Town of Nolensville Special Board of Mayor and Alderman Meeting
Code of Ethics Workshop-Meeting Followed Immediately
Date: September 28, 2006, Time 7:00 p.m.
Nolensville Elementary School
Following a workshop conducted by Dennis Huffer with Tennessee Municipal League, Mayor Tommy Dugger opened the special meeting at 8:11 p.m. Members present were Mayor Dugger, Aldermen Jimmy Alexander, Joe Curtsinger, Larry Felts and Beth Weaver-Lothers. Staff present: Counsel Robert Notestine, Town Planner Henry Laird, and Recorder Cindy Lancaster. There were 48 citizens present.
Mr. Willis Wells led the prayer and pledge.
Mayor Dugger noted that a special meeting was called for a formal hearing on an ethics violation. He noted that a complaint was filed with the Town Attorney. He then turned the meeting over to Town Counsel.
Counsel Notestine thanked Mr. Dennis Huffer for his presentation. He noted that a letter of recommendation was submitted to the board noting that a complaint had been submitted to him. He read Section 11, Paragraph 2 (a) to the board. He noted that an incident involving an email was brought to his attention by Alderman Curtsinger. He stated that the first email, dated September 11, that he read did not appear to have an ethical violation. Although, the second email written by Alderman Felts mentioned the Volunteer Fire Department and a written apology by him.
Counsel stated that he is the ethics official per the ordinance. He noted that ten years ago he was hired by the board to give legal advice to the entire body of the board. Counsel noted that his job is to be fair and give good legal advice to the board and he views that very seriously. Due to his position he does feel that he has a conflict of interest and cannot investigate this complaint. He noted that he felt the second email may not be in the spirit of the preamble of the Ordinance #06-18. He noted that in the letter to the board he did not have the correct ordinance and referred to section 10. The preamble was added to this ordinance and the letter should have reflected section 11. He stated that additionally in the letter he advised the board that if they elect to have an investigation, he recommended to consider this at a special meeting. He noted this is difficult for him because he represents the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Alderman Curtsinger made a motion to employ outside independent counsel to perform an investigation, Mayor Dugger seconded. Alderman Felts noted that he would like to recuse himself from the vote and discussion due to his position in the complaint.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: It appears to be a gap. The top portion of the page there some veiled references that I do not feel needs to be edifying and at the very bottom there are references to the local Volunteer Fire Department. Was this in response to a verbal conversation. Are we able to discuss this in order to determine if we are going to take this forward for an investigation.
Alderman Curtsinger: To set the record straight the document that Bob sent was incomplete. He did not include the original email. What he presented was an edited version as well as a retraction and apology. The actual, original email was presented to you and if Mr. Felts would like to verify initially that document as being true as the original email, you can pass it down to him, and see, I guess we need to let him verify that is the one he originally authored.
Counsel Notestine: For clarification purposes what I attached to the letter is what Alderman Curtsinger gave me that night.
Alderman Curtsinger: No, he had two documents and one was not attached.
Counsel Notestine: What I focused on was the second email that discussed the fire department.
Alderman Curtsinger: Now everyone should have two separate sheets.
Mayor Dugger: Alderman Curtsinger passed down a sheet a while ago.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Alderman Curtsinger to clarify the difference between the two documents; I did not previously have that before me.
Alderman Curtsinger read: “they continuously stray away from printing anything about this individual why haven’t they printed anything about lawsuits, past and present, possibility that this individual may have lied in court when he said he didn’t take any money or borrow money from one of our local volunteer groups that seem to have fallen in bed with him” and he starts, “what does this individual do for a living, etcetera, etcetera.”
Alderman Curtsinger: That is the initial reference to a volunteer group. It was not until Chief Hughes called Mr. Felts shortly after that was printed that the second document appeared. If you notice it was timed at 5:41, but the original at the top the 4:00 is still there. This was edited and not changed in time and that is where the lapse is. Chief Hughes, I would like to bring him to the podium to verify the fact that he did have this conversation with Alderman Felts. I think for the record we should verify that these documents are real and these events occurred.
Mayor Dugger: I think we have the documents, I don’t think we need a statement.
Alderman Curtsinger: After the apparent conversation with Chief Hughes, then the retraction was printed here that goes to the point to clarify that the volunteer services that were referenced in the original email were in fact the Volunteer Fire Department the nebulous titles are now removed and this is where it starts and that’s where you are at right now.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: If I can get clarification as to why we did not receive the entire email. How does that happen in a printing situation.
