State Open Records Specialist Elisha Hodge said Monday that County Commission members seeking to be appointed county mayor would not be violating the Sunshine Law by talking to other commissioners.
Ms. Hodge said that is based on a 1986 decision of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in a case in which a County Commission member in another county was seeking to be named trustee. She said the court ruled that he had not violated the Sunshine Law by talking to his fellow commissioners who were making the appointment.
Ms. Hodge said the state Supreme Court declined to hear that case of Jackson versus Hensley and it remains the law.
She said it was the only case she could find that is on point on the legal issue.
County Attorney Rheubin Taylor on Thursday said that two commissioners seeking to replace Claude Ramsey - Jim Coppinger and Larry Henry - could not talk about it with the remaining seven commissioners who will be making the selection.
But he said another candidate, Mike Carter, special assistant to Mr. Ramsey, could.
Several commission members at the time said that resulted in an "unfair" and "absurd" situation.
Ms. Hodge said she received requests for an opinion from a citizen and from County Attorney Taylor.
Commissioner Henry said, "I thought from the very beginning that the ruling we got was unfair and incorrect.
"It would have been different if we were voting members, but we don't have any sayso in this so I never understood fully why we were told what we were."
Commissioner Henry said, "We have four new members on the commission that I have only had about 90 days to work with. They don't know my record or my platform for moving this county forward."
He said he believes the earlier ruling "put us about a week behind. We have a lot of catching up to do."
Commissioner Coppinger said he believes he will still have time to make his pitch to the other commissioners.
He said, "I look forward to being able to discuss this with my fellow commissioners."
Mr. Carter and Guy Satterfield are the only candidates to apply thus far.
Commissioners Henry and Coppinger are expected to apply this week.
The deadline is Friday at 4 p.m.
The County Commission will make its selection on Dec. 27.