Did commissioners vote to reduce lofty $8,000 pay check?

When pivotal plays are challenged in sports, instant replay is used; observers examine the play and make a final ruling.

THE HUNTER REPORT has received numerous requests asking if commissioners voted to reduce their pay, and the outcome of the vote. Two news articles (News Sentinel and News Herald) were written with far different conclusions so who was right? 

With two digital video camcorders at the Sept. 4, 2012 Loudon County Commission meeting, THE HUNTER REPORT was ready for the challenge.

After Instant Replay and careful review of the meeting videos, THE HUNTER REPORT confirms that Loudon County Commission voted 7 NO and 2 YEA. The motion to reduce commissioners pay from $8,000 to $4,000 Failed.

THE HUNTER REPORT gives a thumbs up to the Knoxville News Sentinel for sending a reporter to cover the story, and for getting the motion and vote correct.





At the Sept. 4th Commission meeting, Budget Director Tracy Blair read from the agenda, Consideration of a Reduction in Wages of the County Commissioners. Commission was to consider reducing wages from $8,000 to $4,000. Each commissioner is paid ten percent (10%) of the county mayor's salary ($80,000 est.). CLICK Commissioner Pay Survey 2010 xls  CLICK  Commission Pay Survey Comparison 2010 pdf

Chairman Roy Bledsoe asked for a recommendation. Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough responded, "Mr. Chair, I recommend that our county commissioner salary be cut in half". "I'll second then Mr. Chairman for the purposes of offering an amendment" said Commissioner Don Miller.  He suggested setting the commissioners pay to 6% ($4,800) of the county mayor's salary ($80,000) to Yarbrough's original motion but hearing no second the amendment died.

Chairman Bledsoe asked for discussion on the main motion but no commissioner spoke. He asked the clerk to call roll: Earlena Maples - NO; Bob Franke - NO;  Roy Bledsoe- NO: Harold Duff - NO;  Sharon Yarbrough - AYE; Steve Harrelson - NO; Don Miller - AYE; Brian Jenkins - NO; and David Meers - NO. The motion failed with 7 No's and 2 Aye's.

On Instant Replay THE HUNTER REPORT cries foul. The camera could not locate the hometown (county beat) reporter at the Sept. 4th Commission meeting. The article gave the impression that commissioners took no action when in fact seven out of nine commissioners (one vacancy) voted not to cut their pay in half. Other than Commissioner Miller's lengthy remarks and Comm. Yarbrough's motion, no one else on commission spoke about the cut in pay.

Additionally when Comm. Yarbrough tried to put the commission's salaries on the July 23rd workshop agenda, some commissioners communicated that they did not wish to discuss the matter publicly and guess what, it wasn't placed on the workshop agenda for public discussion. Who made that decision behind closed doors?  CLICK TO SEE Public Records Commissioner E-mails Yarbrough, Harrelson, Franke, Duff  pdf 






No cuts for commissioner salaries


Published: 12:25 PM, 09/10/2012

Last updated: 12:30 PM, 09/10/2012

Author: Jeremy Styron
Source: News-Herald

After months of wrangling about a possible reduction in the salary that Loudon County commissioners pay themselves, the board on Tuesday again dispatched the issue when a motion for a decrease died without a second assenting voice.

Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough initially made a recommendation to cut commissioner salaries in half, from $8,000 to $4,000, with Commissioner Don Miller seconding.

Miller then told commissioners that they should consider transportation costs and other out-of-pocket expenses. During the board's August workshop, Miller presented some 2009 data from the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service that showed that only four counties in Tennessee - Knox, Shelby, Hamilton and Bradley - pay their commissioners more than Loudon. Eleven counties statewide pay more than $6,000 apiece.

During the meeting Tuesday, Miller proposed an amendment to Yarbrough's recommendation that would set commissioner salaries at 6 percent of the mayor's, which he said would have brought the compensation down to about $4,800.

