and for citizens to access them.

The City of Mt. Juliet has all the necessary framework required to keep the citizens informed and to make information available.

Sadly, what appears to be lacking is any willingness or commitment to serving the citizens.

The City website has a Online Documents section, with a folder devoted to Agendas – Minutes – Packets. There is evidence from prior years that someone used to know how to use the Online Documents section, but the evidence would suggest that the city abandoned the practice of updating its Online Documents section sometime in 2010.

  • City Commission Agendas – no agendas posted after August of 2010, until the agenda for the first meeting of Jan-2011 appears, a gap 3 months with no documents.
  • Board of Commissioner Packets – Last packet posted was for the Nov 22, 2010 meeting. No packet for the December meeting ever posted. As of Jan 10th, 2011 no packet for Jan 10th,2011 meeting has been posted.
  • City Commission Minutes – the last set of Minutes posted is for April 17 of 2010. As of Jan-2011, there are eight months of missing minutes.
  • Ordinances and Resolutions – There are NO ordinances posted. There are resolutions posted through August of 2008 – nothing after that. There is a link to Municode which has a codified version of the City Code updated through April 26,2010. After that there is a single link to a single piece of legislation enacted since April 26, 2010 – ironically enough, it is the ordinance which approved the amendment to the city charter banning simultaneous holding of elected offices.

From its online treatment of ordinances, you might conclude that from April of 2010 till January of 2011, the City had enacted only two ordinances. There are no minutes to record what has happened online. There are missing commissioner packets that might show what was proposed. There is only the one ordinance from August on Municode and the 2010-2011 budget uploaded by the City’s Finance Director.

This is an “F” performance by government at any level. It is particularly embarrassing for a prominent, well-to-do suburb with a population of 30,000+. It’s not as though they have lacked the resources or the ability to do this. The website provides stark evidence that Agendas, Packets, & Minutes have been posted in the past.

The lack of attention to transparency betrays a contempt for local citizens which is reprehensible.

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10 Comments

Filed under City Charter, Mt. Juliet City Commission, Open Records

10 responses to “The sad decline of the City of Mt. Juliet’s web site

  1. Southsider

    Failure to get the “little things” right might not be so bad if the city was doing a great job handling the “big things”.

    I never did hear if the city won that lawsuit against itself.

  2. I disagree that this is a “little thing.”

    As to your second point – word is that at tonight’s meeting it was disclosed that the proposed petition for declaratory judgement has still NOT been filed – but that the Mayor/City Manager/City Attorney have broadened the scope of the Petition to ask not just “When does the amendment take effect,” but “Does the charter amendment apply to Linda Elam and Jim Bradshaw?” Anyone who can read can answer the first question – if you put a copy of the Tennessee Constitution in their hands. Copies of the state constitution appear to be in short supply at the Mt. Juliet City Hall. Perhaps Rep. Elam can pick one up in Nashville tomorrow and bring it back for Mayor Elam to read.

  3. Old Blevins

    At this point I think her mayorness is aware that about 80 percent of the people who pay attention don’t like her and the other 80 percent of the population might also if they had more facts in front of them. She is trying to stay below the radar, with help from local newspapers.

  4. Doc Cider

    A review of the city website also shows that Planning Commission info is not up-to-date. This is important info for those who want to see what lies in Mt. Juliet’s future, since virtually everything gets approved these days. Minutes only extend to April and January’s agenda and packet are not up.

    On a lighter note, after describing Mt. Juliet as ‘an affordable, clean, well governed (lol) and prosperous city with a highly educated population’, the home page highlights the proximity to Nashville. ‘Our neighbor, Nashville, is renown as the Athens of the South’. Maybe one of those highly educated citizens should have done the proofreading.

  5. Sonny Griffin

    The following is a copy of Resolution #36-2010:

    RESOLUTION #36-2010
[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
    Page 1 of 2
    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.

    This is the instrument that started the charade.

    It was sponsored by Mayor Elam.