Counsel Notestine: That may be my fault. Apparently he gave me two pages but I thought the top of the page with two emails was the same as the other page and frankly if we are basing it on the 4:00 email, it is my opinion that there is no ethical violation. It is the second email dated 5:41p.m. that seemed maybe not be in the spirit of the preamble. I thought the second one was the most important.
Alderman Curtsinger: I think that once the conversation between Chief Hughes and Mr. Felts is discovered that will lead openly to quite a bit of investigation and that is why I think this should be looked in to without calling witnesses.
Mayor Dugger: It is my understanding that these were not emails, although these were postings on the blog.
Alderman Curtsinger: That is correct.
Mayor Dugger: I guess there is an ability to go in and edit after posting on a blog. I guess that is why there is two separate 4:00 postings. Just trying to clarify.
Counsel Notestine: I must admit that I did not realize that. I did not know the difference between an email and posting on the blog. All I know is that it is in writing.
Mayor Dugger: The focus is not to decide, although to turn it over to an attorney for an investigation. I want to make sure the board is aware of that.
Alderman Alexander: If our attorney cannot determine if this is an ethical violation, why should we go out and hire another attorney to try and research something to see if it is an ethical violation or not. I am a little lost with this.
Alderman Curtsinger: I feel that the important thing to look at is that our attorney has brought it forward and it does has a problem with the preamble as Mr. Huffer just told us you don’t go around and say things and put things in that you don’t want to see in the newspaper and actual fact these emails appeared in the September 22, copy of the Nolensville Dispatch containing what appears to be the same material.
Mayor Dugger: We are not hear to discuss that material because that is the edited version that our attorney doesn’t think there is a problem.
Alderman Curtsinger: The fact is that it is there and the preamble says to this point “that this end the Town of Nolensville Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopts this code for the town to assure public confidence and the integrity of local governments effective fair operation.” It points to the fact of civility and respect. Just the general nature of the way this is written bares no resemblance of order or respect. Then when the retraction says, “let me say that I did not intent to offend anyone with the Volunteer Fire Department. I did what the local blog does, and post a false statement. The one difference I will admit I printed or said something wrong.” I think there is again the key word is intent. I think it is important that this is discovered that if it wasn’t intent to hurt or harm, why would you make such statements. I would like to know what the intent was and I think we can only get that from an investigation and deposition.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: On a personal note. I’m sure this will be taken for whatever it is worth. I want to say this in respect to anybody of any faith in this room. I’m going to say this for the record. When I was praying for wisdom about tonight and trying to figure out what is going on this verse was one that was pointed out to me. “For where envy and self seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” James 3:16-18 but the wisdom from above that is pure and peaceable gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits. Without partiality and without hypocrisies. Now the fruit of righteousness is sewn in peace by those who make peace.” I am wondering if we can make peace. If you have an apology before you, Alderman Curtsinger, if its necessary I will defend you in the right that no one should make these kind of references or allegations to you or whatever your situation. It is not acceptable in a community to do that. No matter how emotional we are, however we are hurt personally, there is a higher standard. For that Alderman I do not say that disrespectfully, I do not mean to bring dishonor to you. I know you from experience to be an honorable man who has served this community tirelessly. I also am offended though that by succumbing to this rhetoric and being here tonight taking time away from families, and community when we could be doing positive good work. I am asking for a peaceable solution and Alderman Curtsinger only you can determine what is best for this community, what’s best for that purpose. I am asking you as a board member, can you accept an apology even if it is written not the correct way that you would prefer, but it is an apology.
Alderman Curtsinger: The problem is all the accusations, etcetera, are said in this thing go without being addressed to me. I don’t know who Alderman Felts is referring to in all the comments he makes. However I do know that he addressed a Williamson County organization and accused them, after the fact, particularly when it was discussed. This is strictly from the limited investigation that I have received, of something that approaches perjury as well as misappropriation of funds. He did that to a county organization on which I cannot forgive him. Until we know who the topic of all these attacks points to. He points it at this board. He could be talking to anyone of us on this board. So I don’t know that I am able to say I forgive you, because we have no confession that he attacked me at this point, it could be to Tommy, it could be to you or it could be to Jimmy.
