JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – County commissioners met via Zoom on Tuesday evening and unanimously approved a resolution asking for “fairness” in federal stimulus aid for rural areas as a result of the COVID-19 virus. The resolution sponsored by Commissioner Zach Marlow said rural areas should receive the same federal stimulus and aid as urban metros. The commission made a unanimous second of the motion. The resolution will be sent to legislators in Nashville. Marlow said his hope was that it would “bring attention to the problem that rural America was getting left behind.” 

Raising EMS patient rates had also topped the meeting agenda, but the motion failed for lack of a majority vote. Commissioners had discussed raising rates at a previous workshop after ambulance director Bruce Perkins reported the department’s billing company advised area rates were not in line with surrounding counties. The motion failed for lack of a majority with a seven to five vote. 

Commissioners did approve a motion to reduce the number of members of the Infrastructure Committee from 15 to 10. With the reduction, it will take six votes to bring something out of committee. The purpose of the reduction is to make it more likely to have a quorum, according to county officials. The infrastructure committee is an advisory committee only and is now comprised of two commissioners from each district. 

Marlow also made a motion that the Insurance and Personnel committee research the establishment of a risk management program. Commissioners voted unanimously in approval.

Commissioners also approved modification on the verbiage of an interlocal agreement for the Joint Economic Community Development Board. 

Commissioner Rusty Orick made the motion to approve the modification of the JECDB interlocal agreement. Various verbiage modifications were made, showing the expansion of the board to include the Jellico Utilities general manager and the county financial community and workforce development. Over the years, the JECDB Executive Committee also expanded to include the general managers of the Caryville Jacksboro Utilities and the LaFollette Utilities and Jellico Utilities. The new verbiage in the interlocal agreement reflects these board expansions.

Also approved Tuesday was the Industrial Development Board appointment nominees, which were recommended by the IDB to Commissioners.  Appointments include attorney Vic Pryor, hospital administrator Mark Cain, bank officer Rhonda Longmire, and local business owner Mathew Housley. 

Commissioners voted to look for funding for the Remote Area Medical program for the county as well. Commissioner Robert Higginbotham made a motion to have the finance department find $10,000 to go to the Campbell County RAM program. Once again commissioners made a unanimous second to the motion with full approval. Last week commissioners heard from local representatives regarding the proposed RAM program which would take place in August. “This is a great program for our county,” Commissioner Scott Stanfield said. 

At the beginning of the meeting, commissioners heard from Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler regarding the pending opioid litigation that the county is involved in. This particular lawsuit is being sought as a civil suit Under the Drug Dealer Act. According to Effler, the Tennessee Supreme Court has said the county has to “change the verbiage so it states Campbell County versus Big Pharma rather than Jared Effler versus Big Pharma.” In other words, for legalities, the county would have to sign a retainer agreement with Effler and the Nashville law firm that has been litigating on behalf of multiple counties across the state for the last three plus years. 

Effler said he was trying to keep the litigation local and was trying to pursue a trial in Campbell County. “This is a Campbell County problem. If big Pharma thinks they’ve done nothing wrong, they need to come down to Jacksboro, Tennessee, and talk to some of our citizens. We won’t have justice until Big Pharma is looking down the barrel of a jury trial,” Effler said. The case does not have a trial set yet and is separate from several other lawsuits against Big Pharma, including another civil suit. 

Commissioners voted to suspend the rules and vote on the issue Tuesday night rather than putting it off until February. Several commissioners asked for more time to look at the contract and discuss the issue.

The retainer motion failed for lack of a majority vote, however Orick made a motion to bring it back up in a special called meeting.

Commissioners decided to wait for a week to take more time to look at the issue to make sure it doesn’t conflict with another contract that the county has with another law firm. 

Effler said he believed that both lawsuits would be able to proceed without conflict. Commissioners said they would discuss it further at the special called meeting set for Tues., Jan. 26 at 6 pm via Zoom.

Topic: Special Called County Commission

Meeting Time: Tue, Jan 26, 2021 06:00 PM

Opioid lawsuit, legal representation.

Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83752210769?pwd=NmVGQUFiL1RHcm5KMUt0QU1ZZWt4Zz09

Meeting ID: 837 5221 0769

Passcode: 394451One tap mobile+13126266799

(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/20/2021-6AM-UPDATED 01/26/2021-6AM)