Local Government

Local Government Section Hosts Successful Annual Forum

The TBA Local Government Section presented its annual forum at the Tennessee Bar Center last Thursday, which received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Attendees enjoyed top-notch programming, with TBA members gathering afterward to attend a guided tour of the Tennessee State Museum.
Through the dedication of the section and strong leadership, this event has become a staple for municipal leaders throughout Tennessee. Thanks to the TBA Local Government Section Executive Council for their time and assistance with another remarkable forum. Stay tuned for more exciting events to come from this section.
Charlotte Knight Griffin, Chair, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division
Kristen Corn, Vice-Chair, City Attorney of Brentwood
Shauna Billingsley, Immediate Past-Chair, City Attorney of Franklin
Daniel Street, County Attorney, Sullivan County
Joseph Jarrett, Attorney & Mediator, Knoxville
Rebecca Ketchie, Wilson Worley PC, Kingsport
Shelly Wilson, Owings, Wilson & Coleman
Jennifer Noe, Balthrop Perry Noe & Newcomb, Ashland City
Carter Gray, County Attorney, Shelby County
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Legal Battle Over Toxic Waste in Tennessee Town Heats Up

A rural community in west Tennessee continues its fight against a waste management company regarding a toxic substance that has polluted area water sources and devastated local vegetation, USA Today reports. In 1999, the town of Bath Springs contracted North Carolina corporation Waste Industries to assume operations of its landfill that was used for local waste in Decatur County. Subsequently, under new management, the landfill began to accept “special waste” characterized as being "difficult or dangerous" to contain, which is more profitable than household trash but when exposed to elements excretes an ooze called leachate that finds its way into the soil and ultimately the water supply. Waste Industries later announced plans to abandon the landfill and sued the county, maintaining the municipality was derelict in its responsibilities to “to provide for the disposal and treatment of the leachate” and is in breach of the initial agreement. The county filed its own lawsuit against Waste Industries, alleging violations of federal clean air and water acts. The lawsuit against the county is scheduled for a status conference on May 10 in Tennessee Western District Court, Judge S. Thomas Anderson presiding.

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TBA Local Government Forum 2019

The TBA Local Government Forum 2019 will take place at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville on April 11. This forum remains the preeminent event for Tennessee municipality leaders, offering updates and timely topics affecting this practice area which has a unique blend of constitutional, statutory, and case law. The program will address the intangibles, with topics such as ABC laws, government employment law, legal ethics in a government setting and more. A networking event at the new Tennessee State Museum will follow the program. Here are the key details:
When: Thursday, April 11, Registration begins at 8 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N, Nashville
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UT Study Seeks to Determine if Fracking May Lead to Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes

A University of Tennessee professor is studying the effects of fracking and how it can affect regional water health, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Terry Hazen, the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Lab Governor's Chair for Environmental Biotechnology, has joined a team in Pennsylvania to test fracking wastewater in the state to determine if prolonged use of biocides in fracking fluid could lead to antibiotic-resistant microbes. The three-year study is funded by an $80,000 grant given through the National Science Foundation.

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2018 Local Government Forum a Huge Success!

The TBA Local Government Section recently presented its most successful annual forum to date, nearly doubling the attendance of the previous year! Attendees were treated to top-notch programming, with section members gathering afterward to attend a Nashville Predators game, with a pre-game reception at Bridgestone Arena.
Through the dedication of the section and strong leadership, this event has become a staple for local government practitioners throughout Tennessee. Thanks to the TBA Local Government Section Executive Council for their time and assistance with another remarkable forum. Stay tuned for more exciting events to come from this section.
Shauna Billingsley, Chair, City of Franklin, Law Department
Charlotte Knight-Griffin, Vice-Chair, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division
Shelly Wilson, Immediate Past Chair, Owings, Wilson & Coleman
Daniel Street, County Attorney, Sullivan County
Joseph Jarrett, Attorney & Mediator, Knoxville
Rebecca Ketchie, Wilson Worley PC, Kingsport
Kristen Corn, City of Brentwood, Brentwood
Jennifer Noe, Balthrop Perry Noe & Newcomb, Ashland City
Carter Gray, County Attorney, Shelby County
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The Government Attorney as Public Administrator

