Coffee County Commission on Tuesday, but Commissioner Terry Hershman made a motion to remove the item concerning the removal of five Planning Commission members from the agenda, and it passed 11-4. Mayor Judd Matheny had placed a public hearing on the issue on the agenda.
Mayor Matheny responded to On Target News with the following timeline of events that led to him wanting the members removed from the Planning Commission.
General Timeline: Planning Commission Documentation
August 2022: Secretary of Planning Commission (PC) Dennis Hunt tells me there are deficiencies in PC member training and that SEVERAL votes were taken by people with NO training.
Sept. 2022, I go to the Codes office and copy all training records into their public file. (Attached in Agenda packet and previously hand-delivered to each Commissioner, Sept. 11.)
Sept. 2022: Research Planning Commission and requirements. Several conversations with Brandon Stover and Logan McCoy at Tennessee Economic and Community Development (TnECD).
Dec. 2022: Interviewed Bill Terry of Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) about Tennessee Land Use Strategy and customary functions of the Planning Commission—they should be proactive in land use maps, updating zoning resolutions, identifying areas for future road corridors, schools, government annexes, and plan for utilities to be delivered in a timely manner into underserved areas.
January 2023 Asked for State Representative Rush Bricken to seek an Attorney General’s opinion in order to make certain of any future moves, due process, and legal requirements.
Advised Commissioner Hunt along the way of my efforts.
April 2023: Received Attorney General Attorney’s opinion and analysis for enforcing the law as prescribed in TCA 13-3-101. Shared a copy with Secretary Hunt and Attorney Ed North.
Sometime Early Summer 2023
Secretary Hunt came to my office after a deposition in a legal matter and asked how far along I was on addressing the Planning Commission deficiency. I told him I was working with TnECD officials for technical assistance and would keep them posted. I also told him I was consulting with the State of Tennessee Comptroller for guidance but would have a plan to remedy this soon.
Sept. 6, 2023, Advised Commissioner Hunt I was working on the case files and packets to dissolve the Planning Commission. He responded with a “thumbs up” on the same day.
Sept. 11, 2023 Met with Commission in attorney/client privilege meeting and handed out state law, Attorney General’s Report, and our deficient training records to each person. In that meeting, Secretary Hunt agreed we needed to fix the issue.
Sept. 12, 2023, Spoke to Sam Edwards, who said to “recreate the records.” *(recording #10, Sam)*
Sept. 15, 2023, After the members to be removed received certified letters of their 15-day notice, Secretary Hunt called me the same day and said it would be inappropriate to recreate 3 years of training records, and he was 100% behind my efforts. *(play recording #11, copy 3 Dennis)*
On Sept. 21, 2023, Secretary Hunt was sent a message (in your packets) that he confirmed liability could befall members of the Planning Commission and that zoning and zoning resolutions and property issues were of the utmost importance and needed to be beyond reproach when challenged.
He responded, “I get it. Hope this works itself out.”
On Sept. 25, 2023, Secretary Hunt began aggressively opposing the plan to correct the deficiencies of the Planning Commission—He asked me to step back and let this die on the vine.
Secretary Hunt said I cited an entity for contested hearings that has zero oversight of our county’s planning and zoning—these messages are in your packet. I clearly told him in the following message that the TnECD Commissioner’s office asked to be apprised of the situation. I told him the issue was the same as when we first discussed it, and I was moving forward.
Oct. 4, 2023 I met personally with Tennessee Comptroller, Jason Mumpower, to share all the case info, statements, due diligence, etc. He told me I was handling this the correct way.
Oct. 26, 2023 We sent certified letters to clear up the inaccuracies and false narratives from the first letter as to who would have the hearing. The hearing was properly noticed and has been scheduled for today, November 14, 2023. TCA 13-3-101(j)(i) The explicit charge is that no members of the Planning Commission have satisfied the statutory requirements for certifying and properly documenting training for 3 years.
I have visited 6 different counties to inspect their training records and interview planning officials. Three counties had Sam Edwards as a trainer, and all were as deficient as ours. Two counties used UCDD (Upper Cumberland Development District) and were exempt from the requirements in question tonight. One county had its records perfectly documented per TCA 13-3-101. Kevin Chastain was the trainer, and he is now our trainer. I have taken the training, and it is properly documented and attached to a sign-in sheet signed by the instructor and meets all statutory requirements, except being filed with the Secretary of the Planning Commission in a proper statement—but I don’t have to literally do that because I’m not on the Planning Commission.
Rebuttals to statements at Caucus meeting:
1) I heard that our Planning Commission was above State Law. This is absolute nonsense and False. Even if our Planning Commission was trying to be a self-regulatory organization, they are still tasked with a view of protecting the vital interests of the general public, the county, and any applicable laws or governmental regulations still apply and are foremost while those applied by self-regulation become supplemental. The notion we are above the law is as ridiculously improper as Sam Edwards recommending we recreate 3 years of records. This view was shared by Secretary Hunt originally on Sept. 15, 2023.
2) Once again, the original letter sent out was correct, and my correspondence with State of Tennessee officials is for research, guidance, and potential technical support on the best way to handle a hearing like tonight. Just this week, I touched base again with TnECD and the Comptroller to let them know how we were proceeding.
3) I heard it said by Secretary Hunt that he delegates his tasks even though they are his responsibility. While delegation is acceptable, the person delegating still has ultimate oversight and responsibility of delegated matters.
4) It was said we don’t need a certificate of training or similar proof of completion of mandatory training if the training is conducted within this county. This is not accurate. If this was the case, then we would not issue diplomas, driver’s licenses, in-service training proof for First Responders, etc. It is always imperative you have properly documented proof of all your training and certification—especially if REQUIRED BY STATE LAW.
Finally, I say to everyone here—
IF YOU CHOOSE TO GOVERN, THEN YOU MUST HOLD YOURSELF TO A HIGHER STANDARD THAN THOSE YOU GOVERN.