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VOL. 129 | NO. 161 | Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Commission Ends Term with Residency Guidelines and School Board Pay Raises

By Bill Dries

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At the last meeting of their current four-year term of office, Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, Aug. 18, a specific set of guidelines for future commissions to weigh residency challenges of elected county officials.

And the commission approved a long-delayed final vote on a pay raise for Shelby County Schools board members that takes their annual pay to $15,000 a year with an extra $1,000 for the school board chairman.

Commissioners also voted down a more specific non-discrimination resolution, leaving in the place the 2009 compromise non discrimination ordinance that does not specifically prohibit county government from discriminating in hiring and promotions based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The meeting was the last for six commissioners who are leaving the commission at the end of their terms of office Aug. 31.

The agenda represented a set of issues the commission has grappled with during its current term of office and the one before.

Commissioner Henri Brooks, whose residency was challenged earlier this year, was not present for what would have been her last meeting as a commissioner.

The commission approved a set of guidelines in resolution form that outline a hearing the commission would convene if the Shelby County Attorney’s office finds a county elected official no longer lives in the county or the district they represent. It also includes a list of 10 types of proof of residence. In such a challenge, the official being challenged could prove their residence with any three forms of identification on the list.

The guidelines were the work of Mulroy and commissioner Terry Roland who over the last four years have agreed on very little in the way of major issues.

Among those voting against the guidelines was commissioner Justin Ford, whose residency was also challenged. The county attorney’s office concluded that although the apartment Ford lists as his address did not have utilities for two years, there was not enough proof that he didn’t live in the apartment.

The first pay raise for local school board members in 26 years was approved on third and final reading of the ordinance without much of the debate that has characterized previous commission discussions of the proposal by commissioner Mike Ritz.

Roland, who had been one of the most vocal critics of the proposal, was among the majority voting for it.

The non-discrimination resolution proposed by Mulroy fell short by one vote of the seven votes needed for passage even after Mulroy agreed to drop a part of the key clause that also specifically barred discrimination based on “gender expression.”

Critics of the proposal argued that the 2009 version of the policy bans such discrimination already because it bars the county from hiring for “non-merit” factors.

Mulroy pointed out that even with the non-merit wording, the county policy still includes specific references to several kinds of discrimination that are barred.

The commission also approved up to $3 million to convert a group of 100 homes in the Cotton Creek, Kirkland Estates and Fox Hollow Farms area near Collierville from individual pump sewer systems to a gravity-based sewer system, reversing a 2009 decision by a previous commission.

Ritz offered the item saying it was time for the county to fix the problem it created by switching the area from septic tanks to a system that residents say is breaking down, was never inspected by county officials, and effectively bars them from reselling their homes because it doesn’t meet building codes.

In other action, the commission approved a $2.2 million state grant for a new pedestrian Benjestown Road Bridge over the Loosahatchie River.

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