Lenoir City Council approves letting judge name court clerk
Jackson appointed to job; ordinance defies charter, takes choice from voters
Jennifer Jackson, an assistant clerk at city hall, was unanimously approved by the council as the new clerk of courts.
The vote - based on an ordinance drafted by city Judge Terry Vann - takes the position of court clerk out of the hands of the voters for the first time in the 100-year history of Lenoir City.
The ordinance also conflicts with the city charter, drafted in 1908, which states that the duties of court clerk are the responsibility of the city treasurer/recorder. The city charter also states that the treasurer/recorder position is elected.
According to Vann, the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004 authorizes the city judge to appoint the clerk of courts.
The reform act was designed to streamline municipal courts and create more consistency across the various municipalities, Vann explained.
Councilman Douglas "Buddy" Hines asked for clarification as to whether the new ordinance would override the city charter and was assured by Mayor Matt Brookshire that the ordinance, based on the Municipal Court Reform Act, did indeed hold precedence.
Brookshire said he was confident the ordinance overriding the charter was legal.
"I take my recommendation from the judge and the city attorney," Brookshire said.
The duties of treasurer/recorder/clerk have been assigned to Maggie Hunt since the retirement of former longtime treasurer/recorder/clerk Debbie Cook in April of 2007.
In August, Lenoir City voters will get to vote on a change to the charter that would allow the city council to decide who will hold the position of treasurer/recorder.
Should the voters decide that the treasurer position remain an elected office, it could throw a monkey wrench into the plans to keep the clerk position appointed.
City attorney Shannon Littleton acknowledged the potential for conflict if a newly elected treasurer/recorder should claim the duties of the court clerk, per the city charter.
Under such a scenario, the precedence of the Municipal Court Reform Act over the city charter might face a legal challenge. Littleton said he has received several legal opinions that support the judge's ordinance.
Judge Vann explained the need to have an appointed person in the job to maintain continuity in the position. The judge has also expressed concern about the collection of revenue owed the city.