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City officials debate free Bluegrass Underground tickets
McMinnville officials voted 4-2 on Tuesday night to continue using complimentary tickets to Bluegrass Underground instead of a proposal to give all the tickets to city employees.

Should McMinnville officials use tickets for Bluegrass Underground, or should they be given to city employees?
“I would like to discuss the possibility of passing our complimentary Bluegrass Underground tickets on to city employees,” said Alderman Steve Harvey. “I think it would be a nice gesture to them, the people who work hard to make our departments run as well as they do. Personally, I have a problem with getting a benefit from spending taxpayers’ money.”
His gesture was made during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday night.
For the last several years, the city of McMinnville has underwritten the production of the PBS series called “Bluegrass Underground.” The last agreement was signed in 2013. City officials agreed to underwrite the series for three years at $60,000 a year. As a token of appreciation, producers of the show provide city officials with 30 tickets -- 10 free tickets per night for the three-night filming event.
Mayor Jimmy Haley says he gives board members first pick of the tickets and if any are left over, he gives those to city employees.
“If board members don’t want them, I offer them to city employees,” said Haley. “I’ve always done that. I think I offered 10 tickets last year to city employees and department heads.”
If the number of people wanting tickets exceeds how many he has left after board members pick what they want, he draws names to determine who gets them.
“If you have employees who want to go, I’m willing to give them my tickets,” said Alderman Jimmy Bonner, who had already requested two tickets. “Just give mine to someone else. I make a motion that we turn them all over to city employees.”
Vice Mayor Ben Newman says the concerts give city officials a chance at networking.
“I think we go and we make connections with people that are there,” Newman said. “There are people from WCTE there. There are people from Upper Cumberland that we deal with all the time as representatives of the city. The folks who run it, we deal with them. I think this is a good thing for us to go to so we can see these people and continue that connection we have with them and keep lines of communication open with them.”
Prior to the vote, Newman added “I think if you don’t want your tickets you can let the mayor divvy them out. Again, I think it’s important for us to build bonds with other people, not just in our community but in surrounding communities.”
The motion to give all the tickets to city employees failed 4-2. Aldermen Everett Brock, Ryle Chastain, Newman and Haley voted against giving city employees all the tickets, while Bonner and Harvey voted in favor of it. Alderman Mike Neal abstained, but said to Haley, “You can give the tickets I asked you about away.”
While it wasn’t mentioned during the discussion, an Ethics Policy is signed by each board member and outlines the guidelines for accepting gratuities. By the policy, “An official or employee may not accept, directly or indirectly, any money gift, gratuity, or other consideration or favor of any kind from anyone other than the city: 1) For the performance of an act, or refraining from performance of an act, that he would be expected to perform, or refrain from performing, in the regular course of his duties; or 2) That might reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to influence his action, or reward him for past action, in executing city business.”
The Bluegrass Underground filming for PBS is April 1-3.