When students studying public administration first begin to learn about the profession, they’re generally told that the field of public administration focuses on the formation and management of public agencies. Their studies most commonly focus on issues such as supervision, public resources, accountability, human resources, budgeting, public welfare, bodies politic, and the description, analysis, solutions and synthesis of contemporary management problems in public sector agencies. They hear terms like “county manager,” “city manager,” “department director,” “agency head,” etc. equated with the profession. What the seldom hear are terms like “county attorney,” “law director,” “city attorney,” or “chief legal counsel,” associated with public administration. Students either presume or are taught that public sector attorneys are too busy embroiled in litigation, conducting legal research, imparting legal advice, or drafting laws, ordinances, and resolutions to be bothered with public management and administration. This is an unfortunate misnomer. In fact, public sector attorneys are consistently called upon to perform a wide range of public management and administrative duties. 
The Attorney as Public Administrator:
During the 30-plus years I have spent serving in the public sector, I was afforded the opportunity to serve three different public entities as chief legal counsel. As you can imagine, I was called upon to provide timely legal advice to bodies politic and the various department directors and managers; study, interpret, and apply laws, decisions, rules of court, and other authorities in preparation of cases; litigate a wide range of matters in federal & state court; draft and negotiate contracts and other legal documents, and attend all public meetings, often serving as parliamentarian in the process. However, I was also required to supervise, train, lead and motivate a professional staff, prepare and defend a budget, and in one instance, contemporaneously serve as the county’s risk and insurance manager. For one large, urban county, I was likewise expected, among other things to:
  • Serve as a positive example to department heads and County personnel with regards to workplace actions, decisions, management skills, attitude, and adherence to County policy;
  • Embody teamwork and cooperation within and across County departments and with the public; 
  • Identify, define, evaluate, and effectively resolve problems facing county officials, department heads, and employees; determine alternative courses of action and effectively recommend the most advantageous course of action by the officer, department head, or employee faced with the problem; proceed to assist in the implementation of the solution; 
  • Remain committed to innovation, creativity, service excellence, and transforming the County through leading ideas and practices as well as serve as a key designer, promoter, motivator, and catalyst for the alignment of culture with organizational values within the County’s departments; and,
  • Serve as the council’s liaison to members of the general public, and the County’s federal & state legislative delegations.           
It is important to note that the above duties and responsibilities were not unique to the positions I held. A review of job descriptions for public sector attorney employed at the state and local level across the United States revealed the following functions essential to such positions:
  • Provide holistic services to the public by seeking ways to integrate programs or services provided by other departments, divisions, and agencies; 
  • Work in partnership with other employees, departments/divisions, agencies, and the public in delivering effective and innovative services;
  • Manage the recruitment of competent employees, setting expectations and providing necessary training for new employees; coaching and mentoring; assignment of work, evaluation of work product, initiating appropriate corrective or disciplinary action and developing and motivating incumbent staff in accordance with established policy;
  • Ensures citywide staff compliance with departmental policies and procedures; and 
  • Maintain harmony among all county employees, elected and appointed officials, and resolve grievances, and assist supervisory staff in the performance of their duties;
  • Monitor and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery methods and procedures; recommend to city council appropriate service and staffing levels; 
  • Manage and participate in the development and implementation of goals, objective policies, and priorities for assigned programs countywide; recommend and administer policies and procedures designed to improve service delivery to the general citizenry.
The days of the public sector attorney being limited to litigation, imparting legal advice, and preparing legal documents are but a memory. The fact that many law schools routinely offer joint JD/MPA programs is telling indeed. Today’s aspiring public sector attorney is well-advised to take as many courses in public administration, management, and policy as possible. Such a well-rounded, holistic approach toward providing timely legal, administrative and management advice to bodies politic and the citizens they serve, will make for good government that benefits all. 

—Joseph G. Jarret is a public sector manager, attorney and mediator who lectures full-time on behalf of the Master of Public Policy and Administration program in the Department of Political Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is a former United States Army Combat Arms Officer with service overseas and is a past chair of the TBA’s Local Government Section. He holds the B.S., MPA and J.D. degrees and is currently a candidate for the Ph.D. in educational leadership & policy studies.
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Judge Rules That Homeless Man's Truck is His Home

A Seattle man won a recent legal dispute that could have implications on how municipalities across the country address the issue of homelessness, reports The Seattle Times. In 2016 Stephen Young returned from work to find his GMC pickup truck, that he had been living in since becoming homeless in 2014, had been towed because of an ordinance that requires vehicles to be moved every 72 hours. Officers responding to an unrelated call in the area found Young in his truck, which was inoperable and called a city parking enforcement officer who tagged it for impound. At the impound hearing, Long said the truck was his residence and the city waived the $44 ticket and reduced the towing and impound fees from more than $900 to $557.

