TN AG Opinion OP163 is just out regarding the use of SRO money.

(link...)

Topics:

AG opinion

It says what we all knew - the Sheriff broke the law by using the School Resource Officer funds for his own purposes. But since when did the law ever matter to our Sheriff?

But since when did the law ever matter to our Sheriff?

..."moot point". At least that's what Berrong and Bennett say. (link...)

What do you say Rev. Jackson?; (link...)

Give it a minute to load. At least he's trying to be funny.

Bennett and Sheriff violate the law

Let me see whether I understand. Bennett and the Sheriff violate the law. Then, they claim that since it happened last year, it is moot, and nothing should be done about it.

If you committed a crime last year, I guess you are home free. The Sheriff said so. And, we know Sheriff Berrong never lies.

"The law says that

.

Breaking the law is only "moot" when your the Sheriff

My response to the first AG opinion in August 2007 still stands.

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

WHAT?

Thank you Commissioner Ballard but what the what does the following mean?

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.

What does the following mean...

It means unofficial accounting practices. All the "unofficial" cost centers were rolled up into the Sheriff's Department cost center when providing reports to the state auditors.

what about

What about them thar official ones then?

Wait. Backing up. I thought at least some federal money was used to fund the SRO account. Did the feds pull that funding?

Interesting

Who is on the County Sheriff Civil Service Board?

That is the question....

That is the question....

Sheriff's Merit Board

SeeJaneRide
I do believe this has been mentioned before--the sheriff nominates/chooses all who serve on the merit board. It's a sad joke among the deputies. They have nowhere to go to post a legitimate complaint against their employer. Why do you think so many of them leave? The sheriff would have you believe it's all about money. But, that's simply not true.
Everyone knows what happens to deputies who complain. Just ask those who blew the whistle on the sheriff's Drug Task Force grand poo-bah who gave himself a sweet deal on a NASCAR edition pick-up.

QCC

What is and who oversees the Quarterly County Court?

What is and who oversees.....


What is and who oversees....

The Quarterly County Court refers to what is now considered the County Legislative Body. The body by law is required to meet 1 time per quarter and previously was referred to as the County Court, thus the Quarterly County Court.

Even today it is only required to meet 1 time per quarter.

Does that mean we the

Does that mean we the taxpayers/voters oversee the Quarterly Court aka County Commission?

Yes-

SeeJaneRide

Does that mean we the taxpayers/voters oversee the Quarterly Court aka County Commission?

Yes.

Where have they been?

Commissioner Walker,

Do you know why there has been no action from this board in the 3 years? If there has been action, where can citizens find their reports?

The body by law is required

The body by law is required to meet 1 time per quarter and previously was referred to as the County Court, thus the Quarterly County Court.

Which body are you referring to? The QCC or County Sheriff Civil Service Board, because the board appears to be able to set it's own schedule. And if the Quarterly County Court is the county legislative body, it obviously meets 3 times per quarter.

By legislative body, did you mean all 21 commissioners? If not, which members?

QCC

The QCC (Legislative Body) is required by law to meet a minimum of 1 time per quarter. It can by resolution set meeting dates more frequently which it has, it now meets monthly as you have stated, and this includes all members.

As for the Sheriff's Civil Service Board, I could not answer when they meet last. And yes, also as you have stated, I believe they are allowed to set their on schedule.

Okay I think I understand

Okay I think I understand the county legislators oversee the board, but still unclear who picks the board. I saw on this blog somewhere that the Sheriff chose, but from what I've read the Quarterly County Court (Legislative Body) does. Can you help clear that up?

Merit Board

The chose for Blount County to utilize the Merit Board predates the current sheriff and a few before him, if memory serves me correctly. It would take some deep digging to find out exactly how it was orginally setup. This would take some digging into the historical minutes of the County Commission "Quarterly Court" and doing so without a idea for a beginning point would make it difficult. However, the minutes of the County Court let's say about 40 years or so ago would be a good starting point.

