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Fewer commissioners are considered

Posted on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm

As members of the Lincoln County Charter Commission continue hammering out details of a proposed charter, one of the issues they are tackling is cutting the number of county commissioners here by more than half.

Noting that two of Tennessee’s largest counties have less than a dozen commissioners, they began talks last week of reducing the size of the Lincoln County Commission from its current 24 members under a charter form of government that’ll eventually make its way to the ballot here. Those 24 include three commissioners from each of the county’s eight districts.

Members of the Charter Commission were asked Monday evening to consider a few different scenarios, ranging from an 11-member commission, with one commissioner elected from each district and three at-large commissioners, to a nine-member commission, with one from each district and one at-large member. Under state law, county commissions can range in size from nine to 25 members, said Daryl Luna, Charter Commission chair.

 “I think we have too many, but I want to think about it,” said Pete Anderson, a member of the Charter Commission established last November.

Gene Shreve, another member of the commission, indicated that he would likely favor a nine-member commission, with each of those members also serving on the County Budget Committee.

“Personally, I would prefer that there be two from each district,” said Fonville Mitchell, secretary, adding that he would like to see the election of those commissioners staggered so as to allow continuity.

As the Charter Commission moved on to other discussions, they were asked to be thinking about that between Monday’s meeting and other upcoming sessions. They did agree to continue four-year terms with the county commission seats under the proposed charter.

Among the other questions eyed during last week’s meeting were whether the county mayor should be able to serve as county commission chair, the county mayor’s impoundment ability,  limiting persons’ service to one board, the process of filling vacancies, public notice in regard to ordinance changes, and criteria for emergency meetings.

Members of the Charter Commission were asked to think about the possibility of prohibiting the county mayor from also being able to serve as chair of the Lincoln County Commission. Traditionally here in Lincoln County, the County Commission has elected the county mayor to the seat.

In regard to the county mayor’s impoundment ability, the charter group noted that state law already allows county mayors to freeze funds in situations where the county is over budget and then require members of the commission to take action to remedy the situation. That action can be overridden by a two-thirds majority vote of the county legislative body. Still, the group indicated that they will include that are similar terminology in the proposed charter so as to draw more attention to it.

A fair amount of discussion was also given to process of filling vacant county commission seats. In discussion, the Charter Commission agreed that proposed candidates should be submitted to the county’s ethics commission, which would then be given a month so as to ensure that conflicts are thoroughly reviewed.