Aug 27 2007

From the inbox, it appears Rep. Doug Overbey has requested an opinion from the State Attorney General regarding administration of the Blount County Sheriff's Office:

Is the Sheriff, in reassigning employees and transferring funding from one major category appropriation to another, required to obtain the prior approval for the transfer of funds from the Financial Management Committee, the Blount County Commission, or both?

The State AG responds:

Reading this subsection of Tenn. Code Ann. § 5-9-407 together with subsection (e)(2)(B) thereof, it appears that the Sheriff must submit the request to the Budget Committee for its recommendations to the County Mayor or county legislative body, or both, for approval. The County Mayor may also make a recommendation to the county legislative body with respect to the amendment. The requested amendment is not effective unless approved by the County Commission.

You can read the entire opinion and analysis at the State AG website (PDF format).

It's not clear why Rep. Overbey requested the opinion. It sounds like some inside baseball regarding process, and there's a lot of legal analysis of the interplay between the Local Option Budgeting Law, which the county operates under, and the County Sheriff’s Civil Service Law under which the Sheriff's office operates.

The opinion is dated July 12th, but we're not aware of any local newspaper coverage explaining what it's all about. Guess we'll find out sooner or later.


This might be a fine time

This might be a fine time for someone to fully explain just what is covered in a state audit and what is not even looked at.


Sounds like the Sheriff is retroactively asking for permission for operating the way he’s been operating.

Sounds like he didn’t get it.

Sheriff is caught red handed

Last year, the Sheriff took the money that was appropriated by the Commission for School Resource Officers, and used it in other cost centers, pretty much as he pleased. Of course, he did not bother to follow the law and get approval from the Financial Management Committee and the Commission.

This legal opinion confirms what all the insiders knew at the time. THE SHERIFF WAS VIOLATING THE LAW.

Finance Director, David Bennett should have publicly pointed this out to the Commissioners. He did not. We all must remember that he has a major conflict of interest. Bennett is Chairman of the Republican machine, but as Finance Director, he is supposed to protect the taxpayers against misdeeds by county officials. Since the Sheriff and his family run the Republican machine, is it likely that Bennett will ever do a proper job of looking after the taxpayer's money where the Sheriff, or other powerful Republican machine officials. This may also be the reason why Bennett refuses to tell the taxpayers what happened to the 25 cars that are "missing" from the Sheriff's department.

Well hidden in the Daily


Graham: Attorney General's opinion does not answer SRO questions

in the Women's Times section, clever....

Perhaps the funding should be appropriated through the Blount County School Department instead?

I know that was considered

I know that was considered at one time. The point is less about who is paying for them than it is about following the rules for how it is done.


If it it funded through the school department you would have to add 35% to the total for split funds.

In reference to AG opinion

In reference to the AG opinion on budget transfers, I would like to point out an important issue that exists in the accountability of the School Resource Officer Program. As a member of the Budget Committee during the last fiscal year, I found the accounting structure of the Sheriff’s budget very difficult to follow. Previous budgets had the SRO program split between two Cost Centers (54113 and 54117) and separated from the Sheriff’s Department Cost Center (54110). This provided a breakout of the program budget, but still made it difficult to analyze.

Adding to this confusion was the allocation of funds to the various line item accounts in these cost centers. Line items are the specific “buckets” under the cost centers that determine how much money is to be spent on salaries, benefits, and supplies/services. For example, while the County Commission was being pressured to increase the pay for deputies in the Sheriff’s Department, review of these line item accounts in the Sheriff’s Department revealed that high level administrative officer salaries in the were being paid out of line items specifically allocated to deputies salaries (106 – Deputy), instead of being paid from the specific line items for administrative officers (105 - Supervisor/Director). This made it extremely difficult to figure out how much money was currently being spent on the deputies.

My request to the budget committee was to combine the two SRO Cost Centers into one Cost Center and to re-allocate the line item accounts to reflect where the expenses were to actually occur. In other words, quit paying Assistant Chief Deputies and Captains salaries with money that should be used for the underpaid Deputies.

The first part of my request, rolling up the cost centers, was well received and the County Finance Director, Dave Bennett, took quick action. However, the result was a little more than I expected. The two SRO Cost Centers along with several others were all rolled up into the single cost center for the Sheriff’s Department. Mr. Bennett’s explanation for this was that these were not official Tennessee State Chart of Account cost centers and were only used by Blount County Government.

The re-allocation of line item accounts took a little longer to accomplish. After reviewing these re-allocations in mid-June, I pointed out to Mr. Bennett that the line item account in the Sheriff’s Department Cost Center for SROs (170 - School Resource Officer) had no allocation of funds even though we were fully funding this program at the same level as the previous budget year. No action was taken on this line item before we voted on the budget in the June Commission meeting, where the Commission voted to increase the tax rate by 5 cents most of which was to fund the increase in deputy pay. This lack of oversight and accountability to a vital and expensive program was one of my points of contention in not supporting the budget and tax increase.

Now with all of the funds for the SRO program in one cost center that also includes all funding for the Sheriff’s Department, and no breakout of the salary dollars specific to this program, the Sheriff does not have to seek a budget transfer to spend these funds elsewhere.

From the Daily Times article on Wednesday, August 29, 2007: (link...)

  • “It makes it totally a moot point, but it had no bearing anyway,” Berrong said. “This year the county commissioners rolled all our employees up (into one cost center). The assignments fall within the sheriff’s office.”

After the June Commission meeting, I was not re-appointed to the Budget Committee. No explanation was given, nor did I ask for one.

David G. Ballard, Jr.
Blount County Commissioner, District 1

Who enforces the Law?

Commissioner Ballard,

Thank you for expressing your views here. Mr. Neal’s blogs have been, in my judgment, responsible for much of the ground swell toward a return to a more open and ethical government in Knox County.

Blount Views readers, if you know five people who are sick of seeing their tax dollars wasted – e-mail this to them. Commissioner Ballard’s remarks might not otherwise be heard if it wasn’t for his post here. Our County Commission chairman stifles debate at every turn. Commissioner Reeves was told at the last CC meeting she was not to use anyone else’s name – even though she was speaking about a fellow commissioner – sitting two seats away from her.

Maybe the Chairman would like it better if the CC stole a page from Congress, where they’re always blowing smoke up each others asses by referring to themselves as “honorable” this and “honorable” that. Didn’t see much honor from the sheriff’s water carriers at the last meeting.

Final questions, and maybe the powers that be can mull these over in the conference room of the new mobile command unit;

Why does the state AG need to tell our State Representative what our local DA should be telling our sheriff? The citizens and the part of CC that doesn’t work for sheriff understand it. Why do our local lead law enforcements agents not know the law?

Why do our local lead law

Why do our local lead law enforcements agents not know the law?

We have judges who do not know the law, our mayor does not know the law, even our law enforcement agents don't know the law. (or do they know the law but twist, distort and ignore the law to serve their own purposes)

Where does that leave the citizen who must abide by the law? Screwed in my view.....

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