Let me make it easy on you

Let me make it easy on you Commissioner. Of the County Commission Agendas/Minutes which are available for the public to download at the county website there is only one single mention of this Merit Board. One. Feb 2005.

I don't think anyone is worried about how it was set up. The simple fact is that is was set up and once set up TCA is really clear about the hows and whys they do what they do as a Merit Board.

This Merit Board would fall under the TN Open Meetings Act just like every other committee that the commission has created.

The question for now is why a board- which is created by TN code, which should have at least one person up for re-appointment / appointment every single year only noted one time in the County Commission records for the past three years? Well, actually, the minutes are available since July 2000 and there is just that one single mention of any of its members, again that was Feb 2005.

Appointments....

You are correct in your statement and assumptions, assuming that the terms of the members are staggered. This is why I said one would have to go back to the initiating resolutions to determine how the appointment process was setup, and whether the TCA when changing over the course of many years grandfathered in existing boards.

No trying to avoid answering a question, it's just that we all know that government, federal, state or local, has a tendency to muddy the waters in what should be simple actions.

Would someone please go here

Would someone please go here http://www.ctas.utk.edu/public/CTASpriv.nsf/PrivateActs/6FA4A9E4D2B65FCB862564840058EA6B/$FILE/BLOUNT+CO+-+2005.pdf?openelement and scroll down to page 133 and then cut and paste it for all to see. I know many folks can't open pdf files and for whatever reason when I cut and paste them all the spacing gets lost making it verra hard to read.

No need to assume;From

No need to assume;

From Private Acts 1972; Chapter 332

SECTION 3. There is hereby created a merit service board composed of five (5) members

selected by the Quarterly County Court to administer the provisions of this Act.

SECTION 4. The terms of the members shall be three (3) years; provided, however, that the

initial appointment shall be as follows:

(a) Two (2) members for one (1) year.

(b) Two (2) members for two (2) years.

(c) One (1) member for three (3) years.

All appointments thereafter shall be for three-year terms. A member shall be eligible to

reappointment.

I still suggest you review the document starting on page 133. http://www.ctas.utk.edu/public/CTASpriv.nsf/PrivateActs/6FA4A9E4D2B65FCB862564840058EA6B/$FILE/BLOUNT+CO+-+2005.pdf?openelement

For some reason, the CTAS link is not showing up as a Link.. If you need, cut and paste the http address in your browser.

assume...

A couple of points,

1. Aside from the initial appointment the QCC (Quarterly County Court) in this private acts is not designated as the oversight, except for initiating or desloving the act by 2/3 vote, but we can assume that if the QCC made the initial appointments that it should make the new or reappointments.

2. As for reports made by the sheriff, according to this document it states those reports go to the Merit Board, which I would assume would give it to their secretary for entry into any minutes which are maintained. Which under this private act was to be a sheriff department employee I believe, my memory span is short now adays, I think it was in or around section 7.

So I would say if I were to look for Merit Board minutes, I would go to the sheriff's department and seek the Merit Board secretary.

All of this is assuming that some Private Act or General Law has not changed making portions or all of this private act void.

Mr. Gary Hall

Well, I have another question.

Is the Mr. Gary Hall, noted as being Chairman of the Blount County Merit Board in 2005 the same Mr. Gary Hall who is the Executive Director of the Knox County (KCSO)Merit System?

If there was a chairman in

If there was a chairman in 2005, I don't think we need to go back 40 years to find out how he got there.

At any rate, the question was who appoints the board? Because from this CTAS link;

http://www.ctas.utk.edu/public/CTASpriv.nsf/PrivateActs/6FA4A9E4D2B65FCB862564840058EA6B/$FILE/BLOUNT+CO+-+2005.pdf?openelement

page 133 (as mentioned above) it states this is the responsibilty of the County Court (County Commission).

Again, if there was an existing body in 2005, who put them there?

