ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County E-911 Board approved its new chairman Monday, but the real meeting took place out in the hallway, where the county mayor, state officials, sheriff and others discussed a board appointment dispute.
In July, former Mayor Melville Bailey appointed Michael Gillespie as a citizen member of the E-911 Board.
Although Bailey's appointments were tabled in July, state law says that if the mayor makes an appointment and no action is taken by the County Commission, those appointments become official after 90 days.
Despite the Oct. 22 vote, Gillespie was seated among the E-911 Board members Monday evening at the board's first meeting since the new appointments were approved.
That meeting was supposed to start at 6 p.m. but didn't actually begin until around 6:20 due to a separate meeting taking place in the hallway between Lee, Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Commissioner John Metz, Ben Glover, who is assistant director and general counsel of the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, state ECD legal counsel Mike Mahn and others.
Metz told the Times News following Monday’s board meeting that the hallway meeting took place to "clarify some points of contention." He said he has spent in excess of 50 hours working with state and local officials to resolve this Issue.
State law addresses this issue
Metz had introduced the E-911 Board appointment resolution that was approved by the commission Oct. 22 minus Gillespie. What was later discovered, however, is that Gillespie was approved to the E-911 Board by default nine hours prior to that commission meeting.
"The state says that if a person is appointed by the county mayor and no action is taken by the county commission, after 90 days they officially become a board member," Metz said. "I knew that was a point of contention, and I spoke to various people about, either roll with it like it is, fix it, or correct it during the County Commission. After speaking with (911 Director Gay) Murrell, we decided to run with it (on Oct. 22) and take it up after the fact."
Metz added, "He (Gillespie) is on the board until we get this resolved."
The issue isn't resolved
The inclusion of Gillespie raises the number of E-911 Board members to 11, including Lee, who serves as a non voting ex-officio member.
State law says the E-911 Board shall have between seven and nine members.
The state informed the board in 2006 that the mayor could no longer serve as a member. Since 2006, Hawkins County’s E-911 board has had up to nine members plus the mayor as an ex-officio member.
Metz noted that the State 911 Board is currently arguing that the mayor should not have been allowed to serve as ex-officio because that constitutes a 10-member board.
There's likely to be more discussion now that the E-911 Board composition includes 10 voting members plus the ex-officio mayor.
The 911 director's contract
A question has also been raised about a new four-year contract for 911 Director Gay Murrell that was approved by the E-911 Board early in October.
At the time, the E-911 Board had three members whose terms had expired, including former board Chairman Bob Palmer, who had actually been defeated in the County Commission election primaries in May and went off the commission at the end of August.
“The members who were on the board at that time were legally serving,” Metz said. “Three of them, their terms had been expired because they weren't reappointed. They were supposed to be reappointed last year. So officially they were legally serving members until someone was appointed in their place, which happened this month.”
The new E-911 Board chairman
On Monday, Vice Chairman Ronnie Lawson nominated Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Detective and Hawkins County Rescue Squad member Lynn Campbell to serve as chairman. Newly appointed board member Fred Castle nominated commission Chairman Mike Herrell.
Herrell was approved by a vote of 5-3 with two abstentions. Campbell agreed to serve as secretary.
The board also voted to change the monthly meeting date from the second Tuesday to the first Tuesday, although that means there will be no meetings in November and January due to Election Day and New Year’s Day.