County attorney tells Manning he can’t legally continue as highway commissioner

J. H. Osborne • Feb 13, 2014 at 12:17 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — As what was predicted to be a heavy, wet snowstorm moved into the region Wednesday afternoon, Sullivan County officials were embroiled in a courthouse battle over who was or was not in charge at the county’s highway department.

County Attorney Dan Street confirmed to the Times-News at about 4 p.m. that he had just met with Bobbie Manning to tell Manning he could not legally continue to perform official duties as successor to the highway commissioner.

Why? Because the Sullivan County Commission — which hasn’t met since Jan. 21, the day Manning’s role as successor was made public — hasn’t approved a $100,000 surety bond Manning secured last week.

The bond arrived this week, but another county official was advised by a state agency that to be recognized the bond must be approved by the county commission — which doesn’t meet again until next week.

Street said Manning left their courthouse meeting saying he was going back to work.

“I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it,” Manning told the Times-News a couple of hours later.

Manning said Street told him he was in violation of state law and the district attorney could come after him.

Street told the Times-News the violation in question would be a Class C misdemeanor — the lowest crime possible.

“But a crime is a crime,” Street said.

“I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a job to do, and if the district attorney wants to come after me, he can come after me,’” Manning said. “I asked if I don’t have any authority, well then who has any authority at the highway department, and he said he didn’t know.”

When the County Commission meets next Tuesday, it is expected there will be motions to appoint an interim highway commissioner. That person, too, will have no authority until they get bonded and the bond is approved by the County Commission — a process that could take another month or more, Street said.

“If they appoint someone other than Bobbie, that person will be in the same predicament Bobbie is in,” Street said.

For an expanded version of this article, please see Thursday’s print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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