The Lebanon City Council approved a face mask mandate in city-owned buildings at its meeting Tuesday that will remain in effect until further notice.
City hall itself closed to the public on Sept. 28 after eight employees tested positive for COVID-19, and Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash left a two-week quarantine on Oct. 1.
“Recently HR staff have received a number (of) reports from employees that they’ve been required to attend meetings where members of the public were not wearing masks,” Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle wrote in a memo included in the council’s agenda packet. “And that some fellow employees are not consistently wearing masks in meetings and in common areas.”
The mandate applies to both the public and city employees, with exceptions for certain working conditions and employees alone in an office building or vehicle.
“We won’t have the exact same restrictions at the Jimmy Floyd Center,” Ash said. “You can’t swim and work out wearing a mask, but we’ll be taking as many precautions as possible. You’ll need to wear a mask to come in, and the employees will be wearing them too.”
Masks will be available at the impacted buildings for residents and employees. City hall will remain closed through at least the end of the month.
“We’re going to watch to see if we have any more cases at city hall, and if it goes down we’ll look and see if we can reopen at the end of October,” Ash said. “We’re going to have to play it by ear.”
The council also approved the South Hartmann Gateway Overlay at its meeting Tuesday after deferrals in August and September.
City officials intend to use that plan to drive development in the South Hartmann Drive area, and residents can view it in full at https://www.lebanontn.org/637/South-Hartmann-Drive- Gateway-and-Zoning.
Councilors opted to move ahead with the vote while City Attorney Andy Wright reviews an ethics complaint filed by Lebanon resident Derek Dodson on Sept. 29 involving the item.
“My initial reading of it is, basically he’s alleging open records and open meetings violations, which are legal matters, not ethical matters,” Wright said. “So I don’t see any ethics issues at this point, but again, I’m still not through it completely yet. So I see no reason to delay any vote on this at this point.”
Dodson’s complaint is primarily related to the Residential Infill Overlay — also adopted on Tuesday — and alleges that the city failed to hold enough public meetings about the item. That document provides new guidelines for developments such as townhouses, flats and accessory dwellings in a central area of the city near South Hartmann Drive.
The complaint also alleges that four city councilors violated the public trust by not disclosing conflicts of interests: Ward 4 Councilor Chris Crowell as a banking lender, Ward 3 Council Camille Burdine as a realtor and mortgage lender, Ward 5 Councilor Tick Bryan as a rental property owner and subcontractor and Ward 1 Councilor Joey Carmack because the city employs his father.
According to a copy provided to the Democrat, Dodson filed his complaint with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. Wright is reviewing it in his capacity as the city’s ethics coordinator.
“The Tennessee Ethics Commission lacks jurisdiction to address most local issues,” TBECF General Counsel and Compliance Officer Lauren Topping said in an email. “Therefore, a complaint regarding a local issue would be more properly filed with the local official designated by the city/town as the ethics officer.”
If Wright determines the complaint alleges a credible violation of the city’s ethics policy, he will forward it to an attorney the city council has designated as an ethics investigator for their opinion.
Dodson said via email that he intends to file another ethics complaint against the city following their vote in favor of the overlay items.
The Lebanon City Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 and will be conducted electronically.