Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon said Thursday night that the dispute between the County Commission and the county's Election Commission over back pay may be resolved soon.
Gannon said the county's attorney, Michael Corley, is reviewing the matter and could advise the commission how it should proceed Friday.
At the end of Thursday's special session of the County Commission, Gannon disputed a report that a number of commissioners had requested the issue be placed on the agenda for the meeting.
"It is not true that four or five commissioners asked me to put it on the agenda," Gannon said. "Only one commissioner asked me to put it on the agenda, and four asked me not to."
Gannon also said the county attorney requested the matter not be on Thursday's agenda so that he could issue his opinion before the commission took action.
Gannon also said that while the election commission had requested the dispute be considered during Thursday's session, doing so would not have been productive because not enough commissioners have yet determined how they would vote to settle the situation one way or the other.
WHAT THE DISPUTE INVOLVES
Cannon County Administrator of Elections Stan Dobson says he'd rather not have to take the Cannon County Commission to court over back pay owed to his assistant, but he will do so if that is the only option he is left with.
At issue is $660 owed to Election Commission Assistant Administrator Dorinda Mankin. At its regular quarterly meeting in January, the commission rejected Dobson's request to move funds in his budget to pay Mankin the money.
Dobson's first step in trying to reconcile the issue was to send Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon a letter on Feb. 4 requesting that he approve the transfer.
The letter to Gannon reads:
"I have talked with Beth Roberson at State Election & Finance about the budget. She has talked with (Legal Consultant) Jeff (Metzger) at CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service) about this subject. There are two methods to solve this situation.
1) We will present a petition to move money to salary within our budget and you approve it and present it to Chancery Court. They ok this petition and you move the money and pay back wages, and this is over.
2) We present an amended budget petition to you and you refuse to do this. Then we will have to take this to Chancery Court with State Election and CTAS as witnesses which will cost money that the county does not need to spend.
I would like to get this straight before another budget starts," Dobson's letter concluded.
Dobson said that barring any action by Gannon or the commission, he plans to file the petition in Chancery Court in Nashville.
"I do not believe in suing your county, but when you've tried everything else and nothing happens you are left with no other recourse," Dobson said.
Mankin's yearly salary is $16,880. The person who held the position prior to Mankin's hiring last June earned $17,510 per year. Dobson said the county commission cut not only his overall budget, but the salary of the assistant administrator, for the current budget year because "they did not think someone should be hired at the same pay rate as the last person."
Dobson counters, however, that the commission is not treating his assistant fairly, and points out that secretaries in other county offices such as county executive, register of deeds, property assessor and circuit court clerk all earn salaries of over $21,000 per year.
He said that if it becomes necessary to petition the court over the pay issue, the suit will charge the commission with bias, discrimination with malice of forethought, and emotional distress.
Dobson also said that in similar disputes over funding and staffing issues involving county offices, in both Cannon and other counties, the courts have generally ruled in favor of the petitioner.
If the petition is filed, a hearing date must be set within 10 days, and the case heard within 30 days after that, Dobson said. The case would be heard by a state judiciary chancellor at the State Election Commission Office in Nashville.
Election Commission member Sue Patrick said Thursday that she was not aware of a potential suit.
"I was upset to read that the election commission may sue the county," Patrick said. "I have no knowledge of this and it may have been mentioned as a solution but suing the county has not really been discussed and no action has been taken by the commission to do this.
"I do not feel Dobson can speak for the commission. Please make it clear that I have no knowledge of this and neither does commissioner Jackie Gannon."
EDITOR'S NOTE: The letter sent to Gannon referred to in this article contained a Cannon County Election Commission letterhead, in which all election commission members are listed.