SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn.. - There are new facts concerning the controversy at the Sullivan County Highway Department.
News 5 learned the interim commissioner has been bonded and will remain the head of the department for now.
Wednesday morning, interim Sullivan County highway commissioner Bobby Manning told us he paid the $9,000 premium to be bonded. "It is complete, the only thing we are waiting on is the actual certificate itself," he said.
A bond means someone pledges that if Manning does anything wrong, and it costs the county money, they will cover the costs up to $100,000.
Former highway commissioner Terry Shaffer appointed Manning on December 23; from that day, it took him 45 days to get a bond.
We learned that state law requires appointed officials such the highway commissioner to be bonded before officially starting work.
News 5 asked the county attorney Daniel Street why Manning was in the position before he was bonded. "I think [through] black letter law, that there may be a violation. I think that to a certain extent there's an impossibility of performance. I think if you go back and look at records, there are probably many officials that have taken office before there bonds were officially recorded," said Street.
But as commissioner, Manning has not only looked after the roadways; last week he fired seven employees in the department, all without being bonded.
Those in employees turned to Kingsport attorney Bruce Shine. "I don't believe that he had the authority to fire these individuals," he said.
Shine tells us Manning's actions were illegitimate. "There is no question that he is sitting in an office that outside the door it says 'highway commissioner,' but he has not complied with the statutes of Tennessee to take that office," said Shine.
County attorney Daniel Street tells us, as procedure, the county commission is expected to meet in the next couple weeks. They are expected to appoint an interim highway commissioner until the voters decide in the August elections.
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