Juror Meals - And Response (7)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Just saw the report on Channel 3 about the cost of juror meals in Hamilton County and that one officer has been suspended for a week. I really don't have a problem with the cost of the meals themselves. Serving on a sequestered jury is a real sacrifice and eating a nice meal at a nice restaurant after a day of jury duty and being separated from one's family is a small reward for the jurors service.

However I do have a  problem with the fact that ,"several," tabs of over $500 were run up at the Boathouse. And I have a REAL problem that at least once the jurors were taken all the way down to the Canyon Grill in Georgia. It would appear that since the Boathouse and Canyon Grill are owned by the same people  there might be a little back scratching going on here. I have found the Boathouse to be somewhat over-priced, possibly because diners are paying for the River view, and there are many similar type restaurants in the downtown area that could be used for juror dinners.

Under no circumstance should the taxpayers of Hamilton County and the State of Tennessee have to pay for jurors to eat in a restaurant not only not in the county but not even in the state of Tennessee.

Douglas Jones

* * *

Doug Jones I have to disagree with you.  Obviously you don't eat out very often.  Boathouse is not expensive.  Have you been to Firebird, 212 Market St, Bonefish Grille, St John's, Public House or any of the other nice restaurants?  You have to pay for decent food.  You left out Sugar's Ribs as one of the 3 family restaurants owned by the same man that owns Boathouse.  Lets get our facts before we start ranting.  Canyon Grill may be out on the mountain but they can seat a party of 12-15 and they are no more expensive than the others listed.  I know since I eat at all those places frequently.
Mike Layne

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Mike Layne, I have to disagree with you. You say Canyon Grill is not expensive and you eat out frequently? Maybe a $40 steak is cheap to you, but I find that a bit more than I want to spend "frequently." Also, if you think that 16 people eating lunch and the bill comes to $400 is merely "decent" food, then bully for you, because that's $25 per person for lunch. Obviously, things must be a bit tighter over at my house.

If a jury is sequestered, what's wrong with nine pizzas from Lupi's? Support a local business but don't insult the taxpayers by spending like a drunken sailor. Don't want pizza? How about everybody go to Subway and get what I would call "decent" healthy food at a moderate price. Is it maybe that Lupi's and Subway don't scratch the right backs? Yeah, I know, what a stupid concept: efficiency in government.

Especially when the mindset is, "Don't worry about it because the state of Tennessee is paying for it."

Last time I looked, that was me.

Herb Montgomery

 * * *

Herb, have you recently served on a jury? If you had you would have known a jury is not made of twelve old buckaroos who deliberate for a few minutes like they did in the old cowboy movies.

There are more and more murder trials. Some trials run for several weeks. A jury may have as many as sixteen people which includes alternates plus the two deputies who accompany them. Not every restaurant can accommodate this many people who must be separated from other diners. This limits the number of restaurants where jurors are fed. And the jury room is too small in which to feed sixteen people.

Sorry Herb but everybody can't just chow down on pizzas.  Some are diabetic, have gluten, wheat or nut allergies, don't or can't eat red meat, and some jurors are vegans or require low sodium diets. Some may require Kosher meals.

America has changed Herb and everything is bigger and more costly every year.

Ralph Miller

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One person's decent is another person's fancy, but when I read where the officers in charge say don't worry about it, the state of Tennessee is paying, then I see a red flag.

Maybe that sequestered jury needed to be taken all of the way down Lookout Mountain for a meal or maybe their motel was in Trenton, but a $904 total bill from the Canyon Grill or anywhere seems expensive.  I find it amazing anyone can defend that in this day and time when states and local governments are so cash-strapped for funding and revenue.

The USA has never been accused of being a thrifty nation, so this probably goes on in every department of just about every city, but sometimes shining a bright light on a problem can be the first step in fixing it, even here it seems some would chastise anyone who dares to make a negative comment about juries and their eating habits.

I do realize America is changing; Lupi's has a gluten free crust now.

Chris Rice

* * *

I can't believe I'm actually seeing people defend the cost of these lunches. As we all know, "expensive" is a relative term. If Mr. Layne really does eat at all of those places frequently, as he claimed, then he clearly makes considerably more money than the vast majority, and is in no position to say what does, and doesn't, classify as expensive for the common person.

I actually laughed out load at Ralph Miller's feeble attempts at trying to somehow justify the expenses. Allow me to list a cheap alternative for each of the special food restrictions he listed.

Gluten allergies? Lupi's offers gluten-free pizza.
Diabetic? Subway.
Nut allergy? Subway
Anti red meat? Subway
Vegan? Cure that ailment by forcing them to eat one of those $40 steaks Herb mentioned, then take them to Subway.
Low sodium diet? Subway

Kosher? Ya got me there, but I seriously doubt a single one of the restaurants used in this situation was chosen because of its Kosher menu. But for the rare occasion when a juror needs a kosher meal, fine, get him/her a kosher meal. I doubt that's a factor often encountered, though.

Bottom line, it is imperative that people are held accountable for their actions. Misuse of taxpayer funds needs to be taken more seriously. It's bad enough we have to watch our federal government throw our money away, we shouldn't have to watch our local government do the same. Too bad we can't have a single parent of two or more kids in charge of this spending. They would surely find a way to satisfy everyone's bellies while keeping the costs very reasonable.

Sam Horn

* * *

If the reporting is accurate, I think it is troublesome that there has not been a reasonable cap on meal expenses for jurors.  That said, I think it's even more troublesome that someone who serves on a jury is paid only thirteen dollars a day, and is required to pay for parking in the vicinity of the courthouse.  I think that convenient parking should be provided - free of charge - to  individuals doing their civic duty.

Melissa Cantrell
Signal Mountain 

* * * 

It is a shame we ask people put their life on hold for days, pay less than $1.50 per hour, then complain because they eat a nice meal on the people. That is about $25 a person including tips which is about $4.50 of the fee. 

These people do a service that I have wished I had been selected to do, but at age 68 I have never been called for jury duty.  I understand a list of approved places to eat was given to them.  Someone approved the list before the jury selected the eating place. 

We should thank them for the job even if we sometime disagree with the results. This is a service that many do not want or will try anything to get out of doing. 

Margaret Chastain
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