Civil Service Merit System Text

LAW ENFORCEMENT

CIVIL SERVICE MERIT SYSTEM

PRIVATE ACTS OF 1972

CHAPTER 332

SECTION 1. All counties having a population of not less than sixty-three thousand and seven hundred (63,700) nor more than sixty-three thousand eight hundred (63,800) inhabitants according to U. S. Census of population of 1970 or any subsequent U. S. Census of population may establish merit system for employees of the office of sheriff of such counties.

SECTION 2. The merit system to which this Act shall apply shall be the classified service which includes all positions and salaried employees in the office of sheriff except the sheriff, his chief deputy, jail cook, bookkeeper and his personal secretary, unless such secretary is deputized as a deputy sheriff.

SECTION 3. There is hereby created a merit service board composed of five (5) members selected by the Quarterly County Court to administer the provisions of this Act.

SECTION 4. The terms of the members shall be three (3) years; provided, however, that the initial appointment shall be as follows:

(a) Two (2) members for one (1) year.
(b) Two (2) members for two (2) years.
(c) One (1) member for three (3) years.

All appointments thereafter shall be for three-year terms. A member shall be eligible to reappointment.

SECTION 5. All members of the board must be over twenty-one (21) years of age; of good moral character; a citizen of the United States and the State of Tennessee and must reside in the county.

SECTION 6. The members of the board shall receive such compensation as may be determined by the Quarterly County Court.

SECTION 7. The board shall designate one of its members to serve as chairman of the board. The sheriff shall appoint one of his employees to be personnel officer. The personnel officer shall be the keeper of the personnel records of employees under the provisions of this Act and shall serve as secretary of the merit service board.

SECTION 8. The merit service board as a body shall have the power:

(a) To adopt and amend rules and regulations for the administration of this Act.

(b) To make investigations concerning the enforcement and effect of this Act and to require observance of the rules and regulations.

(c) To hear and determine appeals and complaints respecting the administration of this Act.

(d) To establish and maintain a roster of all employees of the classified service in the office of the sheriff showing their positions, rank, compensation and places of residence.

(e) To ascertain and record the duties and responsibilities pertaining to all positions in the classified service and to classify such positions in the manner hereinafter provided.

(f) Except as otherwise provided in this Act to formulate and hold competitive tests to determine the qualifications of persons who seek employment in any position, and as a result of such tests, establish employment lists of eligibles for the various positions.

(g) To establish records of the performance and a system of service ratings to be used to determine promotions, the order of lay-offs or reduction of force and the order or re-employment to assist in the determination of dismissal for cause and for other purposes.

(h) To provide for part-time and temporary positions and appointments and to establish rules defining and governing such positions; provided, however, that no temporary position shall be more than three (3) months.

(i) To keep any other records as may be necessary for the administration of this Act.

SECTION 9. The board shall, as soon as practical after this Act becomes operative, adopt a classification plan and make rules and regulations for its administration. The classification plan shall state for each class of positions, a class title, and the duties, authorities, responsibilities and character of work required for each position. Each class of positions may be subdivided, and classes may be grouped and ranked in such manner as is deemed appropriate. The board shall determine the requirements of each position and class thereof as to education, experience, capabilities,knowledge and skill. As far as practical, the probable lines of promotion to and from the classes of position shall be indicated.

SECTION 10. The board may, upon request and advice of the sheriff, create new positions or combine, alter or abolish existing positions in such manner as the board, acting with the advice of the sheriff, deems necessary for the effective operation of the office of sheriff; provided, however, that no position in the classified service shall be abolished except upon approval of the board acting in good faith upon the advice of the sheriff.

