Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 9, 2013

Search, threats on city agenda

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

— The Crossville City Council will again discuss interviews for the city manager position and legal services when it meets tonight at 6 p.m. Also on the agenda is an item concerning "threats" one councilman says were made by another member of the council following a recent meeting and revisiting the robo calls from the 2012 election.

Councilman George Marlow has requested the city manager search be discussed tonight.

The council received applications of interested candidates June 14 and provided their top selections to Human Resources Director Sandy Gruber June 21. Those with only one vote were removed from consideration and the council was left with seven names, two of which withdrew their names from further consideration.

The council voted again June 28 for their top three candidates, with Interim City Manager Jack Miller, Aaron Elmore and Scott Collins each garnering three votes from the council. There were questions from the public, however, concerning councilmen only voting for two individuals on that second ballot. The Chronicle has also questioned the process used to narrow the candidate field, which involved votes taken outside of a public meeting, the records of which were destroyed. Only final tabulations of the number of votes were announced, with the selections of each councilmember unknown.

The council has since provided their votes, which they reconstructed from memory as official ballots were not available.

The council also voted it would develop a contract prior to interviewing candidates, and the contract would include a three-year term of employment.

Councilman Danny Wyatt had asked the council to begin interviews with those candidates who received two or three votes on the first ballot. That motion failed 3-2 during the July 2 special-called meeting. At that time, Mayor J.H. Graham III said the council should take time to "reflect" on the situation before making any decisions.

Elmore, who received three votes on the second ballot, is Marlow's son-in-law.

Souza has since informed the Chronicle he did not know the votes would be secret. "I assumed that the final round would be in the open and that would have enough transparency," he wrote in an email to the Chronicle Friday.

Souza has placed the robo call issue on the agenda for tonight. On Aug. 16, numerous residents reported receiving campaign calls from a number their caller ID listed as Crossville City Hall. The content of the call was called a "survey" and was an automated call. Some even stated "This is from city hall." The calls targeted former incumbent councilman Boyd Wyatt as the 2012 city election was getting under way.

A week later, the Crossville City Council met and told then-City Manager Bruce Wyatt to take action he deemed necessary to investigate the calls that spoofed the phone number of city hall. To date, no charges have been filed in connection with the calls.

Also on the agenda are items related to the city's legal services and attorney charges for June, both placed on the agenda by Councilman Jesse Kerley.

The city has studied hiring a full-time attorney, with city staff estimating the cost between $150,000 and $173,000 for salary, secretary, benefits, legal library access and other associated costs.

At a June 25 special-called meeting, Souza asked city attorney Kenneth Chadwell to withdraw his service from the city and presented documents he said showed Chadwell had a financial interest in the former First National Bank of Crossville building the city purchased and renovated for use as its city hall. Chadwell explained he and his business partner Joe Looney purchased the building in 2005. They owned it for about a month before selling the company formed for private investment purposes to local real estate developer Johnny Reeves and attorney Jim Thompson.

Souza also reported at that meeting the cost of the city's part-time attorney has ranged from $124,000 to $160,000 in legal fees. Councilman Wyatt reported average costs were closer to $100,000 a year, but the city had been involved in several lawsuits in recent years. A motion to hire a full-time attorney failed in a 2-3 vote at that meeting.

Kerley has also requested the agenda item "Matters relative to threats made by Councilmember Wyatt following June 25th meeting."

The council will also consider support of the Marketplace Fairness Act that would require Internet retailers to collect sales tax on purchases; sale of confiscated weapons; budget amendments for the 2012-'13 fiscal year end and the CoLinx project; and a resolution opposing eliminating tax exemption on municipal bond interest.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m., with the council meetings as the audit committee at 5:15 p.m. A public hearing is set for 5:45 p.m. for progress on plan of services for 10.07 acres of land on Lantana Rd., the Potter's Ace Hardware store, annexed in 2012.