is a time of year when the Commission
should be working hard to find ways to cut
the budgets of some of the Count's bloated
departments (for example the Sheriff).
Unfortunately, the Budget did not even
appear on the Commission's March Agenda.
Board has no purpose - yet continues
with a $30,000 per year budget
Instead, the Commission spent its time
deciding to keep the useless Cable TV
Authority alive for another year.
In 2008 the state took all powers away from
the Cable TV Authority, other than receive
money and forward money. The Cable TV
Authority has no powers to do anything for the
review of the minutes of the Authority meetings,
shows that the only substantive thing the board
does is vote to accept the payments from the
Comcast and Charter and pass them on to the
cities and the County.
Yet, the Authority continues to have a 9 paid
board members and a lawyer collecting
more than $12,000 per year in legal fees. You
ask why? The explanation may have something to
do with the fact that several of the nine
members are County Commissioners. (Cable TV
Board Members - Commissioners Gary Farmer, Roy
Gamble and Scott Helton, plus Steven J.
Greene, Vaughn Belcher, William C. Cochran,
Lauren Kardatzke, Donald L. Larson, and Thomas
W. Taylor. Cable TV Authority lawyers
Crawford, Crawford and Newton.)
has a budget of nearly $30,000 per year. Do we
really need to spend $30,000 a year to receive
and forward money?
really make sense to be paying Cable TV Board
members to perform these trivial services,
when members of the Budget Committee and other
far more active Commission Committees, who put
in scores of extra hours, are uncompensated?
It is a
shame this $30,000 is being wasted. As our Special Report on
the County Schools showed, this money
could be put to much better use by some of the
talented teachers in our schools.
meeting to select a new Finance Director -
in a big hurry
Without even giving the
Commission the name of the candidate, the Mayor
announced at the end of the Commission meeting
that he wanted a special meeting called, the
following week, to approve the new Finance
The Finance Director is the most important
unelected position in the County. County
citizens have learned the hard way over the last
decade, that the wrong person in the Finance
Director position can create problems that will
take many years to solve. The County's nearly
quarter billion dollar debt, huge variable rate
debt, and nearly $100 million worth of risky
interest rate swaps are just a few examples of
the harm a poor Finance Director can do.
It turns out that in the short few weeks spent
searching for a new Finance Director, the Mayor
only seriously considered one candidate. He
fixated on that candidate, because the candidate
had been Finance Director of the City of
Knoxville. However, the candidate's tenure in
Knoxville ended nearly ten years ago.
The problem with resumes is that they only tell
you how good the person was at solving
yesterday’s problems. The majority of this
candidate’s experience as a Financial Director
was compiled in the 90’s. You will recall that
the good times were rolling in that decade. The
economy was growing. Unemployment was low. Real
estate values were increasing. Budgets could be
increased without increasing tax rates. A strong
stock market made it easy to fund generous
pension plans. Government borrowing levels were
low. The problems and risks of variable rate
bonds and swaps were not yet visible.
The question on the minds of many
citizens is this. Will the same set of skills
that were adequate to be a Financial Director in
the 90s be matched to the problems of today. The
economy is stagnant. Unemployment is high. Real
estate values are falling. Budgets need to be
cut to prevent tax increases from adding to the
crushing burdens of our citizens. Unfunded
pension liabilities consume growing portions of
our budget. We are suffering from very high
levels of debt. And, we are trying to deal with
$100 million worth of variable rate debt and
more than $20 million of swap termination
To decide whether a candidate has
the skill to solve our problems, many citizens
believed we needed more than a resume compiled
15 years ago. Our citizens sent me the questions
listed below, which I tried to get the Mayor to
Do we have a current job description
outlining the goals and objectives for the
How many other people were interviewed
for this position?
Was this position advertised? Where?
Was any executive search firm involved?
What year did the Candidate receive his
degree from UT? Why was the year not on the
How many reference checks were conducted
on this candidate? Did they explore the
candidate’s effectiveness in cutting budgets?
Did they explore the candidate’s ability to
unwind complicated variable rate debt and swap
What is the incentive for a guy who is
receiving a couple of retirement checks, and
who claims to be working to avoid boredom, to
take tough stances against powerful officials
when preparing and enforcing budgets?
Has the candidate demonstrated the
ability to cut spending? What cost cutting
initiatives did he introduce? Give some
Does the candidate have any experience
with VRDO bonds and swaps? Give some examples.
Does the candidate understand that his
job is to represent the County citizens NOT
the County employees in budget, pension and
benefits discussions? Give some examples of
past actions that demonstrate this
Do you believe that the Financial
Director should take sides in budget
What did the candidate mean on his resume
where he said he: “Communicated presented and
lobbied all financial matters to the City
Council”. Do you really think a Finance
Director should be lobbying the Commission for
a particular course of action?
Why are we paying the candidate more than
the salary he requested in the letter
accompanying his resume?
Unfortunately, as you can see from this
video (Click Here), the Mayor had very
few answers to these questions. The video
makes it painfully evident that very little
serious interviewing was done in filling this
key position. The citizens can only pray that
this candidate will do a better job than the
person who wreaked havoc with the County
finances in the last decade.
can change YOUR government PLEASE come to
the Commission meeting Thursday, April
19th at 7:00pm in Room 430 of the