It was not clear what sparked the concern of Crossville city council member Pamala Harris about the subject of press releases and a policy about them, but the discussion was put on the agenda by Ms. Harris.
Interim city manager Steve Hill told the council he had looked into it and currently the city does not have a policy on press releases. He added that he thought a good policy would be to have all press releases go through the marketing and public relations director and then to the city council.
Harris added that she has seen press releases from different city areas, something she described as “willy nilly.” Harris moved that press releases go through marketing and public relations under the approval of the city manager. Harris' motion was supported by councilman Danny Wyatt.
It has been mentioned at a previous council meeting that Ms. Harris and city marketing/PR director Billy Loggins have a personal relationship.
Councilman Pete Souza addressed the issue saying that there had previously been a press release policy that went through the city manager and he had discussed it with the previous city attorney Ken Chadwell. “What happened to that policy, I don't have a clue,” added Souza. Souza also said that he felt the mayor should be involved in every press release “because he is the spokesperson for the city.”
Souza said he wanted to make one thing clear, “Press releases from the city are one thing, the city council is another things, the city council, and each elected member and each sovereign member of this county can speak to the press, or anybody they so desire anytime they want to. But when they speak, they are speaking for themselves, not the city.
Souza suggested that the city manager develop a policy and it come back before the council for approval adding, “There are some details that are being left out here.”
City engineer Tim Begley asked to address the council and pointed out that the public works department sometimes has water interruption announcements and public service announcements that he felt could be described as press releases. “These items need to be addressed as there is not a lot of time to go through the manager. Currently the public works secretary sends a fax to all the radio stations.”
Begley added that when there is work planned, they also try and get word out to the paper and if they are going to keep the public informed then the policy needs to include something for those type of announcements.
Councilwoman Harris then spoke to amend her motion to have the city manager develop a policy on press releases and it be brought back to the council for consideration. The amendment was supported by councilman Jesse Kerley.
Mayor James Mayberry said that he guessed his announcement that the city received a $500,000 grant had sparked the discussion. Mayberry said he received a call one evening from the state informing him of the grant, that it would be posted on the state's website that evening and the city could announce it the next day.
Mayberry continued that he had tried to work with the marketing department in the past adding that things did not work out in a timely manner adding, “If they worked out at all.” Mayberry said that was something the policy might need to consider.
The mayor said that as the elected executive officer of the city there were certain things he had to do and announced he had received a letter earlier that day from Governor Bill Haslam inviting him on a trip to Japan.
With that, Mayberry called for a roll call vote on the motion to have the city manager work on a policy to bring back to the council. The motion was approved by all five members.