County District 8 seat remains vacant after three 9-9 votes

At its Sept. 10 meeting, the Coffee County Commission failed to approve a candidate for the District 8 seat.

After Emily Howes resigned as commissioner on July 1, county officials started the process to replace her.

Three candidates vied for the position: Tim Brown, Jeff Keele and Keith York.

With only 18 commissioners of the 21-member commission present at the Sept. 10 meeting, the commission failed to reach the required 11 “yes” votes to appoint an individual to represent District 8.

Each of the three candidates was nominated; however, only Brown and Keele received votes. But neither Brown or Keele had enough votes to be approved.

 

Potential conflict of interest revealed

Before the vote was held, Commissioner Helen Debellis asked the candidates if any of them has a contract with the county and receives payments from the county.

Keele, co-owner of All Creatures Veterinary Clinic, stated the clinic provides services for Coffee County Animal Control.

Debellis asked Keele if he would be willing to discontinue providing those services. Keele did not provide a definitive answer.

County officials and employees are subject to T.C.A. 12-4-101. According to the statute, it is unlawful for a public official, whose duty is to vote for or in any manner superintend any work or any contract with the county, to be directly interested in such a contract.

According to the law, an official who violates the provisions of T.C.A. 12-4-101 “shall forfeit all pay and compensation under the contract and shall be dismissed from office and shall be ineligible for the same of a similar position for 10 years.”

Commissioner Margaret Cunningham said Debellis is “nitpicking” and noted that Keele provides the services to animal control for a minimal price.

After this discussion, the commission voted three times, the result being nine votes for Keele and nine votes for Brown each time. A candidate needed 11 votes to be approved.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the issue at the next commission’s meeting, which is set for Nov. 8.

Elena Cawley may be reached at ecawley@manchestertimes.com.