Hamilton County Mayor Questioned On Usage Of Taxpayer Dollars For Legal Fees To Oust County Attorney
Image Credit: HamiltonCountyTN / YouTube
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Some Hamilton County Commissioners showed concern that Mayor Weston Wamp has yet to return County Attorney Rheubin Taylor’s computer or cell phone despite a commission resolution commanding him to do so, as he continues to rack up quite the bill in legal fees over the matter.
Commissioner Warren Mackey is worried that some county employees may feel “intimidated” by Wamp’s administration.
Attorney Taylor has stayed on staff, citing he has a four-year contract, despite the new county mayor issuing a directive that he be fired. The matter is now being handled by Chancery Court.
When County Mayor Wamp was questioned by Commissioner Greg Martin, he said he hired attorney Barret Albritton to represent him in the Taylor case with a cost of up to “just under $25,000.” If it reaches the $25,000 level, it will require County Commission approval. Previously, County Mayor Wamp spent $5,000 of county funds for legal opinion from a Knoxville attorney.
The commissioner had previously hired John Konvalinka on to this case for $10,000.
Commissioner Mackey claims that if Taylor is paid for the remainder of his contract and a replacement county attorney is also paid “it could be close to a million dollars.”
Attorney Albritton says the office has carried on in the absence of county attorney Taylor though he said he has been hampered due to him not having his county computer or cell phone.
Commissioner David Sharpe said, “It’s a very serious question, how long our county attorney can go on without his computer.”
Vice Chairman Joe Graham said, “If we pass a resolution, that is something that should be honored until a judge tells us it is not valid.” He said the action “blatantly disrespects what this body does. If we don’t honor the law, then this is the wild, wild West.”
He said Wamp’s administrative response to the resolutions passed by the commission in support of attorney Taylor was “We ain’t gonna do nothing.”
County Mayor Wamp, “in the interest of transparency,” suggests that the rules in resolutions should extend to upper-level employees, including those in his office as well as the county attorney.
He said the county handbook had not been updated since 2010 and many sections, including this one, need to be changed.
One of the goals of the change would be to stop county officials from being employed outside as well as it could propose a possible conflict of interest. County Attorney Taylor currently has an agreement that he can do outside legal work.
Under current rules, the county mayor says that email records are only kept for 10 days. He wants to change the acceptable standard to five years, being that the Sheriff’s Office keeps them for 10 years.
When asked the cost of email storage per month, he said his estimate was $7,500.
Commissioner Mackey said, “Can you imagine the cost if we took these records back forever? I’m not willing to spend any money on it.”
He said that commissioners have heard from a number of concerned county employees.
Attorney Taylor said, regarding new rules being put on his office, that it deals with confidential attorney-client matters. He said, “We have information in our office that we have to keep confidential.”
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com