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Friday, November 11, 2016

Crossville city council meeting adjourns early after heated discussion of Souza's ethics complaints.

In what was likely the final attempt by outgoing Crossville city councilman Pete Souza to try and expose the corruption he sees in the city of Crossville's operation, it ended with two council members walking out of the meeting during the discussion followed by Mayor James Mayberry adjourning the meeting before the agenda was completed.

The council chambers were mostly full of observers including councilman elect Scot Shanks who also got up and left as the discussion on Souza's ethics complaints started to go badly. At one point, Mayor Mayberry said about the audience, “Half the people here are probably looking for a fight and the other half are hoping this would all go away.”

Final regular council meeting for council members Pete Souza, left, 
and Jesse Kerley, right. 

This is the first time in the history of Crossville that an ethics complainant has been filed under the city's charter and in addition to the charter its self, city attorney Will Ridley had requested an opinion from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service to help guide the process.

Mayberry began by explaining the process saying that the council could decide if the complaint did or did not have merit or if it had merit and warranted additional investigation. Since the city attorney could not investigate one member of the council as he represents the council as a whole, an outside person would have to be called in according to Mayberry and that could be very expensive.

Mayberry then put forth a motion that stated that the complaints were determined to have merit but added, “I do not want to spend taxpayer's money on a long extended investigation on these items.”

Councilman Souza asked city attorney Will Ridely about what would happen next and he said that the remedy for finding the complaint has merit is public censure by the council. Souza continued saying that he saw a problem with lumping all the 13 complaints together since there were different scales of action. Ridley responded that it was the council's prerogative on how to handle the ethics complaints.

Outgoing Councilman Pete Souza

After several comments including councilman Danny Wyatt asking how the items got on the agenda and Mr. Souza saying he put them on the agenda and Souza questioning the putting forth of a germane motion before he was able to make his first motion, Mayor Mayberry then withdrew his motion that had not received a second.

Souza said he had a motion but first requested clarification from Mr. Ridley about the Charter requirement that the council hear the ethics charges but the standing rules that limited discussion to three minutes that was not adequate time to present. Souza said he felt it was not lawful for the standing rules to block the charter.

Ridley stated that the council could suspend the rules temporarily but otherwise the rules were put on the council by itself and was lawful. Souza then moved to suspend the standing rules for the discussion of the items but no second was received. Souza then attempted to speak on the topic without a motion and councilman Wyatt called point of order. Mayberry ruled in favor of Wyatt and he moved to table the matter to a special called meeting and a second was given by councilwoman Pamala Harris.

Harris then read from an email by Mayor Mayberry dated October 18 concerning the cancelling of the called meeting in October saying a meeting in the current political climate could do more harm then good. Mayberry proposed to hold the meeting after the election. Harris then added it didn't make sense to her that the accuser and the accusee were both members of the ethics board and that it would make more sense to her to wait until the new council members are seated. Souza then said, “Oh shit.”  

Council members Harris, Wyatt and Jesse Kerley objected to the language.

Souza took the floor and said the proposal to delay the matter was “hogwash.” He continued saying that an EEOC complaint had been filed against the city. Souza said, You can laugh Jerry Kerley, but you will be subpoenaed before it is over.” Souza was interrupted again by Mr. Wyatt and Jesse Kerley.

Jesse Kelrey said to Mayor Mayberry, “You've got a councilman attacking a city employee in a public meeting Mayor, and you're allowing it to happen.” Souza responded, “and it's your dad, right?”

Outgoing Councilman Jesse Kerley

“Please! Let's bring this meeting to order,” said Ms. Harris, “and please conduct yourself like good citizens.

Souza continued saying that the council would see at least three lawsuits and began to talk about a letter sent to the council on June 1 about the serious problems. As Souza was talking, councilwoman Harris gathered her papers and got up to leave. Councilman Wyatt followed her out.

Council member Pam Harris leaves the meeting early,
and followed shortly by council member Wyatt. 

One member of the audience shouted out that the next meeting would be the new council members and a cheer went up from part of the audience.

The motion on the floor was restated and the clerk said there was still a quorum present. Mr. Souza said it was a non-functional quorum because one of the members was deeply involved and it involves his father and his best friend, referring to Jesse Kerley and Steve Hill.

Councilman Kerley took the floor and thanked the citizens of Crossville for giving him the opportunity to serve and then began to attck Mr. Souza.

With that Mayor Mayberry said, I think we've heard from both sides, “This meeting is adjourned.”

A number of items were left on the agenda including the city attorney's and city manager's report as well as time for public comments.

Souza's closing comment was, “I'll see you all in court.”  

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