Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 24, 2014

No action on workplace policy

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The proposed policy on a productive workplace for the city of Crossville was pulled out of the consent agenda for discussion by the Crossville City Council, but no action was taken on the issue that sought to bring civility to interactions between elected officials, city staff and employees.

Councilman Jesse Kerley asked the item be pulled from the consent agenda and said he was not sure if he was in favor of the policy or not.

“I don't think we need a policy telling us how to be courteous to other folks,” said Kerley. “But, I also don't want to vote on a policy because, if some issues arise, there is a time and a place you've got to quit being a little professional and set the facts straight. If somebody is in the wrong, I'm going to make sure and let them know and I think this might hinder somebody from doing that.”

Councilman Danny Wyatt, who had initially indicated his support for the measure at an earlier work session, stated he felt the city had enough policies and he questioned what, if any, kind of teeth the policy had.

Councilman Pete Souza started out by saying he had used language at the last meeting that he didn't think was that bad, but added, “It was inappropriate, so I owe everybody an apology on that.”

Souza went on to say that he agreed with Wyatt. There were enough policies, he said, and he did not want to hinder anyone's ability to speak out. Souza said he felt speaking out needs to be done courteously, not rudely, and without yelling or use of bad language.

Souza concluded, “I'm not going to support this agenda item."

Mayor J.H. Graham III asked for a motion on the policy and none was made. The council moved to the next item on the agenda.

Council also discussed the matter of the funds owed the Cumberland County Board of Education for the mixed drink taxes that were due but not paid to the schools by the state, as all other such funds are distributed. City Manager David Rutherford said the problem had been under discussion since October 2013 when Crossville, along with 47 other cities, discovered the problem. According to Rutherford, the city owes about $460,000 to the school system from approximately $900,000 in tax collected. Current taxes starting with January 2014 are being forwarded to the schools.

Rutherford said the BOE was willing to let the city make payments on the previous amount owed but would not give any credit for funds spent on the schools' behalf by the city over the previous years.

Graham moved to pay the amount owed, with an initial payment of $160,000 and the annual payments of $100,000 until the payment is in full, with no interest.

While Wyatt and Kerley felt the city should pay the amount right away, Souza said the reason for the problem was an administrative glitch and not intentional.

“If they are agreeable to take payments, I don't have a problem with that,” said Souza, who then seconded Graham's motion.

The motion, which included a budget amendment, was approved with four yes votes and Wyatt opposed.

After recent problems with approving contracts and then later having difficulty passing the three readings of budget amendments, Wyatt proposed that all future contracts subject to a budget amendment approval should be approved only on contingency of final approval of any required funding budget amendment.

Graham said he would accept Wyatt's suggestion in the form of a motion and Graham then seconded the motion, beating Souza, who also sought to second the motion. Souza said he wanted to make sure that the city manager saw any contracts the city was a part of and the internal administrative issue was ruled for the city manager to oversee.

The motion passed unanimously.