County Facing Lawsuit Over Election Office Funding

KEITH READY, Courier Contributor

On the eve of the start of this calendar year's first of three elections, a vote it took Tuesday night could have the Cannon County Commission facing a lawsuit.

The Cannon County Election Office brought a budget amendment request in front of the Budget Committee Tuesday night. The request was to allocate additional funds in the line item of salary to cover the extra hours that Assistant Dorinda Mankin is working.  

The office was budgeted Mankin's salary for a total of 30 hours. Mankin is now having to work 40 hours a week on a regular basis, which is an additional $5,607.00 expense.  

The problem began Tuesday when the Budget Committee took no action on the request and presented it to the full Cannon County Commission for approval. The original request came when the Budget Committee started working on the County Budget last year. The budget request was not approved.  

Tennessee Code 2-12-109 states, "except as otherwise provided by law, it is the responsibility of the county to fund the operations of its election commission. If a county fails to appropriate funds sufficient to pay expenses that are reasonably necessary for the discharge of the statutorily mandated duties of its county election commission, such commission may petition the chancery court of the county in which such election commission is located to compel the appropriation of such funds."

After a motion was made to take the money out of General Fund a vote was cast. The motion failed.

A visibly upset Cannon County Administrator of Elections Stanley Dobson stated that the Commission violated TCA codes and quote "you will hear from us.

"You know what happens when you violate, you answer for it."  

Election Commissioner Matt Studd added, "Only one option now. We now go before the judge and sue this county commission to follow the letter of the TCA Code."

In other action Tuesday:

• The Commissioners approved the Town of Woodbury's annexations of parcels surrounding the city that was made in 2008 and 2009. The approval was necessary because the annexations changed the voting precincts and districts for residents in the those areas. Because the changes were not approved by the commission, some voters apparently cast votes for the wrong candidates in some of the races in the 2010 County General Election, or did not get a chance to vote in the District 5 school board race.

• The Commissioners approved the County General Budget Amendments and the appropriation of funds received from the Homeland Security Grant.

• They agreed to look into options in helping the Circuit Court Clerk and General Sessions Court find more adequate space to house offices and records.

• Thea Prince updated the Commissioners on the Cannon County Solid Waste Study.

• The accountant who oversees the Ambulance Service offsite billing explained the program to the commissioner in depth.

• The Commissioners discussed the needs of Eastside's Volunteer Fire Department on a vehicle to carry the cascade equipment and the repair
needs of the Gassaway's Fire Truck  It was decided to look at various bids for vehicles at the next meeting.

The next scheduled meeting for the Cannon County Commission will be March 13th.

(See next week's print edition Cannon Courier for additional coverage of Tuesday's meeting and its aftermath.)