Constables To Keep Powers – For Now

KEVIN HALPERN, Courier Co-Editor

Cannon County’s five constables came away from Saturday’s meeting of the Cannon County Commission with their law enforcement powers still intact, but that could only be the case for a few more months.

After first rescinding the action they took at their January meeting to remove the constables’ law enforcement powers, commissioners again voted to do so Saturday.

The reason for rescinding their January vote was because concern had been expressed by state officials that it may have violated Tennessee Open Meetings Law because the item was not on the agenda for that meeting, and instead brought up under other business.

Removing law enforcement powers requires a two-thirds vote of the county commissioners and the resolution to do so also must pass two readings at consecutive meetings.

County Executive Mike Gannon had to break a 5-5 tie on a motion to rescind the January first reading vote. Commissioners Mark Barker, Russell Reed, Jim Bush, Tony Neal and Clint Higgins voted to rescind while Jimmy Mingle, Kevin George, Kevin Mooneyham, Bob Stoetzel and Todd Hollandsworth voted against doing so.

Following that vote, Mooneyham made a motion to again consider the resolution on first reading. That motion passed by an 8-2 vote, with Barker and Neal voting no. If the resolution passes at the next meeting of the commission by at least seven votes, constables will be stripped of their law enforcement powers but still remain in their elected position.

The vote was preceded by a brief but heated exchange between Mooneyham and First District Constable Jim Gibbs, and a plea from an audience member to let the constables keep their powers.

Mooneyham, Assistant Police Chief for the Woodbury Police Dept., said he did not want persons providing law enforcement in the county who did not have the same amount of training he did. Constables are not required to have any form of training or level of education, Mooneyham said.

“How dare you,” Gibbs asked. “I have more education than you do. I am recognized as a law enforcement officer … I have just as much powers as you do, whether you like it or not.”

Lillian Todd, speaking from the audience, said, “I am pretty concerned you want to strip them of their powers. They are certified and receive no money from the county. Why would you not want to use all of our resources?”

Todd express concerned the action being taken was due to personality conflicts between one or more commissioners and some of the constables. “That is an excuse instead of a real reason,” she said.

• Approved a resolution giving the County Executive permission to apply for a $50,000 grant from the USDA to build a Farmers' Market. If the grant is received, the county would contribute $15,000 toward the construction of the open air building, which would be located behind the parking lot at the Arts Center of Cannon County. Commissioners Reed, Bush, Neal, Mooneyham and Stoetzel voted against the resolution, meaning Gannon had to break a 5-5 tie for the second time during the meeting. Gannon said he can not recall ever having to break a tie before in his eight-plus years as county executive.

• Heard from Sheriff Darrell Young about plans to seek bids to do repair work at the Cannon County Jail, including the roof and air conditioning units. Funding for the repairs would come from the litigation tax, which the county commission increased from $10 to $50 at the Oct. 2010 meeting. Money collected from the tax is being deposited into debt service. One Sheriff Young has received bids for the work, he will present them to the commissioners for consideration.

• Declined to reconsider building codes for Cannon County. The county will have to opt-out of the State Fire Marshal's program each year.

• Approved  Catherine Gibbs, J.H. Gibbs, Krista Trail, Jessica League, Gary Hancock, Michele Asbury, Joan Nave, Mark Hochstetler and Shannon Leedom as notaries.

• Delayed the formation of a County Audit Committee. County Executive Gannon said the state's Comptroller's Office has not yet signed off on the plan submitted to form the committee.

• Named an unnamed bridge on Cavendar Road the "Margie Vinson Memorial Bridge."