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VOL. 131 | NO. 173 | Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Luttrell Has "Concern" About Charter Referendum On County Attorney

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners have approved a ballot question for the Nov. 8 elections that would give them the final say if the county mayor moves to fire the county attorney.

But before the vote Monday, Aug. 29, by commissioners, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell indicated he might veto the referendum, saying he has a “concern” about what would be a limit on the power of mayors with the proposed amendment to the Shelby County charter.

“I will certainly ponder all of the options,” Luttrell said, adding that he has never tried to influence the legal advice the county attorney’s office gives to commissioners and has never tried to intrude on the relationship between the county attorney and commissioners.

But several commissioners said they favored the referendum to be decided by voters countywide because of the commission’s recent dispute with Luttrell over its attempt to hire its own attorney, independent of the county attorney’s office.

“If we had our own staff, this wouldn’t need to be implemented,” said commissioner Heidi Shafer.

Commissioner George Chism, one of the three no votes on the matter, questioned how the proposal would resolve the commission’s differences with Luttrell on having its own attorney.

“How does this solve the problem?” he asked. “We still can’t hire outside counsel.”

The commission has had former county commissioner Julian Bolton as its attorney since November despite objections from the administration and former county attorney Ross Dyer who said under the county charter the county attorney is the only legal counsel able to give advice to the commission. Outside counsel can and has been appointed in the past when the administration and commission hold different positions but that has been for specific legal cases.

Luttrell vetoed a November resolution in which the commission approved a resolution to hire its own legal counsel independent of the mayor. And the commission overrode his veto.

That’s when commission chairman Terry Roland moved to appoint Bolton. But until this month, Luttrell did not direct the administration to pay Bolton’s fee.

Bolton’s title under the compromise announced last week is legislative policy advisor to the commission and he will be paid $250 an hour up to a cap of $65,000 through the end of the calendar year.

In other action Monday, the commission approved an expansion of the Standard Construction Co. Inc.’s gravel mining operation on Godwin Road in northeast Shelby County. The commission vote was unanimous following a delay earlier this month in Standard’s application for a special use permit.

The commission amended the permit to require a report from Standard in 2018 on its gravel operations.

Commissioners approved a set of five contracts totaling $2.3 million with Christ Community Health Services, Friends For Life, Regional One Health, Mobile Ministry of Dentistry and Serenity Recovery Centers to provide health and early intervention services to those with HIV who are uninsured or under insured.

The contracts are funded by grants from the federal Ryan White program.

The services include oral health care, mental health, outpatient substance abuse and other intervention services.

The commission also approved Monday grants totaling $210,000 to six local nonprofits from the commission’s $1.3 million grant fund that is divided equally among the 13 commissioners at $100,000 each.

The grants by individual commissioners must be approved by the full commission and frequently involve proposals in which several commissioners pool their grant resources. Each of the grants approved Monday were such joint resolutions.

They went to the groups Women of Concern, Books From Birth Inc., Hattiloo Theatre Inc., Agape Child & Family Services, Agricenter International and the IBEW-Jonnie Dawson Charitable Foundation.

The grants approved Monday leave a balance of $1 million in the commission’s fund.

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