No turning back time
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Cannon County Election Commission Chair Matt Studd, left, and Election Commissioner Sue Patrick differed on reinstating Stan Dobson as Administrator of Elections during the Sept. 10 meeting. (T. Stinnett)

Cannon County Election Commission Chairman Matt Studd recommended the body vacate the actions of the July 2 meeting and reinstate former Administrator of Elections Stan Dobson during the regular monthly meeting at the Cannon County Courthouse Sept. 10.

Studd told commissioners the July 2 meeting was in violation of the Open Records Law, citing TCA

Code 8-44-103A, and that the only way to protect the commission from legal liability was to vacate actions taking at that meeting, including the termination of Stan Dobson.

"The only legal remedy this commission has to avoid the potential legal liability is to vacate the actions of the July 2 meeting, to render those actions void and permit a reset under the law," Studd said. "Because the meeting requirements were not met the only way we can insulate ourselves from legal liability is to vacate and void the actions taken during the July 2 meeting."

Studd said the meeting violated Open Records Law because the agenda for this meeting that was published and posted did not indicate that Dobson could or would be terminated. It was brought up under an agenda item allowing for then commissioner Louise Mayo to address the group. Mayo has since been removed as a commissioner by the state election commission.

Studd added the item was written in and added to the agenda days before the meeting. Because the agenda was not published it violated Open Records, Studd said; however, current AOE Dorinda Mankin, the deputy in charge of posting and publishing agendas in her previous role, told commissioners former chair Lindberg Dennis never had agendas published unless they were for special meetings.

Citizens in the audience reasoned if you vacate the July 2 meeting then all meetings Dennis chaired and did not publish agendas for must be vacated.

Studd told commissioners Dobson and his attorney, both of whom were in attendance, were prepared to make a presentation if the Election Commission did not vacate actions of July 2.

Studd his suggestion was to protect the commission from potential legal issues; however, commissioners pointed out eliminating the potential of one suit could create another.

Commissioner Cory Davenport, who was not on the commission for the July 2 meeting, said he could not support such a recommendation. He made a motion that Mankin become interim AOE through certification of the November election at the July 23 meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

"I was on the Board that appointed (Mankin) as interim AOE and it seems to me that if that Board has a legal contract with (Dobson) then we have a legal contract with (Mankin) as well," Davenport said. "If our goal is not to create lawsuits then we open ourselves up for another lawsuit."

New commissioner James Hill said following Studd's suggestion would only transfer the potential of lawsuit from Dobson to Mankin.

After great discussion Studd's recommendation could not produce a motion. Dobson and his attorney opted not to provide their presentation after the commission did not vacate actions of the July 2 meeting. In other business, the

Board approved early voting dates and times. Early voting will run Oct. 17-Nov. 1. Citizens may vote from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 9 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. There will be two late voting nights. Citizens may vote from 4-7 p.m. on Oct. 18 and Oct. 25. The Nursing Home voting will take place Oct. 25 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

During discussion to approve poll workers and classifications Studd told the commissioners he witnessed a single machine in a room by itself and believed Cannon County Elections to be out of compliance with the TCA Code.

Studd said the TCA Code made it clear all machines had to be within site and control of the officers of elections and poll workers at all times.

"When I came in and observed that I thought it was out of compliance with the TCA Code so I sent a fax to Mary Lynn Bush, who was interim AOE at that time, indicating the unlawful manner in which the machine was set up," Studd said. "(Poll worker) Helen Minton was not receptive to putting all of the machines in one room as they were required to be."

Studd accused Minton of being "obstinate."

Bush disagreed and said she was involved in a three-way call to address the issue with Studd and Beth Robinson at the State Election Commission. According to officials at the State Election Commission, the machine was not in a single room; rather it was set to itself in a much larger room.

"(Robinson) said the commission had the wall knocked out to make the room bigger it was the commission's call and so we moved it in there," Bush said. "She agreed and we left it there. She said nothing about being against the TCA Code or being out of compliance. I don't appreciate Matt Studd faxing me the next morning and not saying anything to me on that day. I did not see that Helen was obstinate about it."

Mankin told the commissioners that Wayne Pruitt, with the State Election Commission, came to observe the August 2010 election.

"(Pruitt) said it was not being done properly because one machine was in another room," Mankin said. "It was brought to the election commissioners and the decision was made to knock that wall out and put everything in there so it was visible to the officer of elections at all times."

The commissioners then unanimously approved poll workers. They also locked all ballot boxes and reviewed a referendum for the Woodbury City Election to permit retail package stores to sell alcohol.


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