Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Meeting between public officials stirs Sunshine Law concerns


Staff Writer

[email protected]

The upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school project has been the topic of conversation for the Washington County Board of Education lately. But Jonesborough Middle School has also been the site of a meeting between Washington County commissioners and board of education members.

At a joint meeting between the school board and the county’s Health Education and Welfare Committee, school board member Jack Leonard addressed a recent meeting that took place at the middle school. The meeting involved Tommy Burleson and Wayne Woods of Burleson Construction Company Inc., two board members (Mary Beth Dellinger and Phillip McLain) and Commissioner Joe Grandy.

McLain said that Commissioner Tom Krieger was also present. He also said that Grandy called to invite him to the meeting at Jonesborough Middle School.

“It was my understanding that Mr. Grandy wanted to be sure that we all knew what Tony Street explained here as to what the changes would be to the middle school,” McLain said. “That’s simply put.”

The Jonesborough Middle School building is a site option for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school project. This design plan includes renovating existing portions of the school as well as adding onto the building. Other design options include renovating and adding onto the adjacent Jonesborough Elementary School building or renovating, tearing down the round portion and adding onto the elementary school.

“For me personally, I just wanted to have an understanding of what the scope of the project was for the remodel,” Grandy said at the board’s joint HEW committee meeting. “That’s all.”

At the joint meeting, Leonard said he and some other board members were not invited to the middle school meeting and asked Grandy if he thought the meeting had broken Tennessee’s Sunshine Law, which are in place to keep meetings between governing or “deliberative bodies” public. Leonard asked Grandy if the press was notified of the meeting. Grandy said there was no business discussed.

Board member Todd Ganger said he was invited to the meeting but did not attend because he felt it would break the Sunshine Law. Ganger also said he felt there was no need to walk through the middle school after the board had opted to renovate and tear down the round portion at Jonesborough Elementary School rather than renovate Jonesborough Middle.

“Why were you walking through the middle school when we voted on a scheme two to tear down the round?,” Ganger said. “The middle schools’s not even an issue now. The board voted to tear down the round and build new there. For me it was a simple solution; we don’t need to go through the middle school. The board’s already voted.”

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger said she got in touch with the school board attorney on the matter and that the group did not discuss or deliberate any decision that hadn’t already been voted on by the board.

“I was asked by a county commissioner to come and I am going to reach out to anybody,” Dellinger said. “I am that passionate about getting this school built.”

Board member Annette Buchanan asked if the director of schools knew about the meeting. Director Kimber Halliburton said she was aware of the meeting, but did not attend. She said she also suggested that Grandy invite all board members.

“Whenever two or more board members are meeting somewhere, as I was taught in my training, you let the press know that you are going to be there in case there is deliberation,” Leonard said at the board’s joint meeting. “That covers you and that covers everybody.”

“I do feel like, as Chairman of the board, Mr. Grandy, that I should have been notified of this meeting and all board members should have been invited to go through the walk through. Then proper procedures would have been done, the press would have been notified and people would have known we were walking through. Possibly the meeting wouldn’t have even occurred if we had been aware of it.”