Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 12, 2013

Souza seeks change in ethics policy

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville City Council may consider action on a change to the current ethics ordinance proposed by Councilman Pete Souza as well as bids for employee health insurance, and the possible sale of two lots on Waterview Drive in Holiday hills during the regular November meeting tonight beginning at 6 p.m.

The council will also meet as the audit committee tonight at 5:30 p.m. just prior to the regular meeting.

The council met in a work session last week and discussed several of the items set for tonight's meeting, including the ethics ordinance proposed by Councilman Souza. Souza wants the ordinance to include a change in the designated ethics officer, currently the city attorney and allow the council to be able to hire a different attorney if they choose. Souza also wants any citizen, 18 and over, to be able to make an ethics complaint.

The proposed ordinance requires the council to publicly review the complaint for merit and “take such action as they deem appropriate within the parameters of their office.” The ordinance would require that some action be taken on an ethics complaint within 30 days of it being filed.

During the discussion, Souza said ethics violations can be either “unlawful activities or non criminal actions.”

Souza complained, “I am worn out receiving ethics complaints on the phone. Worn out!” He did not offer any specifics of what those complaints involved.

Crossville City Attorney Ken Chadwell said, "All of us need to be concerned about ethics.”

He added that there were a wide range of things that fall into that category. Chadwell also pointed out the current ordinance allowed the council to hire another attorney to investigate claims if they wanted to.

Souza added that he felt the newspaper is acting as the ethics officer for the city now.

The council will consider accepting bids on an increase in health insurance costs. The bid for health insurance includes a 9.5 percent increase. The city budgeted for a 7.5 percent increase but because the increase will only be in place for 6 months, the budgeted funds will cover the increased costs. Employee health insurance is paid by the city but any increases in the cost of family plans are divided 50-50 with the employee.

An increase will have to be budgeted for the next fiscal year. The city's loss ratio is driving the cost of coverage up, according to city staff.

The council will consider two bids received for lots on Waterview Dr., which the city purchased several years ago. Based on the recommendation of councilman Souza, the funds raised through the sale will go into the downtown Snodgrass building repair project.

The council learned during the work session that the city has received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the amount of $500,000 to continue work on sewer line repairs and to keep water from infiltrating the wastewater system. The council will consider accepting the grant at tonight's meeting.

While not on tonight's council agenda, a series of annexations along a section of the Northwest Connector have been passed along to the planning commission for recommendation. It is expected the requests will come before the council soon. Souza has released an opinion paper on the project and claims elected officials colluded with property owners in the area several years ago to begin this project.

Souza's report mentions the names of several local citizens who he claims stand to make money from developing land along the new road and he raises some questions about property ownership, previous ownership and transfers. The report does not include any documentation of Souza's allegations.

Other items on the agenda include a final action on the Satsuma Dr. abutment project, city participation in possible upcoming referendums and more discussion on the sale of biosolids from the wastewater treatment plant.