I slapped this together for tomorrow's newspaper. Some commissioners held a meeting today (yeah, it was sun shined) to talk about items on this Monday's commission agenda. The Good Doctor, Commissioner Richard Briggs, said they would table a plan to talk about the fee office mess. Because happy hour was approaching, I left, so I could call county Mayor Tim Burchett and Register of Deeds Sherry Witt (to talk about the issue - not to hit happy hour with). Here's some variation of what will run in tomorrow's paper:
The county commission on Monday expects to table a proposal to take control of some fee office budgets now that the mayor and register of deeds – the one holdout to the proposal – are working through the issue.
“I think we both have the same objective and we’ve both been in government a long time and I think we can get a compromise worked out where we can both agree on the objective,” said County Mayor Tim Burchett, adding that he met with Register of Deeds Sherry Witt earlier this week. “We’re not that far apart, so if we slow down, we can get there a little faster.”
“I’m hopeful that we can all work together and we can come to a compromise that I feel comfortable with in regards to my duties as register of deeds, protecting my employees and protecting the taxpayers of Knox County,” she said.
At issue is a proposal by commissioners – and backed by the mayor – to take more control over the staffing levels and salaries for half the county’s fee offices - the trustee, the register of deeds and county clerk. The commission was expected to vote on the much-discussed plan during its regular meeting on Monday.
Now it looks like they’ll put it aside for 30 days, said Commissioner Richard Briggs, who is sponsoring the plan.
“I think (Witt) was concerned that there were things she needed to run her office and the money wouldn’t be there and it would fall negatively on her,” he said.
Right now, the fee offices file salary lawsuits in Knox County Chancery Court, outlining much of the departments' annual spending plans. The mayor as a matter of protocol signs off on the suits. Under the new plan, the offices – much like the school system and sheriff’s office – would submit budgets to the mayor first for initially review and then to the commission for final approval.
As it stands, Trustee John Duncan III and County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. support the plan.