Dear Smoke Signals:
I recently read an article in the Chronicle that the TSUD board of commissioners voted in January to pay members a per diem for attendance at district meetings for up to 12 meetings per year. Virgil Ferguson said “We’re spending a lot of money going to all these meetings and it’s getting expensive.” Trey Kerley noted that the Tuesday meetings at 4 p.m. required him to leave work and miss two hours of time on his job. He said “We’re one of the only boards that do not have per diem.” Kerley added that he had checked with surrounding utility districts as far away as Knoxville.
Ferguson moved to pay the commissioners a per diem, supported by Kerley. Jim Heath moved to table the motion until next month and requested the motions come to the board in a written form. His motion did not receive support and the original motion passed with Heath opposing. Ferguson then moved to pay the commissioners $150 per meeting up to 12 a year and Kerley suggested $100. Again, Ferguson and Kerley voted yes, Heath voted no.
After researching the above information put forth by the board that passed the motion for $100 per meeting, it is my understanding they cannot charge more than $50 based upon usage of the district. Additionally, Mr. Heath is correct; it needs to be in the form of a resolution that goes to the state. No one expects anyone to leave their job on a regular basis to attend meetings, as Kerley states he does. Perhaps the board could vote to make appropriate changes to avoid that scenario. When a circumstance such as this cannot be resolved among the board members and continues to pose a problem for any commissioner they can always ask the mayor to select a new appointment if need be. If you are a board member that lives in the same district where the meetings are held (normally a short distant) and attend one meeting a month I cannot see where the expense is that significant, as opposed to attending meetings at a much higher number elsewhere in the county.
The Utility Commissioner’s and Managers Handbook for Tennessee state the following:
“The members of the board shall serve without compensation for their services, except that by resolution duly adopted by the board of commissioners, each commissioner may receive per diem payments.
Limitations on commissioner pay are based on the size and location of the utility district.
Commissioners may not receive per diem payments if they do not attend the meetings. Commissioners may not receive any other payment, such as “Christmas bonuses.”
Although it is correct, a per diem can be charged per the state and others do so, they have been established much longer than TSUD and are not facing some of the financial hardships our district is presently going through. In light of public relations and present circumstances the community is facing, at this time, I do not consider this to be a good move by the board members.
5th District County Commissioner