By Scott Robertson
A vote taken in the January meeting of the Washington County Commission was 12-11 in favor and passed. Two votes taken in the February meeting were 12-11in favor and failed. Yet according to the laws and rules that govern the commission, the results were correct in all three instances.
Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley and Commission Chairman Greg Matherly spent much of Wednesday answering the question of how that could be the case. The answer lies in the fact that some votes require a majority of the full commission for passage, while others require only a majority of the quorum of commissioners in attendance.
Matherly told jcnewsandneighbor.com Wednesday morning, “When we’re talking about a resolution, that’s different from a procedural question. Part of what we do is governed by our rules and part is governed by statute. So I understand how it can be confusing, believe me.
“A procedural question, like the amendment we had in January about whether to put off a meeting, only requires a majority of the commissioners present to pass. But a vote on a resolution requires a majority of the full commission,” Matherly said.
Seeley provided jcnewsandneighbor.com with a copy of Tennessee Code Annotated 5-5-109, which states, “A majority of all the members constituting the county legislative body, and not merely a majority of the quorum, shall be required to
1) 1) Elect county officials required by law to be elected to the body;
2) 2) Fix salaries;
3) 3) Appropriate money; and
4) 4) Transact all other business coming before the county legislative body in regular or special sessions.”
So the commission was required by TCA 5-5-109 to have 13 votes to pass resolution 16-01-01 Monday night, but only needed 12 to pass the procedural amendment in January, because there were only 23 commissioners in attendance, making 12 a majority of the quorum.
With that being the case, jcnewsandneighbor.com asked Seeley why Commissioner Joe Wise’s rules February 25 rules challenge, a procedural question, did not pass when it received 12 aye votes in a room of 23 commissioners.
“That was under Rule 8E of the Rules of the County Commission,” Seeley said, “and what that rule specifically says is, ‘Upon motion of a board member and a majority vote of county commissioners the resolution shall be removed from the agenda,’” Seeley said. “So there are two things at work here. You’re removing a resolution completely from the agenda. So under the statute, you’re doing the business of the commission, so you require a majority of the full commission. Also that rule specifically says, ‘a majority vote of the Board of County Commissioners.’”