published Friday, July 1st, 2011

Hamilton County votes to extend budget


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Chris Brooks, co-founder of Chattanooga Organized for Action.

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The new fiscal year begins today, but Hamilton County will keep its 2011 spending plan in place for at least another few weeks.

The Hamilton County Commission voted 8-0 Thursday to approve what’s known as a continuation budget until the county school system can finalize its spending blueprint. The county budget and schools budget must be approved as a whole.

“The general government portion is completed,” Mayor Jim Coppinger said during Thursday’s recessed commission meeting.

The county’s proposed 2011-12 fiscal year budget is $624 million, with $371.9 million going to schools.

During the commission’s public comment period, Chris Brooks with Chattanooga Organized for Action, a local group that advocates for citizen involvement in government, skewered commissioners for cutting county funding for social services. He noted that no commissioner attended a forum his group held last week to draw attention to the impact of the cuts.

“This commission is going to take away all funds to teen pregnancy [prevention], and that is shameful,” he said.

Becky Barnes, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, said the cut in funding will not mean teen pregnancy prevention moves to the backburner. The department’s infant mortality and maternal/child health programs also address teen pregnancy, she said.

“The health department will always address teen pregnancy,” she said.

Commissioners also took offense at Brooks’ comments that they would not show up to the forum, which addressed funding for mental health services once covered by the city and county’s sales tax agreement.

Commissioner Joe Graham said commissioners had made some plans months in advance for the day of the forum. In his case, he said, he had a family funeral to attend.

“To chastise all of us is wrong,” he said.

Coppinger also told commissioners a few changes were made to next fiscal year’s budget. He said $150,000 in revenues would come from the Hamilton County trustee’s and Hamilton County clerk and master’s offices.

Three positions also were being put back into the budget — a custodial job, a secretarial job for engineering and a position in the trustee’s office, he said.

Compton named chief of staff

Also on Thursday, the County Commission approved 8-0 the appointment of Mike Compton as Coppinger’s chief of staff.

He will be given a salary of $125,000, less than the position’s normal salary of $143,000 or more, Coppinger said.

After the meeting, Compton said he would be making less than he made in his job at Walden Security but felt he needed to make less than the usual salary as the county makes budget cuts.

“I think it made a statement that government service is more valuable than money,” he said.

Compton comes from Walden Security, where he served as chief administrative officer. He was chief of staff for Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker from 2001-05.

Walden Security also conducts courthouse security, but County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said there is no conflict of interest.

“Mr. Compton will have no direct communication with Walden Security,” Taylor said.

Compton also disclosed that he is receiving a compensation package from Walden Security until Aug. 12.

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bpqd said...

So, the outgoing lady got paid more because of years of service that show she was actually qualified to be chief of staff, huh?

How nice of the new guy to not get paid as much.

His six figure salary is still disgusting. We do not approve the self-appointing actions of Chattanooga's local rich. The average male in Chattanooga takes in near $32,000 a year. Why are we paying this already rich person six figures to be second in command to a person we did not elect and do not want?

We should not continue this practice of letting local rich kids appoint themselves to offices that get themselves and their friends paid six figures.

These payments are being made involuntarily, and at the expense of the poor. Cutting social services to promote and pay for crony self-appointment is well outside our collective expectations for lawful and ethical government. It's far more an egregious breach of public trust that we ever saw in some fictious entrapment scheme like "Tennessee Waltz."

Where is the FBI to stop these people? We need these self-appointed officials sued immediately into not taking money from the poor to serve themselves at these outrageous rates.

They just paid $328,000 for a website! Add in the $125,000 a year this guy gets, and it's nearing a half a million dollar loss to open corruption.

How much is Coppinger paying himself for appointing himself to office? I take it that's also six figures.

Notice what happened last time Corker's boys got appointed to political office: at the state Republican GOP. First, they ousted Robin Smith, then they covered up Republican funding for Tea Party events. Robin Smith was keynote speaker at Chattanooga's first Tea Party rally. She openly and proudly proclaimed that the state's GOP was behind organizing that event. They got the stage. They provided the keynote speaker and the entertainment. They signed public documents to get the permits.

Corker's boys get up there? No mention of their Tea Party payoffs. In line with a nationwide cover-up, they denied payments and associations they had publicly admitted just before.

This person is not trustworthy because of his already demonstrated ability to lie to voters to get money. We should not trust him, much less pay him six figures. We did not elect these people, they do not represent our interests.

Get them out, get their paychecks back, and have an election.

By the time this is over, we will have paid individual rich people personal payments that far exceed the arts or human service budgets they so complain about.

At this rate, it is not hard to imagine a $1,000,000 plus payoff at the expense of the poor. Get these people out of office and get the money back now!

This disgusting greed is going to end up causing direct and personal harm to some innocent person. You need to help the poor, not take from them.

Helping yourself to money by ripping off the mentally ill!

