The Coffee County Commission tried for a second time on Nov. 12 but again fell short of electing an interim commissioner to fill a recently vacated seat on the county court, leaving District 8 without representation on the tribunal.
The need for a commissioner comes after former commissioner Emily Howes resigned from her seat in July because she was moving out of the district. Howes represented District 8 and was on the Budget and Finance Committee and the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority. Her departure means the commission must appoint someone to fill her seat until a new commissioner is elected in August.
Nominees for the interim position, Tim Brown and Dr. Jeff Keele met with caucuses last Monday to explain why they would be a good fit for the commissioner seat and to address in issues that may come up during the voting.
The issue that caused concern for the board was the possible conflict of interest between Keele and Coffee County Animal Control. Keele’s clinic, All Creatures Veterinary Clinic and other clinics in the county provide services to Animal Control and receive compensation for those services. When asked about the issue, Keele said the clinic takes off 25% of the cost and the payment it receives merely covers expenses.
After discussion and review, Coffee County Attorney Robert Huskey determined that the conflict of interest with Keele is not an issue by his interpretation of the law.
After discussion, Mayor Gary Cordell called for the commission to vote. The vote was called by roll call. With 19 commissioners in attendance, the final vote was 10 - 8.
The votes for Keele were commissioners Bobby H. Bryan, Dennis Hunt, Margaret Cunningham, David Orrick, Ashley Kraft, Dwight Miller, Tim Stubblefield, Tildon Stubblefield, Barbara Poston and Rosemary Crabtree.
The votes for Tim Brown were commissioners Helen Debellis, Jimmy Hollandsworth, Michael Crockett, Joey Hobbs, Scarlett Taylor, Jim Fielding, Michael Lex Ray and Missy Deford.
District 19 commissioner Jackie Duncan chose to abstain from the vote, claiming he had a conflict of interest because he knew one of the candidates personally. Duncan took time to reflect and decided his reason to vote wasn’t for the right reason and chose to abstain.
District 21 commissioner Lynn Sebourn was not in attendance. In the end, no one was appointed to the District 8 because a majority vote is needed to elect a new member. To elect, 11 commissioners would have had to vote for the same candidate, meaning Keele ended up one short of getting the seat.
Both Keele and Brown expressed disappointment the commissioners weren’t able to appoint someone to represent District 8 in the commission. Keele said he knows the board is trying to do what they can by the rules given to appoint someone to the seat.
“I want it done right,” said Brown when discussing the vote.
The commission meeting gave the public a chance to comment and several expressed concerns about District 8 still not having a representative on the commission board. It was pointed out that the next meeting in December will make it the third meeting that District 8 will not have a representative. Cordell said there will be another vote at the next meeting with that vote hopefully ending in a decision of whom to install as the interim commissioner.
Another comment made by an individual in attendance was that the commission has passed the 120-day deadline for the tribunal to appoint someone to the seat. The citizen asked if there is a penalty for failing to appoint someone in a timely manner. Cordell said the commission is following the statute and the only consequence is that District 8 has no representation.
District 7 commissioner Margaret Cunningham said if anyone in District 8 has any concerns they can contact her at 931-728-1881.