Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 21, 2013

Council to hold special meeting on budget and “Crossville circus”

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville city council will meet in special-called session Monday at 6 p.m. and the agenda includes what could be the final discussions and decision on the 2013-'14 fiscal year budget and items to review recent council discussions that one councilman is calling “Crossville circus.”

While a majority of the work on the new fiscal year's budget that starts July 1 is complete, two major decisions remain to be made. The council has discussed the possibility of a 6-cent property tax increase to help pay ever rising garbage pickup disposal costs. The tax increase would cost someone whose residential property is worth $100,000 an additional $15 per year.

The other decision to be made concerns raises for city employees. For two out of the last four years, employees received no pay increase at all and small ones in the other two years. Councilman Pete Souza has pushed for a 4 percent pay increase for all employees. Other councilmen have discussed a three percent raise and dropping the tax increase. Another alternative plan discussed previously was for employees paid less than $40,000 to get a 4 percent increase while those above that salary would get 2 percent.

The third and final readings of the budget and tax rate are on the called meeting agenda.

The council has two items on the agenda related to the tense situation that took place near the end of the council's regular June meeting involving Interim City Manager Jack Miller and City Clerk Sally Oglesby. A motion to dismiss Miller failed after it ended in a tie vote and he maintained his temporary employment with the city.

Councilman Jesse Kerley has requested an item on the agenda he calls “Crossville circus.” Souza has also requested an item on the agenda that he refers to as “Matters relative to unethical use of authority by Mayor Graham and Mayor Pro-Tem Wyatt.”

The discussion at the council meeting earlier this month stemmed from a staff meeting held by Miller June 7 with a number of city department heads. An unofficial tape of the staff meeting was provided to city council members and to the Crossville Chronicle. Part of the discussion at the staff meeting involved an email in which the city clerk felt she was attacked by one of the council members. When Miller pressed for details, Oglesby said she was not comfortable discussing it. She did say she stood up for herself.

As the discussion became heated in the staff meeting, Oglesby said she felt that she was on trial. Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III happened to stop by city hall to pick up his mail and overheard part of the meeting. He brought up the matter at the council, meeting saying the tone of the meeting was inappropriate, leading eventually to the vote about Miller on a motion made by Councilman Danny Wyatt.

During the staff meeting, Miller tried to instruct Oglesby that she should not write resolutions or ordinances for council members and he wanted her to report to him any such action or information Oglesby got that might threaten him. It came out in the staff meeting that Wyatt had given Oglesby information and asked her to write a resolution concerning limiting Miller's power as the interim manager. That resolution passed at the May council meeting and was rescinded several days later. Oglesby said that council members will sometimes bring her items in confidence and she stated she would not violate those confidences.

Miller is heard to say on the recording he wanted the staff meeting discussion to stay private within the meeting and not be discussed with others. At least four of the staff meeting attendees are heard on the tape saying they felt the discussion held during the meeting was not appropriate in a staff meeting and should have been done in a private meeting.  

Other items up for discussion on the agenda include Souza's proposal for a full-time city attorney. It was on the regular June agenda but was tabled until cKerley could be present for the discussion.

Graham wants the council discuss the possible purchase of additional property for industrial development. The proposed property is 145.3 acres south of Highway 70-N and adjacent to property the city already owns at the end of Maryetta Drive. The property is owned by the Swallows family and has been offered to the city at $11,111 an acre, for a total price of just over $1.6 million.