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Should elected officials serve on multiple governing boards?

Staff Report • Jan 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM

David Tomita wants a dual title — that of a county/city commissioner. The Johnson City banker would like to be a decision maker at both the Jonesborough courthouse and at the city’s Municipal and Safety Building.

Tomita, 51, currently serves on the Washington County Commission. He is also a candidate for the Johnson City Commission. If he is elected to the City Commission in April, Tomita plans to remain on the County Commission.

And if all goes well, Tomita could seek re-election to the County Commission in 2014.

“It is my intention to retain the county seat upon winning the city seat — I can confirm that,” Tomita told Press staff writer Gary B. Gray earlier this month.

If elected to the City Commission, Tomita would be the first such public official in recent memory to serve on more than one elected governing board in Washington County.

The practice of serving on multiple governing bodies is more common in Unicoi County, dating back to the early 1990s. Today, Sue Jean Wilson serves on the Unicoi County Commission and as an alderman for the town of Erwin. Likewise, Dwight Bennett is a Unicoi County commissioner, as well as an alderman in the town of Unicoi.

The attorneys for Washington County and the city of Johnson City say there are no legal obstacles to prevent Tomita from serving on both the city and county commissions.

According to the Article IV, Section 10 of Johnson City’s municipal charter, “All city elections, including all elections respecting bond issues, shall be held under the supervision of the county board of election commissioners.” It also says “any qualified voter of the city shall be eligible for election to the office of commissioner.”

City Manager Pete Peterson said Tomita could make history if he is elected to the City Commission in the spring.

“This would be the first time I recall anyone expressing an interest to serve both boards at the same time,” Peterson told Gray. “Anyone elected to both boards would have a very busy schedule.”

We want to hear from you. Can public officials serve more than one master at a time? Should elected officials serve on multiple elected governing boards?

Send comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Include your name, phone number and address for verification. We will print responses in the coming weeks.

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