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AG: Ryans wrong to serve dual roles

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By Damon Lawrence

The issue of Jim Ryans serving on the Roane County Board of Public Utilities and the Roane County Election Commission became moot locally when he resigned from the utilities board in July 2012.
Before he stepped down, state officials had sought an opinion on the matter from Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr.
Cooper finally issued one last week.
“A member of the Roane County Election Commission may not serve as a member of the Roane County Board of Public Utilities,” the opinion said.
Ryans was already serving on the utilities board when he was appointed to the election commission in April 2009. The State Election Commission would not address his dual roles until a meeting in Nashville in June 2012. State spokesman Blake Fontenay said it was at that meeting that officials decided to seek the opinion from Cooper.
State law, the opinion said, prohibits a county or municipal employee from serving on a county election commission.
“This office has previously opined that members of a county civil service board were ‘employees’ within the meaning of Tenn. Code Ann. 2-1-112(a)(1), even though they were not full time, because, pursuant to statutory authority, the county commission provided a salary or compensation for those members,” the opinion said. “Similarly, the compensation authorized by Tenn. Code Ann. 5-16-103(f)(7)(A) and provided to members of the Roane County Board of Public Utilities is sufficient to make them employees of the county within the meaning of Tenn. Code Ann. 2-1-112(a)(1), even if they are not full time.”
Ryans is one of three Republicans on the five-member county election commission. He’s also the chairman of the Roane County Republican Party.