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How will hopefuls handle positions?

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

Commissioner James Harmon still wants the Roane County Commission to have the power to eliminate the office of constable.

He repeated his position during last week’s commission meeting.

“It doesn’t mean that we would vote to do away with constables, but our authority as a county commission has been disenfranchised,” Harmon said.

Deprivation could continue to hinder the commission when it comes to constables. As it stands now, the county has no authority to eliminate the office.

In order to have that power, the commission will need its legislative delegation to move a private act through the state legislature.

The commission passed a resolution in January to ask its representation to do just that, but state Rep. Dennis Ferguson and state Sen. Tommy Kilby didn’t act on it.

Constables are elected by voters in the districts they serve, and the position gives them law enforcement powers.

The commission had a lengthy discussion the night it passed the resolution, and another one could be all for nought if the legislators don’t act on their request.

Ferguson described himself as a big fan of constables, and would only say he’ll consider the commission’s wishes should it send another resolution to Nashville.

Kilby is stepping down and the frontrunners to replace him, Republican Ken Yager and Democrat Becky Ruppe, have both had good things to say about constables.

Yager said his experience with them was always positive during his 24 years as Roane County executive.

Ruppe is the county executive for Morgan County. She said her county doesn’t have constables, but she understands they can serve an important need.

“They ought to be welcomed with open arms if they do the job the way it needs to be done,” Ruppe said. “You wouldn’t want them out investigating a murder scene, but they can do a lot of other things that can be very helpful.”

Yager said he would file private acts if requested to do so by the local governments in the senate district, provided they are endorsed by a two-thirds majority. That would amount to a 10-5 vote on the Roane County Commission. The constable resolution approved in January passed by an 11-4 vote.

That still might not have been enough to convince Ruppe. She said she’d like votes to be unanimous.

“Anytime something is serious enough to send to the legislature for a private act, I’d like to see that be 100 percent,” Ruppe said. “So as a legislator, if I had something requested of me that wasn’t 100 percent, I might not put as much faith into that as something that did.”

Many commissioners started to wonder if the constable position was worth having because of the controversy surrounding Mark Patton.

He was elected as constable in 2006, and was allegedly using the position to harass people, including police officers. The county wouldn’t give Patton his job back after he flipped-flopped on a resignation, but he was reinstated last month, thanks to a chancellor’s ruling.

Following the hearing, Patton returned to the front steps of the courthouse carrying a large stick with a pis-tol holstered to his side. He got into an argument with Sheriff Jack Stockton in the parking lot, which prompted the sheriff to pull out his pistol.