Members of the county Corrections Partnership Committee voiced a desire for transparency in government spending and disproval for a behind-the-scenes purchase of tasers.
County Executive Jimmy Haley authorized the expenditure of $18,575. Bids were not taken and no committee approval was sought.
Haley, according to county attorney Robert Bratcher, has the authority to make the purchase using the $12.5 million in bonds approved by the full Warren County Commission in 2018. The $12.5 million was for jail expansion and improvements at two schools.
The jail’s oversight committee met on Thursday.
Commissioner Steven Helton, chair, said he wanted to require transparency in spending of those funds but was told he cannot.
“I’ve spoken to many of you individually and you were under the impression that I would be bringing forth a resolution tonight regarding the approval process on how the bond money is to be spent,” said Helton as he held up the resolution, then folded and discarded it. “Basically, it is null and void. I have a letter here from Robert Bratcher that it would violate the county Financial Management System of 1981 and potentially jeopardizes Warren County’s ability to issue further bonds.”
Specially, the letter states:
“Before the issuance of any bond,” said Bratcher, “a certification must be made that there has been no litigation or governmental action or threat of action to enjoin or restrain the ability of the county to borrow or otherwise utilize borrowed funds. To enact a provision modifying the expenditure process of the county would be contrary to the express language of the county Financial Management System of 1981 and could potentially jeopardize the ability of the Warren County to issue future bonds.”
Bratcher added that advisory committee approval is not required for purchases.
“Decisions to spend funds are made by the Financial Management Committee pursuant to the resolutions of the Warren County Commission adopting the County Financial Management System of 1981. This is provided for by Tennessee statute and there is no provision in the law requiring approval by any advisory committee prior to expenditures being made.”
As far as the taser purchase, the stun guns were obtained from a sole source distributor. Bids were not necessary so Haley was not required to seek Financial Management Committee approval.
The defunct resolution would have required approval of the county’s Corrections Partnership Committee, says Helton.
“If bids are required, those will be presented to the Financial Management Committee for approval,” said Helton. “They will not come before our committee. The resolution I wanted to pass was that any purchase made come before our committee for approval. It does not need our approval to be purchased, which is what I was told.”
Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin added, “I have comments about this, but I’m going to keep them to myself at this time.”
“I will say this,” said Helton. “If this purchase had come before this committee, I would have been in favor of it. We are in support of providing the jail with every resource that we can possibly get to help support them in their efforts to do their jobs.”
Commissioner Scott Rubley agreed, “I believe we would have. Lack of transparency is the only issue. I felt like we should have been notified and been a part of that process.”
The full Warren County Commission meets on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. due to its regular monthly meeting night (the third Monday) being a holiday. Bratcher should be in attendance to answer questions.