A discussion of political ads from the current mayor's election in Crossville led to raised voices, angry words and one council member walking out of the meeting.
There was a standing room only crowd for the Crossville city council's regular October meeting and the meeting was streamed live to the internet for those who wanted to watch from their homes. Item 8 on the agenda was billed as “Matters relative to political ads” and was the anticipated item that brought out a larger than usual crowd at the meeting.
When the item came up Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Earl Dean made a motion to remove the item from the agenda saying, “I don't believe politics should be on the agenda. When people sign up to run for a political seat they are on their own. When you bring politics to this council, it tears this council apart.”
Councilman Boyd Wyatt commented that he had placed the item on the agenda adding, “It is not meant to be a political debate on the mayor's race or councilman's race.” Wyatt went on to say that he had very strong feelings about what the ads placed by Councilman Jesse Kerley said about city employees and the council.
Dean's motion to remove the item from the agenda received a second by councilman Kerley after he said that none of his ads had statements directed at any city employees or other council members, “except for my challenger in the mayor's race.”
The motion failed with councilmen Dean and Kerley in favor, and Mayor J. H. Graham and councilmen Wyatt and Carl Duer opposed. Following the vote an unhappy councilman Dean excused himself and left the meeting.
Councilman Wyatt apologized to Dean adding, “He feels one way and I feel another.” Wyatt continued on with his agenda item.
Wyatt said that he felt the ad run by Mayoral candidate Jesse Kerley on October 1, 2010 and another date in the Crossville Chronicle “questions the professionalism, honesty, integrity and accuracy of the city employees and council in regard to recording documentation of council minutes. This ad would leave you to believe that there are employees that have not done their job properly and the city manager and council have stood by and let this happen. I want to assure you that this isn't the case and the ads are far from the truth.”
Wyatt said that he asked the city manager to investigate the claims in the ad and report back to the council his findings on this matter. Wyatt then went on to recap the accusations made in the ads and outline the information from the city records gathered by city staff.
Councilman Kerley started to make a response and was ruled out of order by the mayor.
Wyatt either read or requested to have read much of the summary of the data into the minutes of the meeting concerning rental of office space for the city's engineering department, PR work preformed by Don Napier, a proposed gun ordinance to prohibit guns from city buildings and the contract with the firm operating the wastewater treatment plant.
Following Wyatt's presentation, Kerley addressed the meeting, “My opinion is that this is the most unethical and unprofessional action I've witnessed yet on the part of Mayor Graham and Councilman Wyatt. By bringing this political item up you are only working for the benefit of yourselves and retain your status on this council. This meeting is intended to do the people's business in and this is far from the people's business. You have used city resources to respond back to issues in a political race.”
Kerley then went over information he brought with him claiming his data was more accurate than that presented by Wyatt and voices between the two men were occasionally raised. At one point Kerley claimed he had not been contacted about called meetings held when the gun ordinance was on the agenda.
One document Kerley had was described as a letter from former city manager Jack Miller with derogatory statements of about both Graham and Wyatt eliciting a comment from Wyatt how Miller was fired from his job as manager for misappropriation of funds.
Councilman Carl Duer added his thoughts on the issue. “This is what comes about from negative advertising. My wife (the late Representative Shirley Duer) was in the state legislature for 18 years and she never once ran a negative ad against anybody.” Duer added, If you just run on your own merits and what you can do and they can't do and tell the truth You'll do alright.”
Kerley then asked Wyatt and Duer if they were endorsing Graham's candidacy for Mayor and Duer said he had written a letter that voters should have received that day. He said he liked Jesse and didn't say a word in his letter about Jesse, but the job of mayor was a complicated thing and he was supporting Graham.
Wyatt said, “I want everyone to know that I endorse Mayor Graham for reelection. He is the best choice.
At the end of the meeting former city councilman Wendell Kerley who is also Jesse Kerley's grandfather complained about the political aspect of the meeting saying, “You boys have got as low as you can get tonight.”
The third candidate for mayor, Donna McDermott was at the meeting and tried to speak briefly at the end of the meeting asking that the whole matter be dropped.