Mayor Dugger: Beth’s solution certainly is one to consider and if these accusation are about me I am willing to make peace. You are the one who brought the complaint, so I guess I can’t make peace, but it certainly is the best solution that I see that has been brought to the board.
Alderman Alexander: If this article is written about me I would certainly agree to Beth’s statements and make peace for the best interest of the town. Having our dirty laundry as the headlines in the Williamson AM, I’m not sure it is worth this.
Mayor Dugger: Along with the additional cost. Depositions were mentioned earlier.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: If the article was written about me, I will go on record that I would be willing to make peace. I think beyond legalities, the common person has common sense. Let’s use common sense here.
Alderman Alexander: I agree.
Mayor Dugger: I agree.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I would like to go on record stating that I have not once gone on the blog or Nolensville.net with no disrespect to either, but only through good people, that I respect, have said that it is not a positive, fruitful experience. I don’t mean disrespect to either one, I know there are fine people I’m sure that write in and intend to inform, but the only website that I will communicate through is the official Town of Nolensville website.
Counsel Notestine: I would like to make a clarification, based on what Mr. Huffer said this evening the ways you approach this, or what you can do are really outlined in Section 2 (c). It says, when a complaint of a violation of any provision of this chapter is lodged against a member of the municipality’s governing body, the governing body shall either determine that the complaint has merit, determine that the complaint does not have merit, or determine that the complaint has sufficient merit to warrant further investigation. Then it talks about if it has merit to warrant further investigation, it shall authorize an investigation by the city. The only reason I bring it up at this point is that those are your options tonight. It is a new ordinance and we have not been here before, I just wanted to clarify that for the audience.
Alderman Alexander: I understand what counsel is saying. Although since Alderman Curtsinger initiated this could he not take Beth’s suggestion and end this matter tonight.
Counsel Notestine: Based on his letter, on the information that was presented to him by Alderman Curtsinger. If he feels that it doesn’t have merit, then it is a determination by this board. This board certainly has the right to not take any further action. If Alderman Curtsinger did not want to take any further action, he could certainly announce that. I cannot vote. It was presented to me and I felt the Ordinance said that I had a duty to do something, and that is what I have done.
Alderman Curtsinger: My question is to Alderman Felts, who is this email directed toward and what personal knowledge of these facts did you have when you printed this.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: With what we have before us, we have to vote this accordingly and not politically. What that means is that without your withdrawal, some people would be in a position to even not do what they want to do for the best interest of the town to pursue legal investigation. It is in your hands.
Alderman Curtsinger: Again we have problems now because we’ve made accusations about a Williamson County Department which includes misappropriation of funds. I guess without Alderman Felts getting up and admitting this entire thing is based upon rumor, innuendo and no personal knowledge, I think that needs to come forward. He was quick to do it for the fire department. It leaves it wide open and people need to know that what he is expounding on is based upon nothing but rumor and maliciousness. If he is willing to do that I think that here is what he’s said, they know what he is capable of writing. If he really wants to be apologetic here is his opportunity to get off.
Mayor Dugger: I think our attorney has said that the second 5:41 statement is where there may be a violation.
Counsel Notestine: I cannot see where in the ordinance that was passed a violation other than dealing with the preamble. That would take an investigation to determine that, if that is what this board wants to do.
Mayor Dugger: If this board could work it out I cannot see to go forward and spend the town’s money with depositions and attorney and all the legal fees. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Counsel Notestine: I may mention one other thing if you listened to Mr. Huffer tonight, he drafted this ordinance that we adopted just like a lot of cities throughout Tennessee. We did make one change. We added the preamble and so there is no track record for me to go on and talk about what effect the preamble has to this ordinance because it’s just Nolensville. We adopted the preamble. There is no track record or case law. There is no statute for me to go by to make that determination. Frankly I am not even sure what the affect of the violation of a preamble is because it is kind of a preference or introduction into the ordinance. That is one of the reasons I am not in a position to render an opinion on that and then number two is these people up here are who I work for and you people out there as citizens. It would be a conflict of interest to give that opinion.
Alderman Alexander: Wouldn’t it be better if tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, the Williamson AM have the headlines that we have worked things out in an agreeable situation between all of us, instead of the headlines were that we are going to take legal action against one of our Aldermen. I think Beth’s solution is the way we should go and I plead with Mr. Curtsinger to accept that.
