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Mabe’s ethics questioned

Members of the Washington County Ethics Committee decided during a hearing Friday to recommend no further action be taken regarding Clarence Mabe’s alleged violation of the county ethics code.
Mabe, a Washington County School Board member, was accused of violating the conflict of interest statute by operating three automatic teller machines in government buildings.
Former Washington County Mayor George Jaynes, who appeared voluntarily at the hearing, said he was not required to ask anybody for permission to allow Mabe to install the ATM machines.
Jaynes said he tried for almost seven years while in office to get ATMs for the government buildings in response to the many requests he received.
Saying he believed it was important to have ATMs in the courthouse, Jaynes noted that marriage licenses can only be purchased with cash, county clerks’ offices do not accept out-of-state checks, and cash is regularly needed to pay fees, post bail, and contract with a bondsman.
Jaynes asked for help from several local banks, including First Tennessee, Washington County and Andrew Johnson banks, he said.
“They all said they would get back to me within a month, and I never heard from any of them,” he said.
According to Jaynes, the topic later came up during a casual conversation with Mabe, who offered his services.
The first ATM was installed in the Washington County Courthouse in August.
“It could not be placed outside the building due to the regulations of the Jonesborough Historic District,” Jaynes said.
ATMs were later installed in the Justice Center and the jail.
Whether the location of the machines in government buildings represented a conflict of interest was questioned by County Commissioner Sam Humphreys during the September meeting of the Washington County Commission. Mabe removed the ATMs from all three locations within days of that meeting.
“I still see no conflict of interest because the school board has nothing to do with these offices,” Jaynes said.
But County Attorney John Rambo begs to differ.
“It is John’s legal opinion that Clarence is a county official by his membership on the school board and, therefore, subject to the Washington County Code of Ethics,” reported ethics committee member John Kiener in Rambo’s absence.
Section 10 of the Code of Ethics states: “Neither county employees, members of the county legislative body, nor other officials of the county, shall be financially interested, or have any personal beneficial interest, either directly or indirectly, in any contract or purchase order for any supplies, materials, equipment or contractual services used by or furnished to any department or agency of Washington County government.”
Jaynes said Mabe, who was not in attendance at last week’s hearing, was offering the ATMs as a service to the county.
“He wasn’t selling the county anything, he wasn’t making any money off of the county, and it wasn’t costing the county anything,” Jaynes said, adding that no purchase order was ever requested because no contract with the county was signed.
“Clarence did not realize he was doing anything wrong,” said Circuit County Clerk Karen Guinn, committee member.
During the Nov. 22 meeting of the Washington County Commission, a representative of the Ethics Committee was expected to recommend the county legislative body take no further action against Mabe and the matter be dismissed.
Mabe’s ATMs will not be reinstalled in the government buildings. However, Jaynes said he believed the service was still needed and encouraged county leaders to replace them as soon as possible.