It took more than a few minutes for the Claiborne Commission to essentially kill a controversial resolution brought last week by first district commissioner Whitt Shuford.
The resolution calls for the dissolution of the Claiborne Jail Committee, due to its apparent lack of a creditable plan to alleviate the jail overcrowding situation.
According to the document, the Community Corrections Partnership (also known as the jail committee) was formed some four years ago to find a solution to the problem. The members formulated a plan to expand the existing 210 bed facility to a total of 470 beds as its prime way to alleviate the issue, according to the resolution.
The document points to the recent general election results showing an overwhelming desire by voters to stop the bond issuance necessary to finance the proposed jail expansion project.
“…It is apparent the Community corrections Partnership, aka ‘Jail Committee,’ has no apparent solution to alleviate the overcrowding issues except for the expansion of the existing facility, therefore, be it resolved, the Claiborne County Commission, in an effort to cut all unnecessary expenditures from its 2016-17 budget find the Community Corrections Partnership, aka ‘Jail Committee’ irrelevant,” reads the resolution, in part.
The proposed document also requires that all future jail business be brought by the sheriff before the full county commission.
“It’s been brought to my attention that we still have to have minutes sent to TCI (the Tennessee Corrections Institute) to show what we are and are not doing for the jail overcrowding issue. I was told by Mr. Estep (county attorney James Estep III) that we can do that here, in our regular county board,” said Shuford.
County Mayor Jack Daniels asked whether the commission could go ahead and pass the resolution that evening, with the pending visit in September of Sheriff David Ray and others to the TCI Control Board.
“They were the ones in Nashville who told us to make a committee,” said Daniels.
According to Estep, the county must under previous agreement with TCI maintain “a form” of a jail committee to continue providing reports on a developing plan of action for the overcrowding situation.
“Now, to answer your question, no, you don’t have to have the same committee. It can be several forms, and I don’t think it will affect what’s happened in the election. You had one (a jail committee) for three or more years, and we agreed to cooperate and assist and to work with the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
“In whatever form it’s done, you need to commit to have continued reporting and discussion about the overcrowding issue and resolution of those issues,” said Estep.
An early call to table the matter failed, by a vote of 11 to nine. Commissioners Juanita Honeycutt, Ann Bowling, Steve Mason, Joan Cosby, Shawn Peters, Dan Longworth, William Jessie, David Mundy and James Hatmaker voted in favor of tabling the issue.
Commissioner Aimee Upton was not present during the meeting.
When discussions resumed, Estep said the county does not want to “cut off” relations with TCI.
“That means you’re instantly not going to be certified — you’re not working with them,” said Estep.
He suggested amending the resolution to reflect that the full commission will be handling business the jail committee previously undertook.
Shuford then made a motion to amend his resolution.
“We can add a line item on the agenda each month to discuss the jail committee (business). Those notes can be sent in.
“All I’m trying to do is cut a little bit of money out of this budget. If we start cutting a little bit here, a little bit there – who knows what number we’re going to come up with,” said Shuford.
He said the dissolving of the jail committee could save the county more than $10,000 per year in salaries currently being paid to those who sit on that committee.
Even if the full commission is forced to meet an additional hour per month, due to jail business, Shuford said it would “still be worth it” in saving the county money.
A bit of time was spent dealing with commissioner Bill Keck’s motion to add the Building and Grounds Committee to the original resolution. He suggested doing away with that committee and placing the responsibility for any building and grounds issues on the full commission.
Keck cited, as his reason for the motion, the few instances in which business was brought before the committee.
Commissioner Honeycutt disagreed with Keck’s assessment.
“No, that’s not all we do. We do county insurance, we deal with our insurance broker. We do a lot of stuff in committee. Every government in the United States has committees that do the work, then bring it back to the full body. Otherwise, look at what sessions would be,” said Honeycutt.
Shuford said information from the various committee meetings are not routinely disseminated and brought back before the full commission.
Honeycutt disagreed, saying every decision made specifically by the building and grounds committee is brought before the commission.
“You can just reach, and get it,” said Honeycutt, referring to the monthly reports in the information packets distributed to each of the 21 commissioners ten days prior to each monthly meeting.
“No offense, but the jail committee met for over four years and reported back to this county commission twice. With this big of a decision that has been placed upon us, is that enough information – two updates in four years,” said Shuford.
Keck’s motion to amend the resolution failed, by a vote of 12 to eight.
Shuford asked that the original resolution be amended to add specific verbiage designating the full commission as “the Claiborne County Commission Jail Committee.”
The vote was tied, effectively halting the passage of the resolution.
Commissioners Honeycutt, Bowling, Mason, Longworth, Jessie, Mundy, Hatmaker, Mike Campbell, Joan Cosby and Dennis Estes voted against the motion.
Before Chairman Mundy could move forward with a vote on the original resolution, Estep recommended not doing so.
“I don’t recommend you adopt this, in this form, because of the situation with the Tennessee Corrections Institute,” said Estep.
After adjournment, Shuford said he would be bringing a revised resolution before the commission next month.
“We could be cutting a thousand dollars a month from the budget,” said Shuford, referring to the current salaries being paid to those who sit on the Claiborne Jail Committee.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.