Pork is Pork Anyway You Slice It!










Wasteful Spending - Taxpayer Funded School Board Retreats
By Pat Hunter

These are tough economic times given our stagnant wages and the spiraling cost of fuel, utilities, food and goods, health care and medications, etc. Tennessee ranks 1st in the nation in bankruptcies and home foreclosures are a serious issue in our community, too. At a past budget meeting, an official spoke about the numerous bankruptcies that now fill her filing drawers. 

How do you feel about your hard-earned money going to lavish renovations for Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp's opulent columns and furnishings and renovations and now to learn about the Board of Education's yearly mountain retreats? 

The Loudon County Board of Education (BOE) consists of a ten-member board (names below) with a yearly budget. Each member is paid $300 per month for serving on this board. Some BOE members enjoy other perks such as dental and life insurance and state retirement. See State Audit 2006 Budget (PDF)

There are two issues at hand, the cost of the school board retreats and did the Loudon County Board of Education violate the Open Meetings Act, Sunshine Law regarding the Feb. 8-9 workshop retreat?  Today, I will just share information about the cost of this and past retreats. 

BOE members had a chance to cancel the retreat amid concerns from others about the cost of the retreat and how this money could be better spent for students rather then adult whims but the BOE did not heed concerns of others. Staff asked about canceling the retreat to avoid charges but the BOE just went on with business as usual.

D-3 Greenback Larry Bass favored attending the mountain retreat, he commented how more could be accomplished during that period of time, but he preferred to skip the convention and the day on the hill.

D-4 Leroy Tate spoke about state revenue shortfall concerns and school funding at one BOE meeting but when it came to speaking out against spending public funds on the retreat, he said nothing.

D-5 Freddie Gene Walker consistently votes no to spending and diminishing cash reserves but he too did not speak out against the cost of the mountain retreat.

D-1 Bill Marcus and Scotty Newman did not weigh in against the retreat or its cost.

D-7 Tellico Village Nancy Pauley did not support D-5 June Klinestiver when she said that the BOE didn't have to go to the mountains to meet to discuss school business. 

Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr., who is normally quite forceful when it comes to breaking up verbal barbs just spoke about the cost concerns shared by others and then dropped the ball. How disappointing!

This year the cash strapped Board of Education stayed at the swanky Clarion Hotel in Gatlinburg with its numerous amenities including Jacuzzi tubs and posh rooms, continental breakfast, heated pool and exercise room available to guests and coffee at a cost of $18 per gallon and luncheon buffet meals, compliments of Loudon County taxpayers. While back home, Greenback School was still under a costly fire watch due to numerous life safety issues and the Loudon High auditorium remained closed because of funding issues.

2008 Retreat Bill $5900.00 (PDF)

2007 Retreat Bill $8,620.00    2007 Catering Bill

According to public records, at the 2007 Retreat, the Board of Education and guests had dinner at The Park Grill Steak House at a cost to taxpayers of $1,272.96. The Park Grill Steakhouse "A Taste of the Smokies" is known for its expensive steaks and fine food and beverages and its beautiful mural works of East Tennessee artisans.

The total cost of the 2007 retreat including hotel accommodations, catered meals at the Clarion Hotel and dinner at the Park Grill Steak House totaled about $8,619.96. It appears that at least two BOE members, Bobby Johnson, Jr., and Steve Harrelson stayed in luxurious suites, purportedly Johnson and Harrelson paid the difference in room charge costs. Both Johnson and Harrelson work for the Lenoir City Recreation Department. 

2006 Retreat Bill $4,900.00

Taxpayers are sick and tired of politicians who do not look out for the taxpayers and who use their elected office and politics for personal gain. The BOE needs to cut the pork and fat out of the budget and eliminate wasteful spending including taxpayer-funded mountain retreats. The cost of all three junkets listed above totaled about $19,419, which could have easily purchased 16 heating and cooling (HVAC) window units for students and teachers! Accountability of taxpayer money should be a priority to these officials but if its not, there is a simple remedy, elections are right around the corner!

Loudon County Board of Education

D-2, Lenoir City (Chairman) Bobby Johnson, Jr., EMAIL: johnsonb@loudoncounty.org

D-5, Eaton-Browder (Vice Chair) June Klinestiver, Phone 986-8900
EMAIL: klinstiverj@loudoncounty.org  EMAIL: cakcak@chartertn.net

D-1 Loudon - Bill Marcus,  Phone: 458-8581; EMAIL: billm@loudoncounty.org

D-1 Loudon - Scotty Newman, Phone: 458-1479, EMAIL: slenewman@charter.net

D-2 Lenoir City Larry Proaps, Phone: 986-8694, EMAIL: proapsl@loudoncounty.org

D-3 Greenback - Larry Bass, Phone: 856-2184, EMAIL: lbass10074@aol.com

D-4 Philadelphia - Leroy Tate, Phone 458-4834, EMAIL: Leroy.Tate@TateandLyle.com

D-5 Eaton -Browder - Freddie Walker, Phone: 988-5321, EMAIL: fgwalker@loudoncounty.org

D-6 Highland Park - Steve Harrelson, Phone: 988-5211, EMAIL: harrelsons@loudoncounty.org

D-7 Tellico Village - Nancy Paulee, Phone: 458-6984, EMAIL: nancypaule001@charter.net