Vote to violate state law or vote to not violate state law? That is the question.
That is the decision that East Ridge City Council was faced with on July 25th.
Staff presented an ordinance to amend certain expenditures in the East Ridge budget of July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. Councilman Gravitt had asked the city attorney to check with the Office of the State Comptroller for state requirements on the matter.
Mr. North had spoken to Mr. Queen in the Comptroller’s Office in preparation for the Thursday Council meeting. At the meeting Councilman Gravitt asked Attorney North to share what he had learned. As Attorney North read the information that Queen sent him, he also passed copies to the council members. To put it simply, if they approved the ordinance to amend the budget after the money is spent, our city is in violation of state law.
The decision before East Ridge elected officials was very simple. Not approving the ordinance would show a variance from the budget in our upcoming audit. Approving the ordinance would violate state law. The decision was entirely up to Council, since that is part of their responsibility.
The city attorney, the auditor, and, most important, the state of Tennessee Office of the Comptroller advised our elected officials: if this ordinance is approved it is a violation of state law. Seems like a simple decision, doesn’t it? Well, evidently not for Mayor Lambert and Council member Sewell. Vice Mayor Bethune, Councilman Manning and Councilman Gravitt had no problem deciding to follow state law and voted to reject the ordinance. Mayor Lambert and Council member Sewell could only manage to abstain from the vote.
Really? How hard is it to decide what is the right vote for the city of EastRidge? Do I vote to adhere to state law or do I vote to violate state law? Mayor Lambert and Councilman Sewell need to reevaluate why they ran for office. If their priorities have changed and they cannot put the city and citizens first, maybe they need to consider whether or not they want to remain elected officials.