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Commission nixes Mayor’s choice for board

‘It’s personal, it’s political’

Turmoil continues to brew between the Anderson County Commission and the Anderson County Mayor over what is turning out to be a prolonged and bitterly contested dispute regarding who should fill the current vacancies — or vacancy, depending on whom in county government you ask — on the county’s five-member conservation board.

During the Anderson County Commission meeting on Monday, Aug. 21, commission voted not to approve County Mayor Terry Frank’s recent appointments to the board.

Frank had on Monday night’s agenda a recommendation to the commission to appoint Christine Dixon, Rickey Rose, and Commissioner Chuck Fritts to serve on the conservation board.

According to state statute, the county mayor appoints and the county commission approves appointments of citizens and/or elected officials to the county’s five-member conservation board which is tasked with overseeing the county’s system of parks and recreation facilities.

Frank pointed out to commissioners earlier this year that the county has been following improper procedure for nominating individuals to the conservation board. Commission was using its nominating committee to make the appointments, with the nominating committee tasked with recommending the appointments to commission and commission making the final decision whether or not to confirm the appointments.

After some research into the state law governing these appointments, Frank said she discovered it is the mayor who should be making these appointments, not county commission, but that it is county commission’s responsibility to confirm the mayor’s appointment recommendations.

“All [current conservation board members] were not appointed properly,” she has told commissioners.

The commission’s nominating committee had selected through its nomination process the appointments of Brenda Currier, Earl Cagle, Terry Brown and Commissioner Phil Warfield to serve on the board, four members instead of five, leaving open one vacancy on the board—or so commissioners initially thought.

According to Frank, because the county was not following proper procedure in the appointment process by using the mayor’s office to make the appointments and having commission confirm those appointments, none of the appointments the nominating committee had made were legal, making the board non-existent.

At last month’s commission meeting, Frank asserted her appointments had nothing to do with her intention to pursue having a county animal shelter “on any of the county-owned property that’s currently designated as a park.”

She attempted to assure commissioners her appointments had nothing to do with the animal shelter and stated, emphatically, they had her commitment that county-owned property set aside for park use is not where she intends to put an animal shelter.

During the commissioner’s meeting this Monday, Aug. 21, commissioners charged that yes, the situation is political, unlike what Frank has previously told them about it not being political.

“The situation with the conservation board is personal, as well as it is political,” stated Dist. 3 Commissioner Phil Warfield.

Warfield again expressed his concern that the mayor was “removing” some of the current members of the board for purely political and personal reasons by replacing them with individuals who had not previously served on the conservation board.

Earlier during the commission meeting, under the Appearance of Citizens section on the agenda, commission heard from Dale Crank, an Oak Ridge resident, who expressed concern with the way county officials are handling the conservation board appointments.

Crank said he attended his first commission meeting last month and was appalled and dismayed to learn that the conservation board is not legally constituted and more specifically with the way commission showed what he said was a “disdain for the law” at last month’s commission meeting by voting not to approve the mayor’s appointments.

Said Crank, “There was not one word mentioned over the merits of the nominated individuals the mayor wanted to appoint. It bothers me as a citizen of this county that you’re more concerned with preserving your power block than upholding the law.”

Later during the meeting, when the mayor addressed the board with her appointments to the conservation board, Dist. 7 Commissioner Steve Mead replied to Crank’s charge against commission by arguing that what Crank said was “misleading” to the public.

“Commission did exactly what the law said and did what was in the best interest of the county,” Mead said.

The votes to approve or not approve the mayor’s appointments were as follows: Commission voted 8 to 7 to approve having Christine Dixon serve on the board, but fell short one vote for the needed 9 majority vote. Abstaining from voting was newly appointed commissioner Bob Smallridge, Dist. 8. The other two appointments, those of Fritts and Rose, also fell short of the majority vote, with both being 8 to 7 to approve.