Commission Chairman Roy Bledsoe asked for a second, but no commissioner agreed to the plan.

Miller said one reason he recommended reducing the salaries to 6 percent of the mayor's was because it would have put Loudon on level with counties of comparable size.

"The second reason was tying it to a percentage of the mayor's salary, then you don't have to wrestle with this question every year, every couple of years because the mayor's salary is set by the state periodically, whereas if you have a fixed number, every now and then you're going to have to reopen the issue again," Miller said.

Yarbrough said she did not second Miller's amendment to her motion because it did not reduce the salaries enough.

"I felt that it increased and defeated what my purpose was of showing a real effort," Yarbrough said. "And because the budget was so tight, and we did not give salary increases to most of the county employees, I felt that we needed to lead with our actions instead of paying ourselves, especially this high of a salary compared to what we should get according to our population."

She said she disagreed with the notion that commissioner salaries should be tied to the mayor's.

"What I was most disappointed (with is) they didn't even discuss their rationale for not voting on it, and I know most of them didn't want to talk about it in the first place," Yarbrough said. "They just had hoped it would go away. That's probably a small battle, but it's still I felt was worthy again by leading by our actions."

The county budget committee earlier this summer recommended reducing salaries by half, but the full board did not vote on the proposal during its meeting to approve the budget in July. At the time, Commissioner Bob Franke made a motion to maintain the current salary until the board could discuss the issue during a workshop.

The commission should have made a final decision about the salaries months ago, Yarbrough said.

"What I think our mistake was is not dealing with it when it first came up and dealing with it instead of postponing it and thinking it would go away, and that's certainly not the way we should act," Yarbrough said. "If it's going to be 'no,' then it's 'no,' but we needed to address it."

In other business, the board ...:





Loudon commissioners vote against cutting their own pay



By Hugh G. Willett

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Loudon County Commission on Tuesday voted 7-2 to reject a proposal that would have cut commissioners' pay almost in half.

The vote came several months after the commission's budget committee first recommended that commissioner pay be cut from about $8,000 to about $4,000 per year.

The committee recommendation followed data provided by Commissioner Don Miller that showed Loudon commissioners are paid about twice as much as any similar-sized county in the state.

Resident Richard Truitt pointed out that Loudon commissioners, who manage a roughly $60 million budget, are paid more than Davidson County commissioners, who manage a budget of $600 million.

"No one should have the ability to set their own salary," he said.

Tellico Village resident Pandora Vreeland thanked the commission for having the discussion and asked them to consider their position and pay against fair market value � to be determined by comparing commission pay to other commissioners in similar-sized counties, she said.

Commissioner Sharon Yarborough's motion to reduce commission pay by 50 percent was quickly seconded by Miller, who asked to amend the motion.

Miller told the commission that he keeps track of his time and estimated that he invests about 1,000 hours per year on commission business. At $8,000 per year, he figured the job worked out to paying about minimum wage.

"I don't think you could find someone in the private sector to do the job," he said.

Miller acknowledged that his research showed that the pay for commissioners of similar-sized counties would be about $4,000. He made a motion to reduce pay to about $4,800 per year, or 6 percent of the county mayor's salary. The commission had previously been paid based on 10 percent of the mayor's salary.

Chairman Roy Bledsoe's call for further discussion before a vote was met with silence from the rest of the board.

Miller and Yarborough voted for the cut. Commissioners Earlena Maples, Bob Franke, Steve Harrelson, Bledsoe, David Meers, Harold Duff and Brian Jenkins voted against.

Yarborough said she was disappointed in the vote and the fact that most of the commission did not engage in the discussion.

Loudon Tea Party leader Wayne Schnell said he was also disappointed that the commission did not discuss the issue.

Franke said he thought the issue was more complex than presented. Making comparisons between different counties did not take into account that Loudon has 10 commissioners; some counties have 20 commissioners.

"It's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison," he said.