Lenoir City candidate a shoo-in with one on ballot

By Hugh G. Willett, knoxnews.com

For Bobby Johnson Jr., winning the position of Lenoir City clerk/recorder/treasurer could be the easiest part of the job.

Johnson, who currently serves as chairman of the Loudon County school board, is the only candidate on the November ballot for the position.

As long as he gets one vote, Johnson will be the next Lenoir City clerk/recorder/treasurer, according to Loudon County Election Commissioner Dana Zehner.

"Right now he is the only qualified candidate on the ballot," she said. "A write-in candidate would have to get at least 25 votes to qualify."

Debbie Cook held the position of Lenoir City clerk/recorder/treasurer until her resignation in March 2007. Maggie Hunt was appointed interim treasurer/recorder by the city council after Cook's resignation.

Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire said earlier this year that he and the city council would like to see the position be appointed so that a candidate with the proper credentials could be chosen. Brookshire's office had drafted a list of credentials for the job that included at least five years' accounting experience and preferably a CPA certification.

A referendum on the August ballot allowed the residents of Lenoir City to decide if they wanted the position of clerk/treasurer/recorder to remain elected as per the original city charter drafted in 1908. Voters decided by a margin of more than 80 percent that they wanted to keep the position elected.

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that Lenoir City Judge Terry Vann had already decided to appoint a person to fill the position of clerk of courts. In May, the city council moved to allow him to appoint his own clerk.

Vann drafted his own ordinance to override the charter, citing the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004. The act states that, notwithstanding any previous rule to the contrary, the city judge has the power to appoint a clerk of courts.

When asked about the potential conflict between Johnson as the elected clerk and the appointed clerk, Vann said he didn't think there would be any controversy.

Lenoir City Attorney Shannon Littleton said that, when the council voted to allow the judge to appoint the clerk, it did so on the understanding that the decision was authorized by the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004.

If there is a controversy over the court clerk position, the issue might have to be decided by the city council or by the courts, Littleton added.

Johnson said that, assuming he is elected in November, he expects the city to follow the city charter and to swear him in as clerk/treasurer/recorder.

"It's in the city charter that the position is to be elected by the voters," Johnson said. "The charter also says the treasurer/recorder shall be clerk of the courts."

Lenoir City Manager Dale Hurst did not return phone calls regarding the clerk issue.

Johnson said he decided to run to bring a greater level of transparency to the position.

"I want to be able to show the citizens where their money is spent. I want everything done in the open so that nothing is hidden from the taxpayers," he said.

Johnson said he read the job description prepared by the mayor's office but that he is concerned principally with the requirements as they are stated in the charter. "The charter says I need a certification of 100 hours, and I need to be bonded. The classes for certification start in September," he said.

The other outstanding issue is whether Johnson will resign from his position with the school board. Johnson currently works full time for the Lenoir City parks and recreation department.

"I've been thinking about it, but I really haven't decided yet," he said.