Special called meeting in LaFayette filled with confusion, frustration

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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At a special called meeting on Friday, the LaFayette City Council struggled to make progress on an agenda item, which involved assigning a city code enforcement position with responsibilities that aren’t directly tied to code enforcement. The conversation shifted confusingly between this and an assistant for George Green, superintendent of Street, Sanitation, and Cemetery.

LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines explained that the point of combining new responsibilities with the code enforcement position is to make it a full-time position. The new responsibilities listed on the meeting agenda include dealing with business licenses, the city website, cemetery duties, bookkeeping and business license contracts. In an interview later, Vines said the council also discussed turning Green’s assistant’s position into a full-time job by adding new responsibilities.

Councilmember Tammie Williams asked if the code enforcement position was separate from Green’s assistant position. Vines said he believed it was, but Hunter and Councilmember Terry Mangram seemed to say they were the same position. This may have caused some confusion for the rest of the conversation.

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Mangram said that the duties listed for the code enforcement position were probably too many for one position and said it would probably be enough to have the code enforcer deal with business licenses.

Williams brought up the other position.

“When I made a motion, my motion was to hire an assistant for Mr. Green for the cemetery,” Williams said.

“Part-time,” Hunter responded.

“Absolutely, part-time,” Williams responded. “It didn’t have any of this stuff in there.”

Mangram explained that by combining positions, the city could create a full-time job.

Williams argued that the job was advertised as part-time and as an assistant to Green.

“Every time you employ a different person, you open up the avenue of more money having to be spent per employee,” Mangram said. “So, if you can use one employee [for] two jobs, then you cut out one employee that you may have to have.”

Williams said she understood what Mangram was saying but insisted that Item A wasn’t what the council had agreed to and didn’t match the job description that they had put in an ad.

Mangram argued that the city needs someone who can do physical and clerical work to help Green so that if someone can’t show up to work, the new person can fill in for them.

Thomas agreed with Williams that the job wasn’t being advertised with the new duties the council was considering. He said Green had been conducting job interviews already without telling candidates about the new duties. He asked Green if this was the case.

“Currently, we did like five, and we’ve got one more scheduled,” Green said. “Until yesterday, we kind of scaled back on what we talked about. Basically, [we] just looked at what I had laid out on the table. And that’s from what we advertised as far as assistant building inspection, cemetery, and some of the zoning.”

Thomas argued that the city was engaging in false advertising because they were advertising the position differently from what they actually planned for the new assistant to do.

Hunter argued that Thomas and Williams didn’t understand what was going on because they hadn’t attended a previous work session where the position was discussed.

“The job description should be defined before the person is hired,” City Attorney Joseph (Mac) Tucker said. “And the job description, technically it’s under the mayor’s authority to do the job description. Now, the council is in charge of budgeting.”

Williams said she and Thomas weren’t aware of the work session in which the council had discussed the position previously.

Mangram argued that when council members talk to each other, it isn’t necessarily a meeting.

Williams argued that the work session was an official meeting, not just a conversation.

Vines apologized for anyone not getting notified of the meeting. However, he said the meeting was discussed at a previous city council meeting.

Thomas pointed out that if the code enforcement position were combined with the duty of handling business licenses, the new employee would be under two different departments.

Tucker said the city couldn’t have someone working for two departments but said the code enforcement position could be moved to another department.

“I don’t think George’s [Green’s] position for his part-time help could be incorporated into this without moving the administration of the cemetery into Louis’s [Davidson’s] department,” Tucker said.

Green went up to the podium to explain his concerns.

“I think misunderstanding and misconception about something is dangerous,” Green said. “I want you to listen to me for one second … If you would just take five or 10 minutes to come by my office, I would just welcome you to see what the condition of the city cemetery, street, public works the department has to handle every day. The volume of calls. Not calling people back on time. This job that I’m taking on right now used to be a part-time job that other people had.”

Green said that the council didn’t even know what the new employee would be doing. He said the mayor and council need to come by his department and see how much paperwork it has to deal with.

After almost an hour of discussion on Item A, the council decided to table it for later.

Green began talking about the potential purchase of a new or used limb truck.

“The one we looked at in Covington, Tennessee is a 2006 model,” Green said. “It’s in very good shape. It only had 103,000 miles. The one we’ve got now is about 17 years old, and it’s only accumulated about 178,000 miles.”

Green said the limb truck the city has could potentially be refurbished, which he estimated would cost $8,000 to $10,000.

Councilmember Michael Ellis suggested using money from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for a new limb truck so that the city wouldn’t have to worry about getting another limb truck or repairing the one it has for a long time. He said that if the city didn’t like the new truck, it could sell it back.

After further discussion, Ellis said he had to get back to work because his lunch break was over. He got up and left. Williams and Thomas soon followed after him, causing the meeting to end prematurely due to a lack of a quorum.