Alderman Curtsinger: I just think that if Mr. Felts wants to make this easy, he can get up before this audience and explain that everything in here is based upon. You know the problem that I have is intent. What was the intent. If this is written about me or anybody on this board, this all needs to be dismissed, unless he is willing to provide the personal knowledge that he has of these facts. This could go deeper and I think it is a good time to cut it off. He has an opportunity to do it tonight. He has already apologized to the Fire Department. This is an important issue. If not take the Code of Ethics out and put it in the dumpster because gentlemen if you are not going to enforce your code and you are going to allow this kind of stuff to be published, not just there but all over town and these people read it and they have no clue to what is going on and they have no respect for this body.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I am wondering for clarification from Counsel please, when Mr. Huffer was clarifying that slander was not inside the code, could you clarify, again I understand your position, you can’t make a decision because you have to recuse yourself. But I have to understand what in this is a potential violation of the code if it is not personal conflict of interest and so forth.
Counsel Notestine: Slander is a civil action that is something that you would file in Chancery Court or Circuit Court. You would seek some kind of damage claim due to untruth told about an individual. That is not what this is all about. This is, in fact, Mr. Huffer even mentioned that the worse thing that could happen to an official is a censure, which is a public condemnation for certain acts. The BOMA would basically say that certain actions occurred that were not appropriate and is in violation of our ethical ordinance. It is kind of a formal official hand slap. It’s not good publicity and it is probably not good for the ego to get that kind of thing. That is a civil action separate and apart from this. The only thing that I saw that could be possibly construed as a violation of our ethic ordinance is in the preamble it starts out and says
“The citizens of Nolensville are entitled to have fair, ethical and accountable local government that has earned the public's full confidence.” Then it talks about the public officials complying with the letter and spirit of the laws and policies affecting the operations of government. It uses the public officials must be fair. The processes be conducted openly, unless legally confidential, in an atmosphere of respect and civility. I did not write this section, but that language is in there and the second email it uses “statements weren’t true” and something about a false statement involving the Fire Department. Based on that and looking at the language I felt that could be considered a violation. Again that is in the preamble and that is not in the body, the rest of the ordinance. That is precisely where I came from in making this letter to the board.
Mayor Dugger: It basically says that I just got off the phone with Chief Presley Hughes about a statement I made about a volunteer group giving money to an individual. He let me know right up front that I was wrong. To me he is saying I’m sorry, I made a statement in error.
Counsel Notestine: There is an apology in there and when I was writing this letter to the board I realize that is in there, but I felt that the ordinance once it is brought to my attention I need to move forward and at least bring it to your attention and ask for a meeting to determine whether further action was needed.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: So in this are you saying that we have to determine whether an independent counsel will determine whether there is any wrong doing. We can’t even as an option, perform a censure from this board is that correct. Would it have to be investigated first.
Mayor Dugger: Can’t we just slap his hand.
Counsel Notestine: You could probably issue a censure but I really because the way it was publicized, it is a public meeting to consider the complaint, Cindy will have to correct me, but didn’t it talk about whether an attorney should be hired.
Recorder Cindy Lancaster: It said to hear the complaint.
Counsel Notestine: You would then have the right to issue a censure.
Alderman Curtsinger: Just to let you know where this is going, this is what the routine individual published about this which has gone totally wild, (he read), “I wish some fire fighters would just tell the truth so the rumors would quit making people look bad including the firemen. So what if they did as individuals co-sign a note for Alderman Curtsinger last spring as rumors alleged. It is still a free country it’s their right. There is no wrong doing in it, is there. It is their personal money not the fire department. Of course if there was a loan and he didn’t pay it back then he would personally be profiting and that would be a violation of ethics.”
Mayor Dugger: What are you.
Alderman Curtsinger: I am just coming off the next chapter of the site.
Mayor Dugger: What chapter is that.
Alderman Curtsinger: I am just reading what the effect of this is. “The rumors about this have been circulating for months. Is it anybody’s business. Why try to cover up what really happened.” And I think with that kind of stuff out there we need Mr. Felts to come forward and say there is absolutely no basis of fact for what he has printed in all this as well as newspaper and then it can go away.
Mayor Dugger: Just for the record I’m not sure from what you just read where it came from. I don’t have any documents of what you just read. Is that just assuming that was the next thing that was written.
Alderman Curtsinger: That is what I’ve got.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Where did you get that, I don’t understand.