    Mayor Elam voted yea for this resolution.

    Commissioner Bradshaw voted yea for this resolution
    and it passed with Hagerty casting the only no vote.

    Is there any mention of Bradshaw or Elam in the resolution? The answer, of course, is no.

    If there was any mention of Bradshaw or Elam at all, it would have been illegal for Elam to sponsor and vote on the resolution and it would have been illegal for Bradshaw to vote on the resolution because it would have affected both of them personally and monetarily. Actually it did anyway, but not so flagrantly.

    This whole charade was set in motion because the City Attorney failed to notice that the effective date is dictated by Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution. Kind of hard to believe any body could have missed something this obvious.

    Especially an attorney.

    Even more especially an attorney who stated during the discussion of the resolution that “his advice was based on general thinking about Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution”. See BOC 11-22-10. pdf (13,436 kb) Page 31 & 32/66 on the city website under 2010 Board of Commissioner Packets. Very interesting reading.

  6. Southsider

    The Mt. Juliet City Attorney is in way over his head.
    Perhaps Mt. Juliet’s worst municipal attorney ever.

  7. Butch Huber

    We need an attorney in this city that doesn’t seem to want to play politics with that office. Jason Holleman couldn’t tell the difference between the words “Credit” and “Discount” when I was trying to keep the city from illegally spending bond funds to buy the old MJES site. The resolution from the county said, “Credit”, Jason personally told me that he saw that as a “discount”.

    From Websters:

    Discount:
    a (1) : a reduction made from a regular or list price

    Credit
    d (1) : an entry on the right-hand side of an account constituting an addition to a revenue, net worth, or liability account (2) : a deduction from an expense or asset account

    This is the quality that we are getting for our 6 figures in this city. Remember, Jason Holleman is a metro councilman. It is a conflict of interest in my opinion for him to serve as our city attorney. He strikes me as being way too political in the affairs of this city.