SECTION 11. The board shall formulate reasonable rules governing the granting of leaves of absence to members of the classified service in good standing. The board shall request the recommendation of the sheriff upon any request of leave of absence before acting thereon and shall be guided by the requirements of the adequate law enforcement and operational efficiency of the office of sheriff when considering any such request for a leave. Any person coming under the classified service who shall hereafter be inducted into the armed forces of the United States of America, or who shall hereafter enter said service voluntarily,by enlistment or otherwise in a time of war or other national emergency shall, upon application to the sheriff, receive a military leave of absence for the duration of the period of service required. Such employee shall retain all rights for seniority and shall be entitled to re-employment in the same capacity and position which he held at the time of entering said military service. The application for such rein-statement in position shall be made by or on behalf of such employee within three (3)months after termination of active service in the armed forces.

SECTION 12. The sheriff shall inform the board by periodic reports of the employment needs of the office of sheriff and the board shall, as often as required by the needs of the office of sheriff, hold tests for the purpose of establishing lists of eligibles for the various positions in the classified service. Such tests shall be public, competitive and open to all persons who may be lawfully appointed under the rules promulgated by the board and existing prior to the announcement of the examination. Such rules shall set limitations as to residence, age, health, habits, moral character and other necessary pre-requisites for the performance of the duties of the position for which examination is designated and such rules shall not be less than those provided in Section 38-1104 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. Promotion tests shall be public, competitive and free to all persons examined and appointed under the provisions of this Act and who have held a classified position with the office of sheriff for at least one (1) year period of time. All tests shall be practical and shall consist only of subjects which will fairly determine the capacity of the person examined to perform the duties of the position in which the appointment is to be made. Tests may include examination for physical fitness and manual skill. No questions in any test shall relate to religious or political opinions or affiliations.
The eligibles shall take rank upon a list which shall be compiled for each position, in the order of their relative excellence as determined by the tests without reference to the priority of the time from when the tests are given. No lists of eligible persons shall be valid after one (1) year except,however, the merit service board may extend an eligible period for not more than one (1) year. Notice of the time, place and general scope of each test and the duties, pay and experience required
for all positions for which the test is to be held, shall be given by; the board to each applicant at least one (1) week preceding the test. The notice must be in writing and addressed to the last known address supplied by the applicant. Notice of promotional tests shall be given as the board may prescribe.

SECTION 13. Whenever a vacancy occurs in any position in the classified section of the office of sheriff, the sheriff shall make requisition to the board for the names and addresses of all persons eligible for appointment thereto. The board shall certify the names of all persons on the eligible list for position wherein the vacancy exists within thirty (30) days of the requisition to the board. The sheriff thereupon shall investigate each of the five (5) highest on the list of eligibles. In the event the investigations result in none of the five (5) eligible persons being acceptable to the sheriff, he shall investigate the next five (5) eligibles on the list, one after another until one of the eligibles investigated is acceptable to the sheriff. The sheriff shall appoint such person to the position wherein the vacancy exists and shall notify the board of his action. If the merit service board fails to provide a list, then the sheriff may make appointments to vacancies after having notified the board of his action or his intentions so to do. No appointment or promotion for any position in the classified service, shall be deemed complete until after the expiration of six (6) months probationary service during which time the sheriff may determine the effectiveness of the employee. If in his judgment the employee does not
meet the standards, he may terminate the employment of any person certified and appointed when he deems it to be in the best interest of the service. Whenever a position of the classified service is filled by promotion and the services of the person promoted are terminated by the sheriff during the probationary period, such person shall forthwith be returned to duty in the previous position held by him in the classified service unless such person's conduct during the probationary period had given grounds for dismissal for cause under this Act. Any person dismissed during the probationary period shall not be eligible to a hearing before the board.A person who is certified to the sheriff and does not report for duty at the time so designated and who does not explain such failure to report in writing within five (5) days, may be rejected by the sheriff who shall forthwith notify the board of the action taken and the reason therefor, and the person's name will then be removed from the eligible list.

SECTION 14. All employees in the classified service may be transferred from one position to another in the same class, and not otherwise. Transfers may be instituted only by the sheriff and shall be permitted only with the consent of the sheriff.

