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County Attorney Advises New Putnam Commissioners On Legalities

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
County Attorney Advises New Putnam Commissioners On Legalities

Putnam County Attorney Jeff Jones said incoming county commissioners must be careful as new public figures.

Jones said computers can especially be dangerous- anything posted or sent can become evidence.

“You guys are holding public office right now, and you need to be aware of the fact that people watch what you say,” Jones said. “It can come back to hurt you or even bite you, so you have to be very careful about what you’re putting on social media.”

Jones reminded commissioners to be mindful when gathering outside of meetings. Jones said state law requires discussion of county business by two or more commissioners to be public.

“For example, if three of you get together and you want to talk about whether or not the University of Tennessee is going to beat Vol State Thursday night that is fine,” Jones said. “But if you’re getting together to discuss county business where you are going to deliberate towards making a decision, that is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

Jones said commissioners should also know that County Mayor Randy Porter is the spokesperson of the county. Jones said in the event of pending litigation, Porter should provide media responses. He said talks concerning legal situations should not be public.

“Lose lips sink ships,” Jones said. “You need to be aware that when we discuss issues that can blossom into litigation or involved pending litigation, this is something that you need to keep close to your vest. You really don’t need to be talking about it out in public, because you guys operate like a corporate board of directors. If you are on a board of directors for a corporation, you would have a fiduciary interest to act in the best interest of the corporation. You’ve been entrusted by the voters of Putnam County to act in the best interest of the county.”

Jones also recommended that each commissioner purchased a copy of Robert’s Rules of Orders, which is the standard for facilitating discussions and group decision-making for governmental bodies.


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