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Carter County Commission rescinds planning director's bonus

John Thompson • Aug 20, 2019 at 8:38 PM

ELIZABETHTON — In a stormy session Monday night the Carter County Commission voted by a majority of one vote to take back a bonus of $14,466.67 that had been awarded to Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler for the work he did as a project manager for the county.

The vote was another in a series of defeats for the Planning Commission in an attempt to gain compensation for work done outside the normal scope of planning and zoning duties. The matter has divided the two commissions and reached its low point on Monday when Commissioner Mark Blevins sought to introduce a motion to overturn a 1972 private act of the General Assembly that created the Carter County Planning Commission. That motion was referred to committee.

The vote to take back Schuettler’s bonus was approved by the slimmest majority. It takes 13 votes for normal matters to be approved by the 24-seat legislature. The vote on taking back Schuettler’s bonus was approved by 13 votes in favor to 8 opposed. The opposition votes came from Robert Acuff, Mike Hill, Brad Johnson, Charles Von Cannon, Ginger Holdren, Aaron Frazier, Robin McKamey and Kelly Collins.

A short time after the vote, Sonja Culler called for another vote. Under the commission’s rules, a member of the winning side may call for a revote, so Culler’s request was granted by Commission Chairman Ray Lyons. Culler explained that she had made a mistake in her vote and cast a “nay” vote on the second ballot.

This brought the total number of votes two take back Schuettler’s vote to 12, which was less than the required majority. County Attorney Josh Hardin, acting a parliamentarian, held that since the vote change came late, it did note effect the original vote.

The funds to compensate Schuettler for the extra work was paid based on a July 12 letter written by Jerry Pearman, chairman of the Carter County Planning Commission. The payment was requested to compensate Schuettler for the additional work he performed as a project manager for several construction projects he performed, especially work at the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.

Although the County Commission had previously appointed Schuettler as a project manager, there had not been an agreement on compensation for the additional work. The staff of the Planning Commission also served as the Office of Economic and Community Development.

During the final days of the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Planning Commission attempted to take action to resolve the matter. On May 28, the Planning Commission voted unanimously tpo approve salary increases for the planning staff amounting to a total of $88,789.29. At its June 3 meeting, the County Commission’s Budget Committee rejected that increase, defeating it by a vote of 6-2.

In July, the Budget Committee did not approve a request for compensation for Schuetter’s additional work. Pearman’s letter followed that vote.

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