SECTION 15. The practice and procedure of the board with respect to any investigation by the board as authorized by this Act, shall be in accordance with the rules and regulations to be established by the board. Such rules and regulations shall provide for a reasonable notice to all persons affected by any order which the board may issue upon completion of such investigation. Such persons shall have the opportunity to be heard either in person or by counsel, and to introduce testimony in his behalf at a public hearing which shall be held for that purpose. The board, when conducting any investigations or hearings authorized by this Act, shall have the power to administer oaths, take depositions, issue subpoenas, compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, accounts, papers, records, documents and testimony. In case of the obedience of any person to comply with the orders of the board or of a subpoena issued by the board or any of its members, or on the refusal of a witness to testify on any matter on which he may be lawfully interrogated, the judge in any court of record within the county on application of any member of the board, shall compel obedience by proceedings as for contempt. The sheriff or his legal deputy shall serve such subpoenas as issued by the board.

SECTION 16. The sheriff shall give an immediate report in writing of all appointments,reinstatements, vacancies, absences or other matter effecting the status of any member of the classified service or the performance of the duties of such members. The report shall be in the manner and form prescribed by the board. The sheriff may suspend any employee for not more than ten (10) days for cause and there shall be no right of appeal for any suspension thereof. Provided, however, the sheriff shall not have the authority to suspend any employee for more than one suspension of ten (10) days within any given six (6) month period of time without a right of appeal. If the sheriff shall suspend any employee for a period longer than ten (10) days, the suspended employee shall be notified in writing of the charges which caused his suspension. He shall thereafter have ten (10) days to request a hearing before the merit service board, and upon his request the board shall set a hearing not more than thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of his request for a hearing.

SECTION 17. The sheriff shall have the authority to dismiss any employee for ordinary cause with a right of appeal to the board assured the employee. The dismissed employee shall be notified in writing of the causes for dismissal. He shall have ten (10) days to request a hearing before the board and upon his request the council shall set a hearing not more than thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of his request. The rules of procedure for the conduct of any investigation by the merit service board shall apply to this hearing. Upon a finding by the board that the sheriff has not complied with the procedures of board, the board may order the employee to be reinstated.

SECTION 18. No employee holding a position in the classified service shall take an active part in any political campaign while on duty nor under any circumstance shall any employee of the office of sheriff solicit money for political campaigns or in any way use his position as a deputy sheriff so as to reflect his personal political feelings as those of the office of sheriff or to use his position as deputy sheriff to exert any pressure on any one person or group of people to sway that person's or persons' political views. Neither an employee while on duty nor any officer while in uniform shall display any political advertising or paraphernalia on his person or on his automobile. No employee of the office of sheriff shall make any public endorsement of any candidate in any campaign for elected office. However, nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit or prevent any such employee from becoming or continuing to be a member of a political club or organization and enjoying all the rights and privileges of such membership or from attending any political meetings, while not on duty, or in the course of his official business, nor shall he be denied from enjoying any freedom from interference in the casting of his vote. Any person violating the provisions of this Section shall be dismissed from the service of the office of the sheriff.

SECTION 19. The sheriff shall not require any employee in the classified service to participate in any political activity as a condition of employment, continuation of employment, or promotion. If, upon an investigation by the board and its determination that such actions have taken place, the board shall issue an order to the sheriff to cease and desist such activity. If the sheriff fails to comply or persists in the activity, the council may apply to any court of record in the county for
a citation of contempt.

SECTION 20. If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not effect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the
provision of this Act are declared to [sic] severable.

SECTION 21. All laws or parts of laws in conflict with the provisions or [sic] this Act are hereby repealed.

SECTION 22. This Act shall become effective as to any county to which it may apply when the same shall have been approved by the Quarterly County Court of such county by vote of not less than two-thirds (b) of the members thereof, such approval to be made by said Quarterly County
Court within ninety (90) days after the sine die adjournment of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee for the year 1972, the public welfare requiring it becoming effective at the time. Its approval or non-approval shall be proclaimed by the presiding officer of the Quarterly County Court and certified by him to the Secretary of State.

