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MJ squires accused of open-meeting law violation
Mar 29, 2007 12:00 am
MT. JULIET – During the last 15 minutes of a lengthy business at usual commission meeting while squires discussed a resolution to accept city manager Rob Shearer's resignation, a citizen alleged the Sunshine Law may have been violated by some city commissioners he said talked about the matter prior to the resignation.
Squires and Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam later denied the allegations, indicating they were puzzled over the citizen's statements.
In a timed three-minute citizen's comment, Mt. Juliet resident – and admitted friend of Shearer's – Butch Huber went so far as to say he's called the governor's office about his allegation and alleged also that "a high crime and misdemeanor" may have been committed by "at least one commissioner" regarding events prior to Shearer's resignation.
Seven-year city manager Shearer tendered his resignation to Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam last Thursday. Elam in a press release that evening said Shearer conveyed to her in his resignation letter he had guided the city through tremendous growth and change and wanted to return to teaching and publishing.
City commissioners were stone faced as Huber presented his allegations in a way that mimicked a lawyer questioning a witness in a trial. Sitting in the audience were Shearer's wife and many of his children, as well as former Mayor Kevin Mack. Shearer was appointed during Mack's administration. Huber first drilled city employee Sheila Luckett with questions.
"Do you have any knowledge of a discussion about a planned meeting to fire Rob Shearer," he asked referring to the minutes she takes at the meetings.
Luckett said she had no knowledge. Huber then turned to Shearer and asked if Elam had told him a couple of commissioners had planned to fire him. He nodded.
"There can be no formal decision here tonight," Huber said.
He noted any vote would be null and void because the commission "doesn't have the authority to make a decision until events are rectified."
Huber told the commission he has notified the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about his suspicions. Huber asked Shearer what Elam said to him regarding the situation and he responded she told him "the city commission had lost confidence."
Elam quickly moved discussion toward a vote.
"We have a voluntary resignation," she said.
She asked Shearer if he was retracting his resignation and noted in the agreement he signed he had 21 days to withdraw it. Shearer said he was not withdrawing his resignation. The squires voted 4-1 – with District 4 commissioner Jim Bradshaw the no vote – to accept the resignation and the meeting was quickly adjourned.
After the commission dispersed, Huber explained in no public meeting had the squires discussed Shearer leaving his post, so he assumed the discussion Elam was referring to took place outside city chambers which he said "was a violation of the Sunshine Law."
"I plan to find out what is going on," he said. "There is too much room for collusion and impropriety here. They can't proceed if any event leading to this vote was conducted outside of this chamber. An investigation is warranted."
Huber said he was not a lawyer.
Though Elam was advised by the city lawyer not to comment about Huber's allegations she did say "business of the city is conducted at the the table."
"He [Shearer] declined to retract it [resignation]," Elam said.
Commissioners said they did not know what Huber was saying.
"I have no idea what he's talking about," District 3 commissioner Ed Hagerty said.