Multipronged Lenoir seat filled

After yearlong drama, Johnson sworn into office

By Hugh G. Willett

LENOIR CITY - The ongoing dispute over whether the position of Lenoir City treasurer/recorder/clerk should be appointed or elected has been settled.

Bobby Johnson Jr. was sworn in last week as Lenoir City treasurer/recorder/clerk, concluding a year-long drama during which the position has passed from elected to appointed personnel and back to elected.

Standing with his family before a room filled with friends and local government officials, Johnson took the oath of office on a family Bible that was also used to swear in his father and grandfather to Lenoir City elected office.

"I want to thank the voters for giving me a chance to serve," he said.

Johnson ran unopposed in the election Nov. 4 but only after facing a referendum in August that asked the voters of Lenoir City if they wanted to elect or have City Council appoint a recorder/treasurer. The city voted overwhelmingly to keep the position elected.

The position of treasurer/recorder has been filled pro-tem by Maggie Hunt since longtime treasurer/recorder/clerk Debbie Cook retired in April 2007. Hunt was appointed by the City Council.

The position of clerk of courts was separated from treasurer/recorder earlier this year in a move by City Council under the advice of Lenoir City Judge Terry Vann. Vann cited the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004, which allows a city court judge to appoint his own clerk of courts, not withstanding any law or provision to the contrary.

According to Johnson, the Lenoir City Charter states that the treasurer/recorder shall be clerk of the courts.

Johnson requested an opinion from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service after the August referendum affirming the City Charter's position on electing the treasurer/recorder. "MTAS says the charter overrides the court reform act," Johnson said.

Lenoir City Attorney Shannon Littleton said the issue became moot when Johnson was sworn in.

Vann told City Council that he wanted to appoint his own clerk to improve the collection of fines owed the city. As court clerk, Johnson says he will be looking to add new software that helps track and collect money owed the city.