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Voters may have double decision on constables

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Butch Barding said he doesn’t have a problem with letting voters decide whether Roane County should do away with the office of constable.

Barding said he just has a problem with the question being on the same August ballot to elect constables.

The unusual juxtaposition could happen. The county commission’s legislative committee voted to send a resolution to the full commission that will ask its members to vote to abolish the office of constable, and then put the question to the voters in the Aug. 5 general election.  

“I think in August the people ought to have the choice to do it,” Commission Chairman Troy Beets said. “I think if they vote for it to go away in August, then it needs to go away. If they vote for it to continue, I will support it.”

Before the question can be put to the voters, the commission has to vote by a two-thirds majority (10-5) at two consecutive meetings to put it on the ballot.

Beets said the first vote will be at the April commission meeting. Barding is hopeful the majority needed to pass the resolution won’t be achieved.

“All we need is six to say let’s just leave it alone, forget it,” Barding said.

All Roane County constable positions will be on the ballot for the August election. Former constable Mark Patton, who was ousted from office last year, did not pick up a petition to run. 

Barding, a District 7 constable, expressed his concerns to the legislative committee about running for a position at the same time voters could choose to do away with it.          

“That’s the part that doesn’t make sense,” Barding said.

Commissioner David Olsen said it doesn’t make sense to him, either.

“How can people run for constable at the same time the possibility exists that the office will not exist?” Olsen said. “I think the resolution should say that if the county votes to abolish the office, the people that have won the election will continue on that job until the next term — basically that there will not be another election for constables.”

Despite Olsen’s reservations, the vote to send the resolution on to the full commission passed unanimously.

“I have no problems with the office of constable, except that I think in the long term that it needs to go away,” Olsen said. “It’s too confusing to have elected law-enforcement officials that are not the sheriff.”