Gannon, Walkup both stay -- for now

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County Executive Mike Gannon remains the chairman of the Cannon County Commission and Shelley Walkup continues as a member of the Cannon County Board of Education following the Oct. 14 meeting of the county commission.

However, both are subject to change.

A 4-4 tie left Gannon as chairman as six votes are needed for a motion to pass. Mark Barker, Karen Ashford, Richie Hunter and Adam Melton voted for Gannon. Casting votes for the only other nominee, Brent Bush, were Glenn Steakley, Russell Reed, Jim Bush, and Brent Bush voted for himself.

Commissioners James Holloway and Todd Hollandsworth did not attend the meeting.

Brent Bush remains as chairman pro-tem.

At Reed's request, the position will be put up for vote again at the November meeting of the commission.

The commissioners tabled a decision on naming someone to a seat on the school board. County Attorney Mike Corley advised the commissioners there are conflicting state laws as to whether the District 5 seat was vacated when Walkup moved to District 4 last year.

A number of provisions in state law indicate the seat was vacated by the move. One provision would appear to indicate a school board member need only remain a resident of a county, and not the district in which they were elected, to continue to hold the office.

"An interesting question has come before the county commission involving whether or not a vacancy has occurred on the school board. There are some mixed questions of law and fact on this and we'll make some assumptions that may or may not be correct, but for purposes of discussion will make it simpler," Corley said.

"Let's assume for a moment that the issue is whether or not the office has in fact been vacated due to the removal of a school board member from the district from which they were elected. There is a conflict in the law that has been well publicized in our local newspaper and well discussed and as a general rule an officeholder that is elected from a district must remain in that district to hold the office. In other words, if a constable, if a member of the county commission, someone else elected from a specific location within a county, they have to qualify by residing in that district and to hold the office have to continue to reside in that district.

"There is an application or provision rather in the school board law that was passed subsequent to the law I am describing that states a school board seat becomes vacant upon the member moving from the county. So some lawyers take the position and give the opinion that that supersedes the general law because it's specific and directed only toward school board members. And that is a reasonable interpretation of the law, but when you look at it whole, there are some other reasons why a court might come to a different conclusion, one of them being that that same law also says that to qualify to be a school board member to hold the seat you have to reside in the county. Well that's true you have to do that but you also have to reside in that district. So I think a court could conclude that was loose language and possible not applicable to overturn a general rule of application that you have to continue to reside in the district to hold that district's seat. But there are difference of opinion on that and I have asked Representative (Mark) Pody to request an attorney general's opinion on that and that has not been received as of this date.

"To give some more additional provision and clarity to the subject it would be my recommendation that no action be taken until you at least have that opinion considering the divergence opinions that are already out there, and how important an issue in fact that it is."

Corley also told the commissioners that even if the attorney general's opinion is that the seat has been vacated, if Walkup does not resign, they can not fill the seat unless a court rules the seat has been vacated.

"But if you decide today that in your opinion the seat is vacated, that does not allow this commission to take action to actually select another school board member, because the current member is still holding that office," Corley said. "They have not relinquished it, they have not conceded that it is vacant. And anytime you have an officeholder that is holding an office wrongfully, the only way that can be resolved is by quo warranto action ... the only way to have that determined is for the district attorney ... has to bring an action and then a determination is made as to whether that office has been vacated or not and when that order is received this commission will then act upon it if the order was that it had in fact been vacated."
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October 15, 2017 at 11:02pm
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