Hawkins County commissioners said Monday they don’t need no stinking badges — although the reason some gave for their opposition was apparently based on a misunderstanding.
Commissioner Robert Palmer, who chairs the commission’s Public Safety Committee, introduced a resolution Monday requiring all county employees, officials and commissioners to acquire a barcoded county ID badge.
The resolution also required county employees, county officials and county commissioners who respond to a county emergency in an official capacity to have their ID badge on display in plain view.
One commissioner called the proposal “dictatorial” on the level of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.
Originally the resolution stated that county commissioners must have their ID displayed in plain view “any time they are acting in an official capacity or on county property during an emergency event involving the county.”
The resolution was amended by a vote of 12-7, however, removing the word “or” from that sentence, changing it to say badges must be displayed in plain view “any time they are acting in an official capacity on county property during an emergency event involving the county.”
County Mayor Melville Bailey told the commission, “A lot of times there will be other agencies from other counties at major emergency events. This would help them. I would hope that Sheriff Lawson and (EMA director) Gary Murrell would know all of us. But if there’s somebody here from Kingsport, Morristown, it would help them identify (who belongs on the scene).”
Palmer added, “What if there was an emergency event and the state was in control? If we had to have an emergency meeting, you might not be admitted because the state doesn’t know you like the county does.”
Some commissioners including Virgil Mallett remained under the impression they would be barred from regular commission or committee meetings if they failed to display their ID.
“To me this resolution is dictatorial,” Mallett said. “We remember what happened in Nazi Germany — called World War II. We remember what happened in Communist Russia. I do not think that the county commission has the authority to mandate that office holders do anything as long as they’re not breaking state laws or federal laws. That’s micro-managing. All these elected officials owe their allegiance to is the people who voted for them.”
Mallett added, “I was voted to attend those meetings and I will attend those meetings. If this thing passes, I will not abide by it. If anyone wants to keep me out, let them try. Then we’ll see what happens.”
Palmer attempted to explain that badges only had to be on display when commissioners responded in an official capacity to county emergencies.
The resolution didn’t say commissioners would be barred from meetings if they didn’t have their ID, Palmer said, but the debate continued.
Commissioner Danny Alvis said that Mallett “spoke for me to a T.”
“I will not abide by this, and no one is going to turn me away at the door if I don’t have an ID,” Alvis said. “I was elected to represent District 3, and that’s who I will represent.”
Alvis then proceeded to state that he could accept a resolution if it didn’t require a badge “to come through the (commission meeting) door” or “to be on county property.”
Allvis added, “I don’t see a problem with having an ID if you go out here with Gary Murrell and work on an emergency situation. That’s fine.”
At that point Palmer threw up his hands. Palmer replied, “That’s what’s stated here.”
The resolution was defeated 9-10 with no votes coming from Mallett, Alvis, Dwight Carter, Syble Vaughan-Trent, Eugene Christian, B.D. Cradic, Fred Castle, Hubert Neal, Linda Kimbro, and Lynn Short.