JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The deteriorating relationship between the Campbell County Commission and Mayor E. L. Morton hit a low point Monday night as the commission voted unanimously to replace Morton as chairman.

When the floor was opened for nominations for chairman, vice chairman Johnny Bruce was the only person nominated. He was then elected by acclamation while Morton vacated his chair. Only eleven commissioners were present for the meeting, Robert Higginbotham, Sue Nance, Cliff Kohlmeyer and Lisa Lester all were absent.

The rift between mayor and commission began to open last year, when the sanitation committee and sanitation chair Ralph Davis pressured Walter Sutton to resign as director of environmental services. Morton then offered two nominees to replace Sutton but the commission rejected them both, instead appointing Bill Rutherford to the job.

Morton and Rutherford did not develop a good working relationship and earlier this summer, Davis led a revolt to remove Morton from direct supervision of both the sanitation and maintenance departments.

At the commission workshop last week, Davis, Scott Kitts and several other commissioners criticized Morton for failing to sign a grant application for the environmental services. Davis reported  he removed the unsigned application from the mayor’s office and took it to Finance Director Jeff Marlow, who signed the application and sent it on to the state before the deadline expired.

Morton told the commission that since they had removed him from supervision of the department, he felt he needed the commission’s authorization before signing and submitting the document.

Without explanation Monday night, commissioners nominated vice chairman Bruce to assume the chairman’s position and then elected Rusty Orick as vice chairman. Orick voted against his own election, but did not decline the nomination.

The commission left most committee assignments as they were with one exception, as Ralph Davis and Tyler King exchanged places. Davis replaced King as the Fifth District member on the Emergency Services Committee while King replaced Davis on the Animal Control Committee.

Bruce also was voted to replace  Nance on the FMS Committee at Nance’s request. She just underwent knee surgery and requested  she be excused from her committee duties while she recovers.

Before the fireworks, Morton introduced two proclamations, recognizing September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Morton pointed out that there are 40,000 children suffering from cancer at any given time, with the average age being six years old. Morton also proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month before turning to the regular agenda.

The topic then turned to the grant application that was at the heart of the commission – mayor rift.  Zachary Marlow (CORRECTION SCOTT KITTS) asked County Attorney Joe Coker to explain the response from CTAS on whether the sanitation grant application needed the mayor’s signature. Coker replied that the opinion seemed to give the county some leverage as to who could sign representing the county but that the commission could authorize Morton if they chose.

Kitts then made a motion to authorize  Morton to sign the application, even though it had already been submitted to the state. The commission approved the motion 9-2 with both Davis and Scott Stanfield voting “no.”

The commission then voted to approve purchase of a $39,000 truck for the sanitation department, replacing an older truck that has blown an engine. Stanfield pointed out that he had opposed a decision the previous year to “waste money” patching up the old truck.

Davis then brought up his suggestion that the county invest $110,000 (CORRECTION $10,000) to purchase and install a diagnostic computer at the sanitation department garage to streamline maintenance of the vehicles, pointing out that the machine could also be used on ambulances from EMS.

“This machine will pay for itself in six months,” Davis predicted. The commission then voted unanimously to approve the purchase. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 9/17/19 6AM)