Alderman Curtsinger: It was from the bulletin board.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Then it is from the blog site itself. From who, who wrote that. If you are going to introduce this, we need to understand.
Alderman Curtsinger: It is from someone who calls themselves lime-o.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: If we are going to introduce any information to this board we are going to have to know the source, isn’t that the point.
Alderman Curtsinger: This just clarifies how this thing escalates. All we have to know is who this is referring to and what’s the intent.
Mayor Dugger: That is not what we are here to discuss. We are here to discuss the information that we have at hand and the motion on the floor. We are not going by what-ifs, what could be and what might be. The motion on the floor is to hire an outside attorney and Beth come up with, in my opinion, a great solution to settle it here. Even if you want to withdraw your motion and I can second it, we can entertain another motion.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: We cannot have two motions on the floor.
Counsel Notestine: You need to deal with the motion that is on the floor, then if there is a second motion after that I think you are free to do it. The way it was advertised was to deal with this complaint.
Mayor Dugger: I if this is something that we can deal with tonight and you know as well as anybody we need our funds that we have in our coffers now. We don’t need to be spending money on legal funds that could run into thousands of dollars, when we could use them for road improvements.
Alderman Curtsinger: I feel the easiest way to settle this once and for all is an apology and a verification that this is totally based upon no fact all rumor and innuendo and it can go away. Otherwise, we do not know where it is going and I think we’ll have to vote on the motion. That is very simple that solves everything that you all want.
Alderman Alexander: When you say all, does that mean that every fact in there, everything that is written in there that he could not verify, is that what you are saying. Maybe there is some things in there that he cannot.
Alderman Curtsinger: Then may be we can go line for line, if he wrote it. If he can verify it, especially when he is making statements as to who it affects. That is very simple.
Mayor Dugger: I think our attorney has made the decision that part of the letter, or the revised part was not the problem. It is the one section where he retracted the fire department is the problem.
Counsel Notestine: All I based it on is the 5:41 p.m. blog posting. I have talked briefly with Alderman Felts about it and, I don’t want to misquote you Larry, but I believe he indicated to me that he did send that and he apparently published something after that as a retraction. The only statement that I based my letter upon at all is the Monday, September 11, 2006, 5:41 p.m. posting that mentioned the Volunteer Fire Department and making a statement that wasn’t true.
Mayor Dugger: So everything about that Joe you are asking for something.
Alderman Curtsinger: Well you go to this individual may have lied in court when he said he didn’t take any money or borrow money from one of our local volunteer groups that seems to have fallen in bed with him. Now we know the volunteer group is the fire department, and him is clearly probably pointing toward me. However, it still could be anyone of you and to clear this board of any wrong doing and to restore public integrity, it would be very quick for him to say there is no basis in fact for this and I did this, I don’t know what the intent was.
Mayor Dugger: I think he said that. He apologized. He said he made a wrong statement.
Alderman Curtsinger: He made it to the fire department. He never said to him. The fire department didn’t lie in court, and the fire department didn’t take money. So him has to be whomever Mr. Felts needs to apologize to, but he needs to make it public to this body and let them know that there was no basis and fact for this statement. If we are not going to discover intent then there you go.
Alderman Alexander: That is in this paragraph that is not what our attorney has said would be problematic.
Counsel Notestine: The first posting that I saw, the 4:00 one, when there are no names named it seems to be just general internet blog discussion. Without a name, I just cannot see where that violates our ordinance. It is just outside the scope of our ordinance.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: If it was possible for Alderman Felts to apologize for the portions that were introduced to this board. Can he publicly apologize again, and particularly if it is directed to, that statement in that section, to someone on this board. Would you be willing to apologize for that.
Alderman Felts: Yes.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: The portion we are considering is the second part I don’t know if that is in lines, Alderman Curtsinger, with what your saying. And the part that we are addressing as a board that he would be willing to apologize and even this board prepensely pursue censor for what he has admitted to what he has done wrong.
Alderman Curtsinger: I think that if he gets up and apologizes to both whoever this person is, that he is pointing the finger at, as well as the fire department, before this body, and then receive a censor from the board, I think that is the way to go. That would stop it tonight.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I think there is a famous verse that says you know he who is without sin cast the first stone, and I live in a community where you know I am going to make mistakes and we all are going to make mistakes but we have to own up to them and apologize for them and I hope that we are all big enough to forgive. None of us are perfect in this room and if we are not willing to forgive I feel sorry for the people living here.
