HomeNewsJMCSS sends ‘cease and desist’ letters to Commission

JMCSS sends ‘cease and desist’ letters to Commission

The Madison County Commission’s budget committee is nearly done with the major job its tasked with each year: Determining the budget for every department of the county.

Commissioner Joey Hale is on the committee, and at their meeting on Monday morning, he asked a question as they were going through their monthly duty of discussing budget amendments to be presented to the Commission at their monthly meeting next week.

Chairman Carl Alexander said they were about to discuss the budget amendments from Jackson-Madison County Schools System.

“Can we ask about these?” Hale asked Alexander. “Do we the authority to ask questions about these things?”

The question was a reference to a move made by JMCSS Attorney Dale Thomas and another attorney, Charles Cagle of Nashville, who sent cease and desist letters to Madison County Attorney Jay Bush last week.

The letters cited multiple Tennessee Codes and other laws that made a financial management meeting that was scheduled for June 8 illegal.

According to the letters, the only items on the agenda were to look specifically at the finances and budget of JMCSS: review the district’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, review a list of school expenditures and look at a budget amendment approved in May for $82,000 in the Superintendent’s salary line item.

Here’s a listing of the TCA Codes cited that made that agenda unlawful:

Dillon Rule: governing bodies only have powers given to them in statutes

TCA 49-2-203 – it’s the role of the local board of education to require a prepared budget from the director of the local school system

TCA 49-2-101 – the county commission has no authority to review, inspect or reword any line item in a school district’s budget

TCA 5-21-104 and 5-21-107 – neither the county finance director or finance committee have the authority to discuss any specific expenditures nor act on the budget

TCA 39-16-404 – publishing a list of JMCSS expenditures without discussing with the Superintendent first is a misuse of public information

Thomas ended his letter by saying King and Board Chairman James “Pete” Johnson called for the Commissioners to cease and desist from “further discriminatory and defamatory actions or statements” for which they don’t have the illegal authority to do so.

Madison County Attorney Jay Bush responded to the letters with one of his own to Thomas, stating he disagreed with the statements made in the first two letters directed to him as counsel for the County.

Bush cited TCA 49-2-101, saying the County Commission, is empowered to require the director of the local school district “make a quarterly report of the receipts and expenditures of the public school funds” and require its finance committee to “examine the accounts of the county board of education quarterly or at any other time it may appear that the county board is misusing any of the public school funds.”

Bush also addressed accusations in Thomas’ letter that certain County Commissioners have asked questions and attempted to spread misinformation to place JMCSS in a negative light.

“If Dr. King views questions he’s receiving from some Commissioners as coming from a source of misinformation, as suggested in your letter, then he should adopt better communication practices with the Commissioners and provide the proper context, rather than sending ‘cease and desist’ letters,” Bush said before referencing a retweet from King’s Twitter account that called the County Commission corrupt. “It appears from Dr. King’s own Twitter account that he is not without blame when it comes to attempting to place others in a negative light.”

Thomas and Cagle’s letters were sent on Thursday. Bush’s response was sent on Monday. Between those times, Commissioner Mike Taylor issued a press release Friday morning stating reasoning by him and other Commissioners for pressing JMCSS’ finances in recent months. King issued his own statement Friday evening wanting to address “misinformation” in Taylor’s statement and spread by Commissioners in other ways.

“If you look back on the history between Jackson-Madison County Schools and the Madison County Commission, you see this isn’t anything new,” King said Monday during a phone interview. “Things always get tense and commissioners get loud when the school system asks for more money.

“I just want us to be fully funded to do what we’re called to do, and if the county commissioners don’t like it, then come to me and not send out press releases and expenditure lists without context without talking to me first.”

One more issue that was addressed during Monday’s budget meeting was the timing of JMCSS’ budget approval. The budget committee rejected the first draft of the budget last week and sent it back to the school board.

The school board is expected to approve a revised budget at their meeting on Thursday. Typically, it would go to the budget committee for a second time, but since the county commission is set to vote on the budget at its next meeting on Tuesday, the JMCSS budget will go directly to the full commission.

“All 25 of us will be there to vote hear the budget and vote on it then with every other department’s budget approved already,” said budget committee chairman Carl Alexander. “But we’re behind the eight-ball on this because we’ve got to get it approved next week and then officially ratify it on second reading on June 30.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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