People in Hamilton County might not like it, but there are rules in place that allow county commissioners to spend generous sums of taxpayer money taking constituents out to eat.
A local TV station, News Channel 9, seemed to demand a formal investigation into some of these expenditures, especially those involving Commissioner Warren Mackey.
But, as Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley told The Tennessee Star, you cannot investigate a commissioner for doing something the rules allow him or her to do.
Smedley, though, said she is unhappy commissioners can spend vast sums of taxpayer money on these luxuries. She said she’s willing to discuss changes.
As reported, Mackey spent nearly $2,000 in taxpayer money taking constituents out to various meals.
“I have spoken to our county’s finance department when this story broke, and they have guidelines they adhere to, very strict IRS regulations and restrictions. Then we have policies in place that set the guidelines for how we can get reimbursed for expenses,” Smedley said.
“They (members of the finance department) shared with me that Commissioner Mackey really can turn those in as expenses. They were reimbursing him because, according to them, there was nothing wrong.”
Mackey did not respond to The Star’s emailed request for comment Monday.
Smedley said she would not use taxpayer money in the same manner Mackey did.
“I would not turn in those expenditures because I really believe my constituency might question why I have those meals when they (her constituents) might not have the ability to go and eat there,” Smedley said.
County officials, Smedley went on to say, allot $12,500 to each commissioner. Some commissioners use it on office space, mileage, parking tickets, or telephone bills while carrying out their official duties as county commissioners, Smedley said.
In contrast to what other commissioners do, Smedley said she asks her constituents to meet her at her real estate office. She also said her phone bills usually amount to $66 a month.
Currently, the county will reimburse commissioners no more than $100 a month for telephone use, Smedley said.
But Smedley also said she alone cannot amend the rules that permit commissioners to take constituents out to meals — most other commissioners would have to agree and vote as she does.
“Anything that can be called into question deserves debate,” Smedley said.
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