Alderman Curtsinger: I didn’t print it in the paper and I didn’t put it on the internet.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I know you didn’t sir, but I will go on record here that that should not have gone in the paper, I’ll go on the record with that, because this is the stuff that we don’t need in this town.
Mayor Dugger: Let’s, evidently you are standing your ground, Joe.
Alderman Curtsinger: I have made an offer that will stop it tonight and I don’t think it is unreasonable.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I think he was saying under the terms of the second portion also a personal apology to him for the second portion. Am I correct.
Counsel Notestine: Procedurally I want to make it clear that we are all on the same page. We have a motion on the floor, and we have a second I think you are going to have to probably deal with the motion, if that does not pass you are free to make any other kind of motion and deal with some other kind of alternative. Now Alderman Felts is free to do what he wants to do, I cannot give him independent legal counsel. I am not his independent attorney tonight on this and Larry I just wanted to make sure you know that. Whatever you decide to do, because I am acting on behalf of the town and this board I cannot give you independent legal advice.
Alderman Alexander: If he makes an apology for the second paragraph, the 5:41 paragraph, would that not clear up this situation. We are not to consider the 4:00 posting, just the 5:41.
Alderman Curtsinger: I think we are to consider the 4:00 posting.
Alderman Alexander: Our attorney said no.
Alderman Curtsinger: When the attorney, at the time it came forth, now that it has been identified; I think it all comes back together. And that is why an investigation will put it back together.
Mayor Dugger: He didn’t think so, that is what our advice from the attorney said. It doesn’t say anything about the 4:00 posting. We keep talking about an apology and the 5:41 posting. Larry clearly apologizes for making those comments and signed it Larry Felts. He has clearly apologized to the Volunteer Fire Department. I think we are back to whether we want to spend thousands of dollars for an outside legal counsel or whether we want to resolve it tonight.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: The problem is when we are talking about a possible censure or a possible apology, if I understand correctly in process; we can’t pursue that until we address the first motion. So if that is a perquisite, for somebody to know how they are going to make a decision in voting how do we do that.
Counsel Notestine: The parties could withdraw their motion for the purposes of seeing if there are any other motions on the floor and that doesn’t prohibit them from coming back and making that motion again.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: o.k. then it doesn’t prohibit them from bringing it back.
Counsel Notestine: But the first and second have to withdraw or you can suspend the rules, and by suspending the rules you can say we are going to put this on the table temporarily and go ahead with another motion.
Alderman Curtsinger: I do not think that is proper on suspending the rules. That is only if it refers to agenda situations.
Counsel Notestine: It would have to put to a vote.
Alderman Alexander: If the second could withdraw his second and that end the motion.
Counsel Notestine: He has already made his second and I think we have to be joint. If you vote on it, I can’t say what is going to happen if it doesn’t pass you can go ahead to the next thing.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Alderman Curtsinger would you be willing to withdrawing the motion for the sake of discussion for the other two items we previously discussed and if that is not a resolve that is acceptable to you, you still have the opportunity to make the motion again. That is what I am hearing
Alderman Curtsinger: If it is withdrawn there are no assurances of a second. I mean we are in a situation right now where if he wants to get up during the discussion and tell these folks that we can withdraw the motion and we can go home. It is that simple.
Alderman Alexander: I think that if he gets up and makes public his apology that he had over the telephone with Mr. Hughes, to me would that resolve it.
Alderman Curtsinger: If he is not man enough to get up before these people and apologize for whoever he made these insults to, I don’t think you guys are getting the message tonight. If I had written this I would sit here and tell everyone, and I was truly sorry about it, I would beg your forgiveness and understanding. But I do not think to let him walk out of here writing this stuff and publishing it in the paper, you are down playing it and that is my position.
Mayor Dugger: So you are not willing to withdraw your motion.
Alderman Curtsinger: No, I have told you what I need to do it; otherwise there it is you can vote it down.
Alderman Alexander: You mean you would rather continue this than to build a sidewalk somewhere or a couple of sidewalks and put up some streetlights, or fix a road.
Alderman Curtsinger: Point of order, situation on the floor.
Mayor Dugger: Part of the discussion is the money that would cost, with no further discussion.
