Brookshire's Not Happy

"I have been left out of those discussions"

Lenoir City's recent decision to leave the Loudon County Planning Department and handle their own planning services has raised the hackles of mayor Brookshire. Brookshire made no attempt to hide his displeasure with council's decision to hire additional staff for the codes office or the amount the council has agreed to pay her.

It is unknown if Brookshire's dissatisfaction with council's decision to hire additional staff was concern for the cost or the fact that they didn't hire who he wanted.

The Hunter Report Assistant Codes Enforcement Officer Hired!

Lenoir City hires planner

Brandon L. Jones News Herald

Beth E. Collins was approved for hire by the Lenoir City Council Tuesday and will assist Codes Enforcement Officer Leslie Johnson in the city’s future planning. Lenoir City leaders recently decided to end their relationship with the county’s Planning Commission to do that work in-house through the codes enforcement office.

Collins most recently served as the codes enforcement officer of Sweetwater — a role in which she has resigned, according to officials in Sweetwater. She was recommended by the city’s personnel committee during council’s special called-meeting Tuesday morning.

Johnson and Collins have worked together in a similar capacity before. Johnson was also previously the codes enforcement officer in Sweetwater before being hired by Lenoir City in February. Collins was Johnson’s assistant for four years, taking over the responsibility upon Johnson’s departure.
When asked whether Collins’ hiring was discussed before the planning office’s services were disposed of, Johnson said, “No.”  She further explained, “We knew in the future that I was going to have to have some help as far as administrative work, but when we actually put the advertisement out that we were looking to hire an assistant codes enforcement officer that’s when it was brought to my attention that she could be interested.”

According to Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire, however, she approached the personnel committee “months ago,” saying she knew of someone who may be interested, though he does not know exactly what was discussed during those initial conversations. 

When asked whether this decision had something to do with the city’s action against the planning office, the mayor said, “Because I have been left out of those discussions, I really don’t know the answer.  Could somebody connect those dots?  I think a person could connect those dots.  Sure.  And if it wasn’t intentional, if that was not the plan, it was certainly done in a way that would leave that idea open to people.  Even if it was not intentionally done, I could certainly understand how someone could get that impression.  But, again, because I was left out of so many of those discussions — they were deliberately scheduling meetings at times when I could not be there — I really don’t know if that was part of the discussion or not,” he said.

The committee began advertising for the position in November.  Twelve resumes were received.  Brookshire questioned where the applicants came from and the availability of local candidates Tuesday. 

Out of state mostly, he was told by Bobby Johnson Sr., representing the committee. Brookshire further questioned how many people were interviewed, which Johnson said was only one.

Leslie Johnson interjected, saying that many of the potential candidates were contractors and lacked the appropriate inspection and plumbing certifications, which were specified as being required. Collins offered the “complete package,” she said.

Though he stated in the meeting that he had “heard nothing but good things” about Collins (who was making $33,500 per year in Sweetwater), Brookshire was not pleased with her salary.  “Paying someone in an assistant role $35,000 suggests to me that they had to offer that to her in order to get her here, that we weren’t trying to find a good assistant that would fit within our budget. They were going to offer her whatever it took to get this one person, which — in my opinion — the whole process was in bias.  Out of 12 candidates, they interviewed one?”

Discussions veered to insurance costs, but nobody further addressed her salary before a motion was made to approve the hire.  It was seconded, followed by a unanimous vote.   Benefits for city employees range in the ballpark of 45 to 55 percent of one’s salary, Brookshire noted.

The city’s portion of the interlocal agreement with the planning office to handle county planning was $21,200.

Following a city hiring freeze, employee insurance increases and more, “You’re looking at $140,000 to $150,000 we already know will be an increase in this year’s upcoming budget,” Brookshire said.  
Collins is a level-one certified erosion prevention and sediment control inspector and a state-certified mechanical and plumbing inspector.