Tensions rose at Monday night’s Trousdale County Commission meeting over Robert Thurman’s appointment to fill the third seat on the county’s preliminary approval committee.

The seat was to be filled by a private citizen-at-large.

The committee is a three-person board comprised of mayor Stephen Chambers, committee chairman Brian King, and a citizen-at-large that was nominated by the chairman of the Trousdale County Commission, Dwight Jewell.

Though it has been in development for several years, the Trousdale County Commission voted to approve the preliminary approval committee at last month’s meeting. The committee is set in place to review the PILOT program applicants’ proposed investments and then make recommendations of the proposed terms to the budget and finance committee in a three-step approval process.

The PILOT program offers tax incentives to industries that come to Trousdale County.

Monday night’s meeting consisted of approving the nominee for the citizen-at-large seat, which is the third seat on the committee.

Thurman was recommended to fill the slot by Jewell, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting. Thurman, who formerly served on the industrial development board, resigned from the board on April 15.

“Mr. Thurman had decided some time ago to resign before this (appointment to the preliminary approval committee) came up,” King said. “He has family obligations and would like to spend more time with his family. He is starting to draw down his career and several other things in his life to make more time. So, when he decided to resign (from the industrial development board), we were very pleased to retain him in some capacity to help us with these PILOT procedures, because he is so knowledgeable and so qualified.”

Citizens of the community were given opportunity for their voices to be heard concerning this appointment.

Attorney Debbie Morton was given four minutes as a private citizen to address the county commission about her concerns with the commission following proper procedures while filling the citizen-at-large seat. Though she stated that she supports tax breaks to draw new industry to Trousdale County, Morton believes that there is a conflict of interest in appointing Thurman to the preliminary approval committee.

“This is going to be a stacked committee.” Morton said in reference to Thurman resigning from his seat on the industrial development board and then filling a spot on the preliminary approval committee.

In an effort to alleviate concerns, King addressed the issues.

“Just to be clear about the facts, the appointment was prescribed in the PILOT policies and procedures program to be selected by chairman Jewell, chairman of the county commission,” King said. “He did confer with the mayor and myself about possible candidates, but it was Mr. Jewell’s selection of that appointee, not anyone else’s, and he stands by that selection.

“Now, I agree with Mr. Jewell’s selection, because Mr. Thurman has a reputation beyond reproach. He is a former commissioner who sees from your perspectives and your questions that may affect the county commission in anything that pertains to the PILOT program. Because he has experience with the (industrial development board), he sees from that perspective. And because he participated in all the talks and the meetings surrounding the PILOT program, he is probably the most knowledgeable. Also, coming from a banking and finance background, he understands the complex impact to the community that these PILOT programs can have. I have not heard one name suggested that was better qualified. He (Thurman) has officially resigned (from the industrial development board) regardless of what (the commission) does tonight.”

Thurman was approved by the Trousdale County commission on Monday night with

15 yes votes, two no votes, and two abstentions.

“It’s the good old boys, like everything else in this county,” Morton said.

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