Election commission unable to agree on wording, fails to approve minutes of last month’s meeting

A disagreement over wording left the Dickson County Election Commission divided and unable to approve the minutes of its previous meeting Tuesday night. With one member absent, the four remaining commissioners were split over how the minutes should report their discussion on the county commission’s changes to the election office budget and spent 30 minutes debating what is normally a routine part of the agenda at any governing body’s meeting. Commission Chairman Jack Garton objected to the use of the word “needed” in a section of the minutes describing the commission’s June discussion on the county commission’s decision to cut money in the election budget for early voting. Garton said the money originally put in the budget draft by the election commission was “requested” or a “projection” of what the election office will need. But Commissioner Allen Johnson said the budget that was presented to the county mayor was the election commission’s determination of what will be “required” to meet the needs of the office for the fiscal year. “If we don’t stand up for what we need then the county commission will do whatever it wants,” Johnson said. But Garton said the county commission has the final say on the election commission’s budget and objected to the minutes being used to continue the debate over the changes to the budget. “I’m not going to every month get into a contest and snipe at the mayor and county commission over the budget,” Garton said. Johnson said if the members are not going to be able to agree on how the minutes should reflect their discussions, then the commission should have a verbatim transcript of its meetings as the minutes. But Garton said paying for a transcript of the meetings is not a part of the election commission’s budget and “we’re not going to spend a dime over what we’ve been given… I want to accept the budget that was passed and move on.” With Commissioner Tammy Kilgore absent Tuesday night, the four remaining commissioners were divided on what to do about the minutes. Republican Commissioner Tim White’s motion to defer approval of the minutes to the August meeting died when nobody would offer a second. Johnson’s motion to approve the minutes as prepared by Administrator Linda Medley ended in a 2-2 tie with Democrats Johnson and Melba Isom voting for and Republicans Garton and White against. Garton’s call for a motion to approve the minutes with his suggested changes to the wording did not get a response. With the commission at an impasse after 30 minutes of discussion over its minutes, Garton moved on to the rest of the agenda and the commission will try again to approve its June minutes at its August meeting. In June, Mayor Bob Rial presented the county commission’s Budget Committee with an election office budget that cut $12,525 from the draft approved by the election commission, with $10,000 of that coming from the poll workers line item. Medley said that money was needed to offer early voting satellites in Dickson and White Bluff and the commission restored $3,360 to the budget that was approved.