Council votes Wellness Contract & Ordinance Restore city court clerk duties

By: Pat Hunter

June 28, 2009 


What do County Mayor Doyle Arp, Mayor Matt Brookshire and now Chairman Eddie Simpson share in common; dodging public scrutiny by the element of surprise? That seemed to be the case when two important agenda items were added to Lenoir City’s Monday’s June 22 meeting. Lenoir City Vice-Chair Eddie Simpson chaired the council meeting in the absence of Mayor Matt Brookshire who was said to be on vacation.


The 14-item Lenoir City Council agenda consisted mostly of proposed budget items including the FY 09-10 Lenoir City and school budgets and setting a property tax rate.


At the beginning of the council meeting, Chairman Simpson requested an addition to agenda calling it #15 Wellness Clinic contract. Coincidently, insurance agent Chris Wampler just happened to drop by to answer questions about the Wellness Clinic contract, which sailed through Council. The clinic is scheduled to open sometime in August. The cost is estimated at $22,000 but insurance savings are expected from the plan.   


But even stranger was Simpson’s second request prior to the adjournment of the meeting, Chairman Simpson called for a 5-minute recess and announced that an executive session would be held while offering no explanation. During the recess, the room was cleared leaving just a few people to wait. After a 30-minute or so executive session, Chairman Simpson reconvened the meeting. In an unexpected move he requested Council approval for yet another agenda item #16 Ordinance concerning the Court Clerk. Councilman Bobby Johnson, Sr. commented that he had not voted to add that item to the agenda until after he read his conflict of interest statement. Councilman Bobby Johnson Sr. & Recorder-Treasurer Bobby Johnson, Jr. is father and son.


Chairman Eddie Simpson started off by giving a brief overview of past actions by council regarding the court clerk position. After Ms. Williams (Debbie Cook) stepped down and retired as clerk, Council asked Ms. Maggie Hunt to serve as interim clerk and court clerk to Judge Vann. Hunt did not wish to do so; Council then appointed Jennifer Gamble Jackson to that position. According to Simpson, Jackson has done a fantastic job of collecting fines. He said that an ordinance was adopted and he was asking that Council repeal the ordinance. This matter was on the May 11, 2009 council meeting agenda when Council took no action.


Simpson requested that action be taken and he recommended amending or repealing the ordinance, which was passed back in 2008. A motion was made by Councilman Mike Henline that the ordinance be repealed, which was seconded by Councilman Buddy Hines. Lenoir City Council voted unanimously to adopt an Ordinance, which would repeal an earlier ordinance adopted on May 12, 2008. Bobby Johnson, Sr. read from his conflict of interest statement before voting yes. Attorney Littleton was not sure about the ordinance number so he asked that that the ordinance number be clarified in the meeting minutes to cover the ordinance.


The ordinance would follow the Lenoir City Charter and re-establish the court clerk position back to the City Recorder-Treasurer Bobby Johnson, Jr.


Councilman Buddy Hines wanted the people to know what Council was doing and that Council was putting back the city court clerk duties in accordance to Lenoir City’s Charter and the position of Recorder-Treasurer. He also said that he would not vote unless he had assurance from Bobby Johnson, Jr. to leave personnel as is. Johnson mentioned that he would not fire anyone but he wanted to cross train personnel. Is this ordinance in compliance with the City Charter asked Councilman Hines?


Notably absent from Monday’s council meeting was Councilman Tony Aikens who favored Jennifer Jackson serving as city court clerk at the recommendation of Judge Terry Vann. This appears to be in contrast of the voters’ mandating that elected Bobby Johnson, Jr., as Recorder-Treasurer. The Charter also states that “The Recorder/Treasurer shall be the Clerk of the City Court.”


Lenoir City Council’s vote was a partial victory in restoring the full duties of the Recorder-Treasurer but a second reading is still required. The next Lenoir City Council meeting is scheduled to be held on July 13, 7:00 PM at Lenoir City Hall, Broadway!



 Leslie Johnson, Codes Enforcement speaks to Chris Wampler during recess.

      Johnson asked questions about the wellness program during the council meeting.