With the help of Columbia Legal Services in Seattle, Long sued the city on the basis that he had no home for a time; he lost income because work tools he used for day labor jobs were in the truck, and he struggled to pay the fines because he makes between $300 and $600 a month. He lost the initial suit in Seattle Municipal Court, however, won the case on appeal in King County Superior Court last Friday, where Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled that the city’s impoundment of Long’s truck violated the state’s homestead act because he was using it as a home. Shaffer also ruled the fees the city required Long to pay to retrieve the truck were too high, violating constitutional protections against excessive fines and called Long “a poster child … for a lot of other people who are in this situation.”

“We believe this case has a lot of implications for other people using their vehicles as homes,” said Ali Bilow, one of Long’s attorneys with Columbia Legal Services. “I think Seattle municipal judges should follow this ruling and take a hard look when homeless individuals, who are living in their vehicles, are charged these really excessive fees.”

Assistant City Attorney Michael Ryan argued that police and parking-enforcement officers could now find themselves in a bind if they can’t definitively determine whether a vehicle is simply abandoned or is someone’s home. “Someone could park right here in front of the courthouse on Fifth Avenue, and we couldn’t tow them, or if we did tow them, we couldn’t put them in impound. We’d have to put them somewhere else and we couldn’t charge them at all for it because if we did, we’d violate the constitution if they were living in that vehicle,” said Ryan. The city attorney’s office is currently weighing whether to appeal the case.

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Don't Sleep, Only a Few Tickets Left!

Local Government Section to Host Pre-Game Happy Hour With the Nashville Predators

The TBA Local Government Section will host a pre-game warm-up party with the Nashville Predators following its annual forum on March 22! This event will be held in a private reception hall within Bridgestone Arena, with complimentary beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres provided.
Following the reception, we will watch our reigning Western Conference champs battle the high-scoring Toronto Maple Leafs in their only Nashville appearance of the season. The section has reserved seating for the game, so we can jeer the Leafs as a collective.
Don't miss what is guaranteed to be a fun night for all! Open to all section members; forum participation is not required to attend. Tickets are limited. Contact Jarod Word for more info and to reserve your spot.
When: March 22, 5:30 p.m., CST; game starts at 7 p.m. CST
Where: Bridgestone Arena, 501 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203    
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Reminder: Local Government Forum 2018

The 2018 Local Government Forum is just around the corner! This annual favorite among Tennessee attorneys has become a statewide staple, offering top-notch programming and relative legislative updates, designed to help you stay on top of trends and advance your practice. This year's event will also feature a post-CLE reception, allowing you to socialize and network with other professionals who share your focus. 
Topics include:
  • Open records
  • Open meetings
  • Tennessee's Clean Water Act
  • Legislative updates
  • Best practices 
  • Rules for parliamentary procedures
Speakers/Producers include:
  • Shauna Billingsley, City of Franklin, Law Department, Franklin 
  • Margaret Norris, Municipal Technical Advisory Service, Knoxville
  • John Owings, Owings, Wilson & Coleman, Knoxville
  • William Penny, Burr & Forman LLP, Nashville 
  • Allan Ramsaur, Tennessee Bar Association, Nashville 
  • Anne Martin, Bone McAllester Norton, Nashville
  • Joseph Jarrett, Attorney & Mediator, Powell
When: March 22, 2018; registration begins at 9 a.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219
Click here to register for this event.
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Tennessee Department of Revenue Reaches Agreement with Airbnb

Airbnb recently struck a deal with the Tennessee Department of Revenue to collect and remit state and local taxes on behalf of its 7,700 hosts, according to the Nashville Business Journal. This arrangement has been used in other markets to address concerns regarding tax revenue from their short-term rentals not being on par with that of their hotel competitors. Tennessee joins neighboring states of Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas as areas with similar agreements. 
This news comes as Metro Council was scheduled to vote on BL-937, an ordinance amending Title 6 and sections 17.04.060, 17.08.030, 17.16.250 and 17.16.070 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws to add a new Chapter 6.83 pertaining to a short-term rental properties advisory committee and to establish regulations regarding short-term rental properties and distinct land uses for "Short-term rental property - Owner-Occupied" and "Short-term rental property - Not Owner-Occupied." The vote, however, was commuted to Jan. 23 because of inclement weather.
The company has long been a source of controversy in the area because of various concerns of taxation, noise complaints, even sparking First Amendment debates regarding anatomically correct sex dolls. In fact, problems with Airbnb rentals have become so numerous, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry established a devoted hotline tasked with aggregating and addressing these concerns.
The new statewide tax agreement, which will take effect March 1, is the second such deal Airbnb has struck in Tennessee, following an earlier agreement with Memphis. Airbnb has touted the agreements as a revenue generator and a reason for governments to work with — not against — the company.
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