So I get this call today. I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately. Heh.
So I get this call, and I’m told that some of the fee officers - who don’t want to lose their budgets to the administration and the county commission - and the sheriff (who is completely safe from this whole mess), and the property assessor (who’s also safe) met with Steve Hunley, publisher of The Focus.
Now, that’s cool. Public officials meet with newspaper people all the time. And Hunley writes about them. (Actually, he's been putting a walloping on some of them lately. Click here for the latest and scroll down.) But, I don’t really keep up with who meets with whom (or however you use those “who” and “whom” words). So, a meeting isn't really that big of a deal.
But, this tip was interesting. I was told that the group was either (a) asking Hunley to fund some robocalls (one of the dumbest terms I’ve ever heard) or (b) he was offering to fund some robocalls.
The idea, according to the tip, was that the fee officers – particularly Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey, Register of Deeds Sherry Witt and Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Quist – wanted to gain public support in their fight (initial story right here) against the nefarious establishment that wants to take them out of the so-called dark era of non-transparency and shed a little so-called light on their financial doings.
So I made the calls (human calls - not robocalls). Hey, why not? If it’s true, it’d make for a good story.
First up was Property Assessor Phil Ballard. (Actually, I think he was the first to return a call.)
He verified that there was a meeting in Fountain City at Litton’s (which is purported to have the best hamburger around).
Phil, though, said he missed the lunch, arriving late because he was in his office. From what he understood, he said, was that the conversation focused (ha, get it? Focus?) around the fee offices, but he didn’t hear any talk of robocalls. He said everyone was leaving by the time he got there. He just made it clear his office wasn’t technically a fee office. Or at least not one that falls under the charter. Or whatever this whole mess is about.
“I won’t be affected no matter what happens,” he told me. “My role will stay the same.”
I also talked to Sherry Witt, register of deeds. (Always thought that was a cool title.)
She said: “I heard that too. I don’t know anything about robocalls. I don’t think it would be particularly flattering for us to make calls. This isn’t a campaign. We take this serious. We did meet. We did have lunch. Steve wrote an editorial about it last Monday (ha, boy did he ever), and he’ll do another one next week.”
(Personally, I can’t wait. You know, the whole entertainment at the expense of others. Whatever. I digress.)
Witt then said she is meeting individually with the commissioners to argue her case.
Now, I predicted that the commissioners would sign off on the plan to take control of the fee offices’ budgetary process, but she said “the tides are turning.”
She said a few of them claimed they were blindsided that it was placed on last Monday’s commission work session agenda at the last minute.
She also took issue with the mayor’s claims that he wants “transparency” and “accountability” but those are “words to run on during a campaign and if you look you’ll see that we’re accountable.”
She said if there was a problem, then the commissioners should call.
“But no one has ever asked as anything. Ever.” (She said.)
(By the way, Joy McCroskey pretty much echoed the same thing earlier today, but I didn’t hear back from her about the robocalls. Ha. I like writing that word.)
Cathy Quist agreed. Then said “anytime I get a robocall, it doesn’t take me long to hang up on it.”
You tell ‘em, Cathy.
But, “Our doors are always open," she said.
Actually, they were opened earlier today. She invited the commissioners over, but I think only Amy Broyles showed up.
Then she started on that whole kick about how the mayor and commission only want to oversee the budgets ‘cause it’s a “money-grab.”
Maybe. They got to find some way to pay for those fancy new squad cars they just bought the sheriff.
And speaking of the sheriff.
I also talked to the Man with the Badge, too.
He said he wasn’t at the meeting (everyone else verified that by the way), but said – and he stressed that he was only guessing – that Hunley would continue to side with the fee offices and that was nothing new. He also noted that the publisher campaigned against an amendment years ago that would have made the officers mayoral appointees rather than elected folks, which people are saying that this whole issue is the same thing, but it's really not the same thing.
(On a side note, I didn’t call Hunley because I initially wasn’t going to do anything with all this information, but then I got bored and started typing this drivel and, quite frankly, he probably doesn’t want me calling him at 11 p.m.)
Anyhoo, I doubt you’ll get any robocalls. Heh.
Just some rumor. Maybe. If there was some truth to it, I doubt it will happen now. 'Cause everyone is expecting it. And that’s no fun.
In the meantime, all that money that everyone is arguing over?
It’s kind of funny how possessive folks are about it.
You see it’s really not the mayor/commissioners’ scratch. Nor is it the fee offices’ coin.
It’s your dollars.
And there’s lots of ‘em.
And I’ll be happy to hold onto all of it until they get this mess worked out.