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Hawkins GOP election commissioners move to oust assistant administrator

Jeff Bobo • Jul 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — After weeks of searching for and interviewing potential elections administrator candidates, the Republican faction of the Hawkins County Election Commission came out of the blue Tuesday with a move to hire an applicant as the deputy administrator.

That move was postponed, however, after Democratic members of the Election Commission argued that the motion was out of order. The agenda for Tuesday’s Election Commission meeting only listed the hiring of an elections administrator.

To avoid the potential of falling afoul of the State Comptroller’s Office and Tennessee public records laws, the commission eventually voted to properly advertise a new meeting for July 31 in which actionable agenda items will include “to make the appointment of the administrator of elections and deputy administrator. Also to conduct any business that comes before the commission at that time.”

The vote to schedule that July 31 meeting was 3-2, with Republican members Tommy Dykes, Kyle Luke Lee Jr. and Carl Bailey in favor.

Tuesday’s meeting began with a motion by Democratic member Tina Crownover to retain current Elections Administrator Patricia Lumpkins. That motion was defeated 2-3 with the other Democratic member, Teresa Greer, also voting in favor.

On Monday the Election Commission had interviewed three applicants for the administrator position — Lumpkins, Lisa Manis and Stephen E. McKinney.

Following the defeat of Crownover’s motion, Lee made a motion to hire Manis as deputy administrator effective Aug. 3, replacing Vickie McElwain, who currently holds that post. That motion was approved 3-1 with each of the Republicans voting yes and Crownover abstaining because she believed the motion to be out of order.

The motion was met with protest by both Democratic members. Crownover quoted a letter from the State Comptroller’s Office stating that only items listed on the agenda can be acted upon.

Greer said she wanted to know what Lee’s motive was for the unexpected hiring. Greer noted that all of the Election Commission’s efforts to that point had been directed toward filling the administrator position, and no members of the commission had publicly discussed replacing the deputy administrator.

Greer asked Lee if his motive was to place Manis in the deputy position to train her so that she could eventually replace Lumpkins. Lee noted that he hadn’t mentioned anything about training in his motion.

“We came in here to hire somebody, is that correct?” Lee said. “The motion was properly seconded, and therefore it comes to a vote.”

Greer wasn’t satisfied and called Lee’s motion “insane.” She was still asking for an explanation when Dykes, the commission chairman, called for a five-minute recess.

When the meeting resumed, Greer again sought an explanation of Lee’s motion.

“We shouldn’t have mystery,” Greer said. “We’re on the same board here. I would love for you to explain what’s going on. It’s not right for three people to be enlightened and know what’s happening and leave two in the dark.”

Lee said, “Probably, right now, we’re a little bit heavy in that office anyway.

Greer then replied, “So you’re going to fire one and hire one?”

As for Lumpkins, Dykes said she remains the elections administrator until someone is hired to replace her.

“Nobody has been hired to replace her, so she is the administrator,” Dykes said.

Following the meeting, the Times-News asked Lee if his intention was to place Manis in a position where she could gain experience to be more qualified for the elections administrator position at a later date.

“That’s not my intent,” Lee said. “That’s not anybody on the commission’s intent.”

Lee said the administrator position will “stay as it is right now.”

Lee added, “She’s (Lumpkins) not hired and she’s not fired. She stays as she is at the moment.”

Lumpkins admitted to the Times-News after the meeting, however, that she believes Manis is being positioned to ultimately replace her.

“That’s what it sounds like,” Lumpkins said. “They want to get her trained and then slide her in.”

On Monday, Greer sought for Lee to recuse himself from the administrator vote due to a friendship with Manis which came out during Manis’ interview.

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