Alderman Curtsinger: Well then don’t blame me, blame the man who could resolve it right now.
Alderman Alexander: Is it o.k. if I blame you.
Alderman Curtsinger: Sure go ahead.
Alderman Alexander: O.k. I blame you.
Alderman Curtsinger: Thank you.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Can I ask a question, is there a possibility that if this is pursued by outside counsel to determine objectively, if there has been a violation or not, that would be covered through TML legal funds, is that a possibility. Has that been pursued or entertained. Since you’re finding that you cannot make a good decision.
Counsel Notestine: TML would have to address that. I don’t think it would be covered by the insurance program, the liability insurance because it is not a filed civil complaint in a court in Tennessee. That is generally what they defend. My gut level reaction here tonight is they would not cover the cost of it.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: They would not cover the cost of it.
Counsel Notestine: There would be some expense. If you have a counsel that is knowledgeable in municipal law and they are pretty rare, and you are going to spend probably a couple hundred bucks per hour.
Mayor Dugger: I will say that I will vote against this and I would give you another second if you withdrew your first, but if we are ready to vote, we’ll vote this and we’ll entertain another motion. The way it is now, I think that going ahead and censoring tonight, if that is the case, may be the better option than hiring outside legal counsel and spend the town’s money. With no other discussion, we will take a vote and the vote is if you vote in favor it will be to hire an outside attorney to conduct an investigation, if you vote against it, it is to not hire an outside attorney. All in favor say Aye or raise your hand.
Alderman Curtsinger voted in favor, Mayor Dugger, Aldermen Alexander and Weaver-Lothers voted against, Alderman Felts recused himself. The motion failed with majority.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I would like to make another motion please. If I can word this correctly, I would like Alderman Felts to please address the second portion that he has admitted to making an apology, and I would like to make an official motion that we as a board consider an official censorship in his representation of our town.
Alderman Alexander: I second the motion – I would like to second that.
Mayor Dugger: O.k. now we are back to discussion.
Counsel Notestine: The only comment that I would like to make on that is that by making this motion at the meeting it is in effect a resolution. Actions like this do not require two votes. It will be voted on tonight and it is called a public censure and that is publicly the Board of Mayor and Aldermen saying this action was in violation of our ethical ordinance and that of course would be a public record. There is no kind of fine involved or anything like that as Mr. Huffer mentioned is not in our ordinance. If it were it would be fifty dollars max. It is a public condemnation of certain actions of the part of the elected official.
Mayor Dugger: Is there any other discussion.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: For the record that our censure is addressing his official apology for misstatements made. I think it is duly noted that when something is incorrectly said, it should not be said period, but it is in the form of his attempt to apologize.
Counsel Notestine: I can mention one other thing, if a public censure is approved that is in the permanent record of the minutes of the town and I just wanted to mention that it is a permanent record.
Alderman Curtsinger: Can we break that motion into two pieces since it includes a censure with another action.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Yes I can. Do you want me to address the first motion first; we cannot have two motions on the floor.
Counsel Notestine: I am not sure what you are talking about, I am not sure I understand the question, but if you vote on this motion, you can of course entertain another motion.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: Alderman Curtsinger could you please clarify how you would like that restated in two portions please.
Alderman Curtsinger: You apparently made reference to some action and then to if on results of that action you asked for censure, I don’t think you do that, I think the act of censure should be an official independent motion. So I think you should split your motion and decide how you are going to arrive at that situation.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: I understood my motion to be in terms of an official censure, but I also within that, I am just going on record that it was within a public apology. I don’t believe that those are two separate issues.
Alderman Curtsinger: So this is the motion for an official censure.
Alderman Weaver-Lothers: This is correct for public censure for statements made in a public apology for the second email that was presented at 5:41.
Mayor Dugger: Any other discussion.
Alderman Alexander: I will second that.
Mayor Dugger: Any other discussion. All in favor say Aye.
Mayor Dugger, Aldermen Alexander and Weaver-Lothers for, Alderman Curtsinger opposed and Alderman Felts recused. The motion passed with a majority.
Alderman Curtsinger: With entered into the minutes I don’t think this is necessarily appropriate action but I do agree that he be censured.
Mayor Dugger: I move for adjournment.
Alderman Alexander: I’ll second that.
The meeting adjourned at 9:10 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Approved,
Cindy Lancaster Walter T. Dugger, III
Town Recorder Mayor