JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The county commission workshop started out routinely on Monday evening, but quickly devolved into a running debate between several commissioners and County Mayor E. L. Morton over a grant proposal.
Ralph Davis kicked things off before the “public comment” period of the workshop began by challenging Morton for not signing a grant application to the state for a project in the environmental & sanitation department.
“You took me off of supervising that department,” Morton replied. “I’ll sign it if you all authorize me to.”
Morton then moved on to invite those in the audience who had signed up to address the commission, and the fireworks seemed to have subsided as middle school student Issac Jones gave an update on money raised to publicize an anti-bullying campaign.
The commission then heard a report on the animal shelter, which currently has 394 animals under its care, half of those in foster homes. The commission is being asked to approve the removal of an automatic watering system that has apparently not functioned for years.
A representative of USAble, the firm that handles life insurance and other coverage for the county, then made a brief presentation about their efforts to meet with county employees and officials over the next two weeks to explain different benefit options.
The meeting then moved to setting the agenda for next week’s regular meeting, and the topic quickly returned to Mayor Morton and the unsigned grant application.
“I haven’t signed anything since you changed leadership (over the sanitation department),” Morton pointed out.
“We removed you from leadership of a department. We did not remove you as Mayor,” Ralph Davis responded.
Scott Kitts then asked County Attorney Joe Coker for his legal opinion on whether the Mayor was required to sign the application but Coker declined to be pulled into the argument, replying, “Requirements may vary from grant to grant.”
“Will we lose this grant because it’s been neglected?” Kitts persisted, with Coker replying, “That’s a decision for the agency to decide.”
Kitts then addressed Morton, saying, “There’s going to be a possibility that we will lose this grant. You don’t let personal feelings interfere with county business.”
Morton then repeated his earlier response, explaining, “I will sign it if it is clear that I’m authorized to sign. That’s why I placed this matter on the agenda.”
Davis pointed out that the grant application, nearing its deadline after two weeks on the Mayor’s desk, has already been sent into the state without the Mayor’s signature. “We moved it over to the Finance Department and the Finance Director signed it and submitted it without your signature,” Davis concluded. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 09/10/2019-NOON)