City leaders say nothing suspect in Johnson resignation

Brittany Davenport News Herald

Lenoir City’s mayor and city administrator say there is nothing questionable in regard to the recent resignation of City Recorder/Treasurer Bobby Johnson Jr.

When asked if there was any reason to suspect something inappropriate was going on in Johnson’s office, Mayor Tony Aikens said not at all. “Well, I’m not aware of anything,” he said. 

There is no reason to believe there was any wrong doing, said city administrator Dale Hurst. “I have no reason to believe there was any inappropriateness involving any money or anything like that,” he said. “I have every reason to believe there’s no material mistakes.”

The city is currently being audited and Hurst said those finding are not yet available, but will be in the near future. “The audit’s not complete... I won’t be able to share the finding until the auditors put together the draft,” he said. 

Brown Jake & McDaniel out of Knoxville is currently auditing the city office, Lenoir City Schools and Lenoir City Utility Board and will combine the three in its report.

Johnson was elected to the position in 2008 after a referendum to make the job an appointed position failed.

Hurst and Aikens both agreed the job of recorder/treasurer should not be an elected position. “I fully believe that office should be an appointed position, however it was on the ballot as a referendum the election before that and of course that failed by the majority of the people,” Aikens said.

The only current requirements for the position is you have to be a resident of Lenoir City for a year and obtain 25 signatures. “I would prefer a qualified individual, man or woman, to head up our finance department,” Hurst said.

He thinks fewer towns are electing the position due to city growth and revenues, while in smaller towns it’s not as big a problem.  “It’s more involved, complex and more money and grants... it’s big business,” he said. 

While Hurst said the position should be appointed, he said he also respects and appreciates the public’s decision for it not to be. “I believe in our system...  I just personally believe that, it’s a very important job,” he said. 

“I believe it needs to be an accountant or someone obviously with experience... unfortunately it’s a two year job for somebody... it may be difficult to find somebody,” Aikens said.

Hurst said the city should go through personnel interviews to find the most qualified candidate. “Just like you would any other department head,” he said.

Maggie Hunt

Temporarily appointed, Chief Deputy Clerk Maggie Hunt, who has worked for the city for several years, was a logical choice, Hurst said.

“She’ll fall right into place,” Aikens said, adding she has had some recent health issues. “She doesn’t want to do it for a long period of time and I’ve asked the city administrator to move fairly quickly to find us someone that’s qualified and I’m sure he’ll do so,” Aikens said.

Hunt previously held the position on a temporary basis between the time the former city recorder/treasurer, Debbie Cook, retired and Johnson was elected.

Hurst said he thinks another temporary recorder/treasure will be placed for the remainder of Johnson’s term. “They could have a special election, but that would of course cost several thousands of dollars,” he said.

To put on the next election’s ballot for the position to be appointed is up to city council. 

The city charter provides for a charter review committee to be established every three to four years, Hurst said. The charter states the mayor can convene the committee to look at the charter, deliberate and suggest changes or no changes at all. “They offer those recommendations, then city council by ordinance takes up those recommendations and says yes or no, to put them on the ballot,” Hurst said.

Lenoir City Council is schedule to meet again 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10 at City Hall.