  8. Butch Huber

    RESOLUTION 36-2010
    RE: Approve engagement Letter for Attorneys concerning the referendum on the
    November 2010 ballot
    Sponsor: Mayor Linda Elam, Vice Mayor Will Sellers,
    Commissioner James Bradshaw, Commissioner Ted Floyd
    Motion made by Vice Mayor Will Sellers to adopt said resolution, seconded by Commissioner
    James Bradshaw.
    Motion made by Commissioner Ed Hagerty to amend said resolution, the 2nd Whereas, to add at the
    end “by a vote of 87% to 13%”.seconded by Vice Mayor Will Sellers.
    Vote on amendment: Yea: Bradshaw, Hagerty, Floyd, Sellers
    Nay: Elam
    Vice Mayor Will Sellers asked City Attorney Jason Holleman for a definition of the next steps.
    10
    City Attorney Jason Holleman stated we would engage both attorneys. Mr. Lannom would prepare
    and file a declaratory judgment action in Wilson County Chancery Court. Ms. Sasser would
    prepare a response to that action. He would assume that a briefing schedule would be filed for
    cross summary judgment motions and a hearing would be held in Wilson County Chancery Court,
    hopefully toward the end of the year.
    Vice Mayor Will Sellers stated for the audience this would give interpretation on when the change
    to the charter would go into effect whether before or after they are sworn in.
    Mayor Linda Elam stated it is simplistic to say that this passed by an overwhelming majority
    because the voters heard what we heard at this table, that this resolution would not go into effect
    until 2012. The candidates relied on the legal interpretation that was given at this table to their
    detriment. Some of us where informed before the election that that might not be the case, but the
    public was never given that information. This is not about Linda Elam and James Bradshaw, it is
    about the citizens of Mt. Juliet who have elected people to the office of Mayor or Commissioner
    and then also elected them to a different office of State Representative and County Commissioner.
    These people, when they voted, knew we held other offices. She feels the public relied on the
    information that this would not go into effect until 2012 and were confused about her comments
    that she may or may not be able to retain the seat as Mayor. She has had people tell her that they
    relied on this information.
    Mayor Linda Elam stated that regardless of how this turns out she will not complete her entire term
    as Mayor. She has some significant issues such as fire that she would like to get worked out on her
    watch. She feels this is so significant that it would unfair to turn over to someone that might
    follow. She feels this is the appropriate course of action so that the voice of the people that elected
    people to office and passed the referendum. There are contradictory messages. Feels this is the
    proper way to go. She will abide by the ruling of the court.
    Commissioner Ted Floyd stated he understands. He does not understand how 87% of the people
    could vote and not think it would not apply to the Mayor and Commissioner James Bradshaw. He
    is receiving more comments from his district that if we pay for your attorney we would be using
    taxpayer money to fight what 87 people out of 100 voted for. He is not sure if he can vote for this.
    Commissioner Ted Floyd asked City Attorney Jason Holleman to explain why we have to do this
    and he would also like to know how Commissioner James Bradshaw and Mayor Linda Elam will
    vote before he votes.
    City Attorney Jason Holleman stated this is an important issue in that we are talking about an
    elected official who was elected by the people to serve in these positions. When this first came to
    the table, his advice was based on general thinking about Article 11, section 9 of the Tennessee
    Constitution. It seemed that we would have to wait until the end of the existing terms. After this
    became reality and talking to other city attorneys and the attorney general’s office and reading the
    constitution in detail. There is a provision in that same section of the constitution that provides an
    exception where it relates to a referendum. Further this is not an action of the general assembly
    because we are a home rule city. This altered his thinking. We are talking about public officials
    elected by the people. His advice that it is not appropriate based on his legal advice or a political
    11
    decision of this board. You have a legal issue because these two items were on the same ballot and
    these two officials have ongoing elected terms. Should the terms be or should not be abridged?
    This is a classic situation for the court to decide an effective date, the statutory construction of how
    our charter, the state constitution and state law fit together to resolve the issue. He feels we should
    file declaratory judgment action. This puts this in the courts and both positions are represented. A
    judge will decide. This will include the opinions of the citizens when they elected these officials.
    The judge is trained to make these decisions.
    Commissioner Ted Floyd stated if approved, is this only for the initial judgment or does it cover an
    appeal? City Attorney Jason Holleman stated that is not addressed, but he feels this body could
    address this. Commissioner Ted Floyd questioned if it would it be proper to amend the resolution
    to only include the initial case. He would not want to agree to cover the cost of an appeal. Mayor
    Linda Elam stated she would be happy to second that amendment.
    Commissioner Ed Hagerty questioned City Attorney Jason Holleman concerning the scenario of a
    dispute. An appeal is filed and extends the court time into 2011. If Commissioner James
    Bradshaw has taken the oath on 11/22/10, City Attorney Jason Holleman stated he can easily
    address this and that Commissioner James Bradshaw is easier to deal with. City Attorney Jason
    Holleman quoted the charter “until successor are elected and qualified”. He would advise
    Commissioner James Bradshaw not to be sworn in and to serve as an hold-over until this is
    resolved. He is able to serve in a hold-over capacity. Timing is more critical since the Mayor is to
    be sworn in at a set time and how it affects her ability to serve this body. He hopes we get an order
    from Chancery Court before that time.
    Commissioner Ed Hagerty confirmed that City Attorney Jason Holleman would suggest that
    Commissioner James Bradshaw not be sworn in on November 22nd which would be extending his
    term, which is in violation. City Attorney Jason Holleman stated that how the charter is written,
    that if Commissioner James Bradshaw had won by one vote the incumbent would continue to serve
    until the issue is resolved. City Attorney Jason Holleman referenced Senator Al Franken of
    Minnesota’s issue.
    Commissioner Ed Hagerty stated this is coming as a resolution not an ordinance. City Attorney
    Jason Holleman stated there is money in is budget, this is just approval of the letters of
    representation. Commissioner Ed Hagerty stated this money was not anticipated and what if we
    need another budget amendment. What if a future body denies the budget amendment? City
    Attorney Jason Holleman stated that would be complex.
    Vote Yea: Bradshaw, Elam, Floyd, Sellers
    Nay: Hagerty

    Thank you Ed Hagerty for using your head in this vote.