SECTION 23. For the purpose of approving or rejecting the provisions of this Act, as provided in Section 22, it shall be effective on becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it. For all other purposes it shall become effective September 1, 1972 upon being approved as provided in
Section 22.

PASSED: March 22, 1972.

Great response from Mr. Ballard in the LTTEs

Here's what Mr. Ballard had to say in the DT today, re: Sheriff's interesting accounting: (link...)

Oh, and here's the Sheriff and Bennett's "spin" in Blount Today (which is apparently the new local outlet to fax news items to, now that the DT is occasionally a real paper): (link...)

I mean, since when is the defense for getting busted for moving money around illegally that "the wrong question was asked?" Sounds like somebody was just making a show of their power and had the support of the Finance Director in doing so:

"Berrong said the AG’s opinion was right. “The AG was right, but the question asked had nothing to do with the issues,” he said. “I do have authority to make personnel moves as needed in the sheriff’s office.”

Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett said the opinion didn’t answer the ultimate question. “Does the sheriff have the authority to assign deputies as he sees fit, based on law enforcement needs of the county?” he said."

Interesting comments

I found these comments interesting:

Ballard said his whole point in making the motion was the sheriff had five or six cost centers with funds spread out in them and two contained SRO funds. “My request was to combine those two cost centers. They took it a step further and rolled them all into the sheriff’s office cost center. Bennett gave me the explanation that they weren’t official Tennessee state chart of accounts cost centers, that they were made up internally,” he said.

Ballard said he pointed out there was a line item for SROs and that that was where that money needed to be placed for SROs. “I was ignored, and no money was allocated to that cost center even though we were paying SROs,” he said. “That was one of my bigger points of contention in not supporting the tax increase last year.”

AND THIS:

Graham said whole reason he asked for the opinion was because the budget committee he was on at the time had appropriated money for the SRO budget (in spring of 2006).

“It was a surprise to me and many others when we passed the budget in June of 2006 and all of a sudden changes are made to the SRO program,” Graham said. “The question was simply, can you make those changes and use that money without going through the budget committee and county commission for approval?” he said of the question he asked of the state attorney general.

And THIS:

“Obviously Mr. Bennett and the sheriff are on one side of this thing and myself and several other commissioners and concerned citizens, students and teachers are on the other.”

“If things are so bad, how can we build and staff a driving track and police academy?” Graham asked.

All above are from Blount Today story. Did they FAX that in?

I wasn't clear at all

Thank you for pointing out that I wasn't being fair.

My comment re: faxing news into Blount Today was a side comment, provoked by the various Cunningham articles that have been published lately, but that wasn't at all clear in my comment. Nice that they gave everyone a shot at commenting in the one re: SROs and accounting.

You've gotta love this!

The DT can really pick those titles: Officials: Audit discrepancies no longer issues

Auditors made no mention of actual missing vehicles in the report, but did find discrepancies in the separate inventories kept by the Accounting Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

...and...

“As of September, the two (inventory lists) have been reconciled,” Bennett said. Sheriff James Berrong said the audit results put an end to what he described as “false complaints.”

How are the complaints about missing cars "false" when they were actually missing as per the paperwork?? You sell something but don't notify the Purchasing Department (shouldn't they have to sign off on any sales?) and then fail to correct the accounting inventory and then wonder why people wonder where the vehicles are? Are they supposed to read your mind?

“This shows there is not a needle in the haystack,” Berrong said. “It was easily documented that the (vehicles) had been sold and hadn’t gotten deleted from the inventory list. The audit says about everything is in order. There were some paper trail deficiencies, but that has been cleared up.”

Yes, about everything is in order except your paperwork! "Paper trail deficiencies" are definitely going to result in questions - as they should.

Here's a question from me from the list of auditor recommendations:

County policies should address items acquired through forfeited seizures to ensure that those items are added to the county’s capital assets records.

Don't we do this already?

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