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Part-time job pays $93,000-plus

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And if you live in Roane County, guess what? You’re probably footing the bill

By Damon Lawrence

Imagine a part-time job that pays more than $93,000.

Moreover, if you pay taxes in Roane County, you’re footing the bill.

Despite being a part-time job, the position of Roane County attorney pays $93,775.

That’s more than the salaries of the sheriff and road superintendent, who each make $81,208, work full time and supervise government staffs.

One county commissioner questioned the logic of the situation this week.

“Currently our county attorney’s package is set up like you would a full-time employee with the benefits and everything,” Commissioner Ron Berry said.

Berry said doing away with the position and hiring a lawyer on retainer to help the county with legal matters would save the taxpayers money. He submitted a resolution that would have asked the Tennessee General Assembly to repeal the private acts that established Roane’s elected county attorney position.

The resolution was defeated by a 9-5 vote on Monday.

Commissioners James Brummett, Ray Cantrell, Bobby Collier, Randy Ellis, Nick Forrester, Carolyn Granger, Chris Johnson, Stanley Moore and Fred Tedder voted against Berry’s resolution.

Berry, Copper Bacon, Benny East, Steve Kelley and George Nelson voted for it.

“It’s not really an appropriate position for an election,” Kelley said.

The county attorney position is currently held by Tom McFarland. He’s not seeking re-election because he’s running for circuit court judge.

Rockwood City Attorney Greg Leffew has filed a petition to run for county attorney in the August election.

Harriman City Attorney Harold Balcom has yet to file the petition he picked up for county attorney, according to the election commission website.

With no incumbent in the race, Berry said he thought this was an ideal time to do away with the elected position.

“I think this is the time we can look at this and see if we can not only save the taxpayers money, but probably restructure this to where we have a part-time job and set it up as a part-time compensation with none of the benefits that we’re having to pay now,” Berry said.

The county attorney’s total budget is $122,731.

That includes the $93,775 salary, $26,456 in benefits and $2,500 for travel.

If the private acts establishing Roane’s elected county attorney got repealed, Berry’s resolution said the county would be governed under the general law that places the responsibility of employing or retaining a lawyer with the county executive.

“There’s a number of counties under general laws,” County Executive Ron Woody said. “There’s a number of counties under private acts.”

Kelley said having an attorney work on retainer for the county was a reasonable thing to do.

Ellis called for defeat of Berry’s resolution.

“This has been an elected official’s job elected by the people of Roane County,” he said. “It really bothers me to take that choice from the people.”

McFarland’s term as county attorney expires on Aug. 31.

He said Roane County is getting a deal for his services.

“Every month they’ll give anywhere from one to three cases to file in chancery court,” he said. “Most lawyers will charge anywhere from $2,500 to $7,500 to take a case in chancery court, so it don’t take much of that math to see that the county attorney’s salary is pretty much a bargain to the county.”