The chairman of the Cumberland County Election Commission Monday — with camera rolling and a court reporter taking down every word said — admitted that mistakes were made and that they possibly included violations to the Tennessee 'Sunshine Law' in regards to state law that governs public meetings.

Violating the state's open meetings law is the basis of one of the lawsuits against members of the election commission and with that lawsuit pending, the admission by Chairman Cal Smart came as a bit of a surprise to the handful of observers at this month's regular meeting.

"There are possible problems we've had with the open meetings law," Smart said as commissioners discussed how to do some damage control over controversy surrounding their action that replaced former elections administrator Suzanne Smith because of her perceived political party affiliation.

The open meetings law violation claim in the lawsuit states that the three Republican appointees — Smart, Denver Cole and Thomas Henderson — got together with others and made the decision to replace Smith with Sharon York, whom they appointed on a 3-2 vote this spring.

"Those possible violations will be addressed in the future in legal action," Smart continued. The possible violations came up as Smart proposed that an interim election administrator be appointed and that applications be received for permanent appointment.

When asked if his comments and his proposal were a result of discussions with the attorney representing the three lawsuit defendants, Smart replied, "This is not the attorney's advice. This is my own thought process."

Later in the meeting Smart commented, "Some of us violated that law in various ways." He added that the commission would try its best to conduct its business "proper from here on."

The election commission then voted to accept applications for county elections administrator (see separate stories) during regular business hours between now and July 20 at 4 p.m.

"It looks to me like you are admitting you made mistakes, you screwed up," Joe Reynolds, one member of the audience said. He called the action "a charade."

Henderson fired back, "Could you have done better?"

"Sure as heck could," Reynolds replied. "This is just a charade."

Cole then made a motion to appoint York interim director at the same pay, seconded by Henderson.

In other business, Smart reviewed information brought back from a recent training session and also noted that Cumberland County's election office was highlighted during the training session on more than one occasion as an example of how duties should correctly be carried out.

Topics discussed during the training session, according to Smart, included handicapped accessibility, open meetings and public record laws, voting rights restoration of convicted felons and maintenance of records.

Democrat members Bob Austin and Lisa Phillips questioned Smart as to why agenda items were announced to the media and not provided first to all members of the commission.

Smart commented that he could not discuss agenda items with fellow commissioners and that the effort was to make the public aware that the issue of an interim director and applications for permanent director would be discussed.

Both Austin and Phillips said they were embarrassed by not knowing about the plans.

"When that piece come out in the paper people started calling and asking questions and I didn't know what to say. Didn't know anything about it," Austin said.

Phillips added that she was stopped while shopping and at other places and questioned about what was going on. "It was embarrassing to me to tell them I didn't know what was going on," she said.

Later Phillips asked York if she was working two fulltime jobs. "How long are you going to work full time at the convenience center (stores)?"

York responded that she was in the office daily but would visit one of the convenience stores she manages on her lunch break, sometimes before work, after work and on weekends.

York said she did not see her doing both jobs at different times as a conflict but if it poses a conflict she would be willing to discuss the issue further.

Election office employee Jill Davis was recognized with a certificate for five years of service to the county. It was also noted that Dot Hensley was appointed administrative assistant by York, with no pay raise "at this time."