Claiborne County commission, mayor embroiled in budget battle

Claiborne County commission, mayor embroiled in budget battle

Claiborne County Mayor Virgil Herrill says he has no reason to resign, despite a no-confidence vote by commissioners. Claiborne County Mayor Virgil Herrill says he has no reason to resign, despite a no-confidence vote by commissioners.

June 21, 2005

By CATHARYN CAMPBELL
6 News Reporter

TAZEWELL (WATE) -- A secret vote by Claiborne County commissioners exposes a growing controversy over they way County Mayor Virgil Herrill is handling spending.

Commissioners say 16 of 21 members voted asking for Herrill to resign. They say taxpayer money has been spent with out their permission.

Herrill says county expenses have been higher this year and the county may have to dig into the already-low reserve fund to cover all of the bills

"To keep from increasing taxes, we've had to eat into the reserves," Herrill told 6 News.

Claiborne County's general fund is about takes in about $5 million. Herrill says money in the fund has been moved around to cover the expenses.

Commissioners say most of the money budgeted for the year has been spent.

"Keeping a lot in the red, in other words the check is written and the money is not in there," complained Commissioner Steve Brogan. "They are legitimate expenses, but the county commission feels like you get the money before you get the check."

Commissioners say Herrill made the decision to spend taxpayer money without consulting them and they say that's not appropriate.

"A lot of commissioners feel like he has spent money that he does not have the authorization to spend," Brogan said.

Herrill says he does not need permission to transfer money in the county's budget, but he says state auditors are currently reviewing records to see if any laws have been broken.

"The auditors have given me no reason to resign," Herrill said. "Our books balance. No money is missing."

On Monday night the commission voted to cut the county mayor's salary by more than $13,000 to save money.They also cut the sheriff's salary $10,000.

The mayor controversy is not the only shakeup in Claiborne County.

County deputies say they may have to park their cruisers because of the high price of gas.

In the past, the sheriff's department received about $7,000 every month for fuel costs.

But at a county commission meeting in May, commissioners nixed that and gave the sheriff's department $10,000 for gas to last through the end of the fiscal year, which is the end of June.

But officers have already spent $7,800 from that allocation and they fear they won't make it through the end of the month. If the gas money runs out, deputies say they'll have to park their cruisers.

 

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