July 1, 2011 at 9:37 a.m.
bpqd said...

Did we just lose an experienced County professional who was female to a rich white male with no experience in executive government?

Why are we paying these people to destroy what our people need and work for? Why is the last Chief of Staff not continuing? Why is her successor not being promoted?

Are we to believe that everyone with experience in managing County departments is so unqualified to take over that we have to get some politico from Riverview to stop investment banking long enough to take a salary from us instead? How is this a good idea? What about the people we have on hand already?

Why were we not shown a list of 10 candidates for this job? Why were we not told what the assessment requirements were? Why can we not see the full framework of this decision process?

Inexperienced, unqualified, political appointment for $125,000: that's what we just got as Chief of Staff.

July 1, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.
chattyjill said...

bpqd, I like the points you are making. However, as a point of clarification, it was the City of Chattanooga government that paid $328,000 for a website. Mike Compton's position is for Hamilton County government- two different budgets and two different governing bodies.

July 1, 2011 at 11:40 a.m.
bpqd said...

The City paid for the website to a design firm with ties to former Mayor Kinsey. Those people, like the new Chief of Staff, we observed negotiating for who gets what as part of Mayor Coppinger's appointment.

They are paying themselves, with taxpayer funds, right in front of us. They are taking the money for themselves, not serving these people.

While the government may not be Metro, the back door deals are.

Those deals are resulting in outrageous payments. Take the Chief of Staff salary, above, for example. A US Army two star general officer, O-8, Major General, with less than two years of experience, like Mike Compton's zero days of employment with the county, would be paid a maximum full time annual salary of no more than $114,368.40.

Generals do not, by executive order, make $120,000 a year with no experience. If you would like to check me on this, go to dfas.mil and download a copy of the pay table.

We do pay two generals in the state of Tennessee. As a practical matter, to become a general officer, to have that kind of salary in public service, you need near 20 years of experience, at least. Significant educational and training advances. Successful previous postings.

These guys who appointed and are now paying themselves more than General Petraeus would get paid if he had no years in, have none of that.

That website deal is for more than double what we would pay our highest ranking military officers. They are capped at a maximum annual salary, for over 18 years in, at $12,291 a month. $147,492 a year.

And, they are telling us there is not enough money to help our sick, old and weak.

If Mike Compton was ranked by scope of responsibility, and experience, on our current pay tables for officers, he'd come in at no more than O-3, Captain, with near 150 employees. Pay for a Captain with no experience is $3711 a month.

Actual value? $44,532.

That's a lot closer to the average citizen's pay of $32,000 a year. It'd be an example of a reasonable compensation offer. Instead, these guys are paying themselves more than colnels and generals.

We're about to pay Mike Compton, a political appointee with no experience, more than we'd pay a Major General. Meanwhile, the job was offered to apparently no one else. We have many, many people in this area out of work who have experience not only in the executive branch at this scope of authority, but in other industries as well. Yet, we're expected to just rubber stamp this guy in.

July 1, 2011 at 1:29 p.m.
bpqd said...

And you know who will be the first to be victimized? Those too bad off to vote. If we don't stand up for them and stop these rich people taking the money now, the sick and poor will get hurt. The kind of help that's getting cut off is what helps those folks keep it together enough to survive.

The AIM Center is about giving people who are mentally ill the chance to live in a regular house together. It's a halfway house for people who need help. It's a chance for those folks to take what responsibility they can for themselves to try and get going with something that looks like a normal life.

Who shuts down group homes for the mentally ill to get a six figure salary for themselves?

Apparently our local rich politicos, Corker, Kinsey, Coppinger, Littlefield, all of these cronies, are ripping off the weak and the poor to pay themselves and their employees. Meanwhile, they cry poormouth taxpayer all the way to the bank.

Cap executive salaries at something reasonable. These people are making way too much money for self-appointed offices.

Paying unelected rich people more than generals at the expense of the poor is one of the most reprehensible things I've seen in this city since I returned from war. I just cannot understand why people were not instantly outraged at these selfish proposals. How did this get approved? How could someone ask for this? I am amazed at just how disgusting and selfish our people have become.

July 1, 2011 at 1:42 p.m.
Selah said...

bpqd...I am liking your points...WE MUST STAND UP OR CONTINUE TO LOSE OUR RIGHTS AS MIDDLE-CLASS AND POOR CITIZENS ...TO A MONARCHY OR CASTE SYSTEM BENEFITING the rich on the backs of the poor...Meet me at the POLLS

Don't forget the 300,000 thrown at the school superintendent and who knows what the "good ole" boy appointed boy will be making...AND our kids continue to suffer...while theirs are in private schools or getting the hook up to be "pigs in a poke"...LET'S NOT FORGET AT THE POLLS...let's learn from the TEA PARTY who blindsided us at the POLLS...WAKE UP!!!

July 1, 2011 at 11:37 p.m.
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