    Folks, reread the excerpt below:

    “Mayor Linda Elam stated it is simplistic to say that this passed by an overwhelming majority
    because the voters heard what we heard at this table, that this resolution would not go into effect
    until 2012. The candidates relied on the legal interpretation that was given at this table to their
    detriment.”

    Elam does not know what all the voters thought when they went to the voting booth. I am willing to bet that the majority of the voters felt that it would apply to both of them. The sentiment of the people I have heard from, and I have heard from a lot of people, and I still hear from more and more people, was/is that they believe that Elam and Bradshaw are thwarting the will of the voters. They must have believed when they voted for the Charter Amendment that it would apply to both Elam and Bradshaw, otherwise they wouldn’t feel that they are now thwarting the will of the voters.

    Read this excerpt:

    “City Attorney Jason Holleman stated this is an important issue in that we are talking about an
    elected official who was elected by the people to serve in these positions. When this first came to
    the table, his advice was based on general thinking about Article 11, section 9 of the Tennessee
    Constitution. It seemed that we would have to wait until the end of the existing terms. After this
    became reality and talking to other city attorneys and the attorney general’s office and reading the
    constitution in detail. There is a provision in that same section of the constitution that provides an
    exception where it relates to a referendum. Further this is not an action of the general assembly
    because we are a home rule city. This altered his thinking.”

    Folks, Jason Holleman is admitting that he screwed up! He is saying, “I gave you bad legal advice”. He spoke to other city attorney’s and the attorney general. “This altered his thinking”.

    What he is saying here is that he gave an initial opinion regarding Article 11, section 9 of the state constitution, which I believe is the opinion that he gave to the commission before the commission elected to pass the ordinance that put the question to the voters. Then, after the vote was approved by a vote of 87% to 13%, and probably after he tuned in to radiofree, he changed his position. Now we have to spend thousands of dollars to fix the mess up he caused. Had he given the correct legal advice in the beginning, we wouldn’t be in the pickle right now. This is yet another example of Jason Holleman bungling things. It is time for a new city manager and a new city attorney. Robertson is responsible for the quality of the work product of Jason Holleman and any and every other person under his command. He is “letting things slip through the cracks”, and what could be more important than getting an election right.

    The attorney general and the other city attorney’s that Holleman spoke to were correct. The provision in the law that speaks of a referendum and the provision in the law about home rule are game changers, as I pointed out in an earlier post. Even the city attorney seems to know now that this charter change applies to both Elam and Bradshaw. So why are they still sitting there on the commission? Elam was sworn in yesterday. If she didn’t resign before entering into that office she is in violation of the city charter. It is no defense to her that she has been given bad legal advice from the city attorney. She is responsible for her actions. If Elam entered into her office as a State Legislator yesterday without fire resigning as Mayor of this city, she is in violation of the charter, which I believe requires an ethics investigation. Interesting, on day one of a State Representative’s term of office she may have committed an act that could precipitate an ethics investigation against her. She has received the packet that Sonny pointed out above, from which I have posted the portion mentioned in Sonny’s post, so she has no defense in saying that she was unaware that the city attorney’s opinion had changed.

    She has no excuse if she didn’t resign yesterday. Bradshaw has no excuse. He knows that this applies to him if he read the information supplied to him. He is purposefully thwarting the will of the voters.

    It is not acceptable that they “interpret” the will of the voters. They can’t possibly know the “will of the voters”. What they can do is seek out what the law says, how it applies here, what the voters actually voted on, and then make a decision. The city commission can make this decision, they don’t need a judge.

  9. Pop Korn

    I wonder if Holleman spends as much time cozying up to Karl Dean as he spends doing the bidding of the (now serving illegally) mayor here.

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