Government

General Assembly Will Consider Changes to Open Record Laws

The General Assembly will consider legislation seeking to limit certain government record requests, despite pushback from open government advocates, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. One such bill — HB0335/SB0386, Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg — requires recordings of any emergency communications only be used for "public safety purposes and as necessary for law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue, dispatching, or other emergency services," a move Tillis contends will protect callers from news organizations using them in reporting, but detractors argue might obscure problems with investigations and limit government official accountability. Another bill — HB1107/ SB1346, Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville — builds on this, prohibiting personally identifying information including names and contact information from entering public record in motor vehicle accident reports. When asked about the measures, Senate chairman of the joint committee on open records Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga said: "We're trying to streamline the process and make it a more open dialogue on these exemptions to open record laws and (will) have a process of review after five years on any new ones that come along."

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Services for Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley on Saturday

Services for Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley, who passed away last week from cancer, are set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 at the First Baptist Church Sevierville, with a visitation on Saturday, Dec. 15 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Atchley’s Funeral Home, WBIR reports. Atchley, who had served as mayor since 1995, was instrumental in the growth of Sevierville, building a new City Hall and police station, Smokies Stadium, convention center, expanding the greenway system, even bringing a double-A minor league baseball team to the city. “Mayor Atchley was Sevierville to the core,” said Sevierville City Administrator Russell Treadway. “From coaching youth baseball to being Mayor, and everything in between, he exemplified public service and proved there are hundreds of ways to serve one’s community.” Vice Mayor Robbie Fox will serve as Mayor until the next election in May 2019.

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Governor Haslam, Governor-elect Lee Oppose Closed Primaries

Governor Bill Haslam and Governor-elect Bill Lee both have voiced opposition to a closed primary resolution put forth by the GOP's state executive committee earlier this month, the Tennessean reports. The resolution asks the General Assembly to "address the issue of 'cross-over' voting in Tennessee’s primary elections," to prevent concerns of an opposing party influencing the other’s election. Gov. Haslam when speaking to the crowd at a Nashville Rotary meeting said “I am strongly opposed to that … If you're a Republican, I think it's a silly proposal." Lee made similar comments, saying “I would be willing to look at whatever the legislature says, but on the surface, I don’t see a reason to make a change.” Closed primaries have been a contentious issue in the state for decades and a similar resolution was voted down by the executive committee in 2015.

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Woman Files Lawsuit Against Rutherford County Regarding Guilty Plea in Child Abuse Case

A woman who pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse in 2007 is suing the Murfreesboro Police Department and Rutherford County, claiming the plea was made under duress, The Daily News Journal reports. Catherin Funk-Vaughn filed the pro se lawsuit in federal court on Nov. 28, asking for $9.9 million, alleging she thought that she was pleading to a diversion charge — not a guilty plea — and that her attorney told her the only way she would see her children again was if she pleaded guilty. She also says her name was misspelled as “Catherine” on court documents, making them void and claims violations against several of her constitutional rights. Funk-Vaughn has also filed a separate suit against the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

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Local Government Forum 2019

The TBA Local Government Section will host its annual forum on Thursday, March 28 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. This seminal seminar has become the must-see, must-do event for municipal leaders across the state, offering guidance and insight on timely topics affecting Tennessee’s communities. This year’s forum will feature presentations on ABC laws, government employment laws, legal ethics in a government setting and more. Attendees and section members will be invited to a social event following the program (more details to come). Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from and engage with community leaders and attorneys of a similar focus. Here are the key details:
 
When: Thursday, March 28, 2019 – Registration begins at 8 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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Tennessee Taxpayers on the Hook for Amazon’s Operations Center of Excellence

Tennessee taxpayers will fork over $102 million in cash and tax breaks to secure Amazon’s Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. Gov. Bill Haslam said that the incentives for the Amazon investment would be repaid in just over a year and that the returns will be immeasurable for years to come. State officials have agreed to only pay if the company hires at least 5,000 employees.

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Tennessee Comptroller Reports $3.7 Million Shortfall in Funds

Tennessee’s counties and municipalities have approximately $3.7 million in cash shortages, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. While fraud cannot be proven in all cases, several recent incidents have contributed to the shortcomings, including state school employees fraudulently purchasing iPads, phone cases and even $187,000 in luxury auto parts for a Knox County Schools mechanic’s personal car repair business. The comptroller's office has set up a hotline to anonymously report misuse of state funds.

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Former Knoxville Utilities Board Confesses to Embezzling from Law Firm

A former chair of the Knoxville Utilities Board pleaded guilty last Friday to pocketing more than $100,000 from his former law firm, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. John Thomas "Tom" Jones was a senior partner at Jones, Meadows & Wall when he embezzled the money between 2010 and 2015. Jones’ sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 31.

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Loudon County Election Commission Affirms City Employee's Exclusion from Ballot

The Loudon County Election Commission on Monday affirmed a decision by the Lenoir City Council contesting candidate Earlena Maples’ qualification for the November ballot due to her 37-year tenure at Lenoir City Utilities Board (LCUB), the Lenior City News-Herald reports. During the meeting, Maples filed a motion contesting council members Mike Henline, Douglas “Buddy” Hines, Jennifer Wampler and Jim Shields from being on the ballot which the election commission will address on a later date. Maples may still opt to take the matter to chancery court.

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City of Franklin Seeks Assistant City Attorney

The city of Franklin is seeking an Assistant City Attorney to provide legal services and representation to assigned departments, commissions, and committees — representing the city, its officials, and employees in civil cases. The Assistant City Attorney will also draft ordinances, resolutions, leases, contracts, court pleadings, etc., relating to lawsuits and/or other municipal concerns. Interested candidates can learn more about the position and apply using this link.

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