Tempers flare during meeting

Posted By | August 20, 2012 12:00 am

During a meeting that is ordinarily low-key, one of White County’s commissioners became visibly infuriated with the county executive when the topic was broached once again about appointing an ambulance service director, which has been a point of contention for the past several months.
Bruce Null, chairman of Steering Committee B, was calm at the onset of the meeting, but his demeanor changed when Commissioner Matt McBride said the community needs “some closure,” and commissioners need answers to provide to their constituents when they are presented with questions about this matter.
Selection of an ambulance director falls under the purview of the county executive’s authority, but the county commission must approve the recommendation.
On March 19, 2012, during the meeting of White County Board of Commissioners, Rex Clouse, a longtime emergency medical services employee, was recommended by Sullivan to fill the position of White County Emergency Medical Services director. Clouse would fill the position left vacant upon the retirement of Ron Bennett in April 2012.
Commissioners did not approve the recommendation.
Sullivan did not present another name for the position until the July 16, 2012, meeting. However, commissioners voted down Billy Price, who is also a longtime employee of White County EMS.
Clouse had been serving as interim director. However, Sullivan appointed Price as interim director after the July 16 meeting.
Null asked Sullivan if he would like to make a statement about this matter.
Sullivan reminded the committee he had presented county commissioners with two names for EMS director, neither of which was approved.
“In other words what you’re saying is those two are your horses, and you’ll go with them or die with them?” Null said.
Sullivan said either one of the men would have his support. Null asked if Sullivan would consider any other potential candidates for the position.
“I don’t really have anybody any better to consider,” Sullivan said.
Null asked, “How do you know, Herd?”
“As a governing body, we have to come up with something,” McBride said. “It’s going to take work from both sides. When someone calls me, it’s a shame that I can’t tell them anything besides ‘I don’t know.’”
Null asked, “You don’t think that if you advertised the position and accepted applications and interviewed them that you’re not going to do any better or any different?”
“I doubt it,” Sullivan responded. “You can bring somebody in out of the county if you want to, but that won’t be any better.”
Commissioner B.K. Luna quickly interjected that he would not vote for anyone from another county.
“That’s pretty sorry,” Commissioner Al Klee said. “That tells me, B.K., that you don’t want the very best for the county from outside the county.”
Luna said White County has qualified individuals who can run the ambulance service.
“The county commission does not need to be in the healthcare business,” McBride said. “I don’t think the board needs to run EMS. We need an EMS director, and I would just like for it to come to some kind of terms where when the public calls I can tell them something besides, ‘I don’t know.’
Klee suggested speaking with officials at St. Thomas Hospital and Erlanger Health System and asked if either would be interested in taking over operation of White County EMS.
Commissioner Diana Haston asked Sullivan how many applications he had received for EMS director. He estimated receipt of six or seven resumes.
“Well, your two didn’t work, so why not look at those other six or seven?” Commissioner Terry Alley asked.
Null asked Sullivan if he would present commissioners with another name for EMS director at the Aug. 20, 2012, meeting and provide them with the resumes in a timely manner so they can be reviewed prior to the meeting.
Null said commissioners were presented with Billy Price’s resume as they walked into the room for the July 2012 board meeting.
“You had all the qualifications right there in front of you,” Sullivan said.
“You asked the commission to make a decision as important as that position based on what you recommend and let’s call time out and everybody go spend two hours and read a resume,” Null said. “I don’t think so. Herd, that’s not being reasonable.”
Null said if Sullivan had introduced Price to the commissioners and shown support for him, then the commissioners might have considered Price for the position. Sullivan said Price could speak for himself.
“If it was my place, yes sir, I’d have been out there,” Null said.
Sullivan then reminded commissioners the budget committee removed the EMS director’s pay for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
“How are you supposed to hire a director with no pay?” asked Sullivan.
Null replied, “Get us a director, and we’ll fund it. Herd, you’re smarter than what you’re doing. If I was no more effective than you are, I’d resign today. Honestly, you’ve got to the point that you’re totally ineffective.”
During the April 2012 meeting of Steering Committee A, commissioners were addressed by representatives from County Technical Assistance Service about the matter of appointing an EMS director.
“Once the county mayor notifies the county legislative body that he has an appointment that he wants to make, you are statutory bound by TCA 5-6-106 to either vote up or down,” said Gary Hayes, consultant with CTAS.
Hayes said if the county executive is submitting names of qualified individuals, the commission could not continue to reject those names without possible repercussions. Hayes said the county executive has the authority file a “writ of mandamus.”
“In other words, you just can’t keep saying, no, no, no, until you find someone you like,” said Hayes.
A writ of mandamus is the name of one of the prerogative writs in the common law, and is “issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.”
Hayes said the only way to change the procedure would be through a Private Act by Tennessee General Assembly that would take that authority away from the county executive.
Sullivan said he “might” or “might not” present a third candidate’s name to commissioners at the Aug. 20, 2012, meeting.

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