County violates state statute

An audit report released December 12, 2017 by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office found county commissioner, Trent Cross serving as a compensated medical examiner. The findings were in violation of a state statute, and contrary to an attorney general’s opinion

After the passing of Scott County’s medical examiner, Dr. Maxwell Huff in early 2015, Scott County Mayor Dale Perdue sent letters to local physicians asking them to attend a meeting to discuss the position of county medical examiner. The meeting took place in early February of 2015, and two doctors attended; Evelyn Silver and Trent Cross. According to Perdue, only Cross had interest in accepting the position. Later that same month, The Scott County Commission voted to approve a resolution that allowed Scott County Mayor Dale Perdue to appoint Commissioner, Trent Cross as the county’s new medical examiner. In order to remain in compliance with state statutes, Cross agreed to hold the office without compensation.

Prior to the approval and submission date of June 30, 2016 for the final budget of 2017, Cross approached the commission requesting medical examiner compensation be reinstated to him for the next year’s budget.  Cross, who is also  Chairperson for the budget committee addressed the same issue, and a motion was made that compensation be reinstated to him with the next year’s budget. The motion received a unanimous vote by budget committee commissioners; Mike Slaven, Robin McBroom, Rick Russ, and Patti Brown. In August of the same year Cross began receiving compensation and Tennessee Consolidated Retirement Service benefits for his services as the county’s examiner.

According to the release, The State Attorney General’s office opined that “A county medical examiner in whom the county comission has vested the duties of county coroner may not serve as county commissioner.” That opinion coming from Tennessee law that says, no person elected or appointed to fill the office of county mayor, sheriff, trustee, register, county clerk, assessor of property, or any other county-wide office filled by vote of the people or the county legislative body shall be nominated for or elected to membership in the county legislative body.

It is unclear as to why the compensation was reinstated when a stipulation of the position was the opposite to avoid a conflict of interest. According to Perdue, he was unaware of the issue due to heart surgery in June 2016 that kept him absent from meetings for an entire month.

“I was unaware that he was given his compensation back,” Perdue stated. “I was absent during the time the budget passed, because I had to have heart surgery and was out for a month. I have had other commissioners approach me, and say they were unaware also.”

The Comptroller’s office has given Perdue and the county commission full responsibility of correcting the issue and complying with state law, with an anticipated corrective action date of January 31, 2018.

Perdue has expressed his discontent with the report and vowed to repair the issue. He also gave an anticipated compliance date of January 30, 2018; however, the issue could be resolved before that date.

“I’m here to try to do the right thing for the people,” Perdue stated. “Something will be resolved by January 30,2018.”