BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
One final, passionate defense came from Greene County Commissioner Tim White during Monday's meeting of the Greene County Commission, during which the legislative body took White's alleged conflict-of-interest to a vote.
White, of Charlie Doty Road, is one of three county commissioners representing the 1st County Commission District. The other two 1st District commissioners are Fred Malone and Wade McAmis.
The district includes the Baileyton, Woodlawn, Hardins, Lost Mountain, Union Temple, West Pines and Cross Anchor voting precincts.
White is the co-owner of A&W Farms Hauling & Excavating, LLC, which installed the sewer system for the new Chuckey-Doak High School fieldhouse project in March after submitting the winning bid of $22,190 on Feb. 16.
On Feb. 21, he voted as a county commissioner to approve a transfer of funds from county school system savings to a county schools line item for Capital Projects. The purpose of the transfer was to pay for the sewer installation and also for site preparation on the C-DHS project.
The transfer had been requested by the county school system.
Commissioner White did not make any statement during the County Commission meeting on Feb. 21 to indicate that he had a financial interest in the work for which the transferred funds would be spent.
White has stated that he saw no conflict-of-interest in performing the work for the county schools and has strongly denied having violated any county or state ethics codes or state laws in connection with his handling of the matter.
"I really would like to, at this point, give my side of the story. I have some very passionate feelings about this, as you all understand," he told the commission at the meeting on Monday evening.
One of the first items that White raised was his concern with substitute county attorney Benjamin Lauderback, of Knoxville, guiding the commission through the ethics question.
"The problem that I have with this is that we have a substitute county attorney that is representing the accuser. I am the accused. [County Mayor Alan] Broyles is the accuser," he said.
"Our substitute county attorney has done research, has had personal correspondence with my accuser," White continued, noting documents obtained by Commissioner Robin Quillen that detail Lauderback's charges to the county and time spent on the alleged conflict, including several instances of correspondence with Broyles.
White also noted that Quillen contacted the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS), also at his request, to investigate the legality of Broyles' hiring Lauderback.
An email response from Libby McCroskey, CTAS' lead legal consultant, states the following:
"I am not aware of any authority for the county mayor to institute a lawsuit against a county official for an ethics violation without first obtaining authorization from the county legislative body," McCroskey wrote.
"The compensation of the attorney must be set by the county legislative body under TCA 55-6-112 and the funds must be properly appropriated to that use."
FUNDS FOR SUBSTITUTE ATTORNEY
Broyles later defended his hiring of Lauderback by noting that $6,995 was allocated within the county budget for the county to hire a substitute when County Attorney Roger Woolsey had a conflict-of-interest and recused himself from a case -- as in this situation.
These funds were approved as a part of the 2012-2013 budget and were discussed during a County Budget & Finance Committee meeting as being specifically allocated for this purpose, Broyles noted.
"Any amount over that I understand fully will have to be approved extra by the County Commission," he said.
Lauderback also referenced this allocation when Quillen later raised the question again.
"I think this wasn't handled properly," Quillen said, noting that the total amount did not specify a pay scale.
Broyles, however, said that the compensation was set not to exceed that amount.
Quillen raised the issue yet again at the very close of the meeting, along with noting declining fund balances.
"I'm asking for the resignation of Alan Broyles as the Greene County mayor," she said.
Broyles quickly responded, saying that this was a case of the "pot calling the kettle black" since Quillen had voted in favor of spending money out of several fund balances during Monday's meeting for various causes.
"I do not plan to resign," he concluded.
Another issue that White raised during his defense was noting that there has been very little case law concerning the noted state statutes on conflict-of-interest, and that some of what is there is conflicting as to whether the law applies to school systems.
The county school system, he also noted, is not under the 1957 Purchasing Act.
Pointing to the wording of the law, he noted that he did not, in his opinion, "vote for," "let out," or "supervise" his own contract for the Chuckey-Doak work.
What he did vote for, he said, was simply for the school system to be able to move funds from one line item to another.
The school board, he said, voted for the contract, W&W Engineering let it out, and the school board superintended it.
Finally, White noted that the controversy over his actions could be summarized only as various attorneys' differing opinions - emphasizing again that little to no law actually exists on the matter.
"The law also has to be clear enough that a man with reasonable intelligence could understand what he was doing wrong," he said. "Obviously, I didn't perceive my actions as wrong."
He also noted that Woolsey, Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk, and Road Superintendent David Weems were among the county officials who knew he was performing the work at the time it was ongoing and made no note of it to indicate that it might be wrong.
"I want you all to vote your conscience. I'm going to take it either way I can get it," he said.
"I'm either going to fight an ouster or I'm going to be done with this because I'm tired of getting kicked. I promise you that I have not knowingly done anything morally or ethically wrong."
The commission later ruled in an 11-7 vote that White had not violated the county's Code of Ethics or, by implication, state law.