JCDA debt limit increase vote at center of legal debate

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Washington County commissioner wants an attorney’s ruling on a vote that happened Monday night.

Commissioners narrowly approved raising the debt ceiling for the Johnson City Development Authority with a 8-7 vote.

PREVIOUS STORY: Washington County Commissioners approve raising JCDA debt limit

Commissioner Kent Harris says the increase in the amount of tax increment finance debt was all about paying for the renovation of the John Sevier Center in downtown Johnson City.

“The debt ceiling was raised last night so the Johnson City Development Authority can come back to Washington County and ask for TIF funding (Tax Increment Financing) for the John Sevier Center in downtown Johnson City which is the project that Mr. Malone’s bank has loaned $4.6 million on,” said second district commissioner Harris.

Harris refers to fellow county commissioner Freddie Malone who he says should have abstained from voting Monday night.

“If you work for an employer who’s got that type of multi-million dollar investment in something that you could benefit from, the right thing to do is step aside,” Harris said.

Malone is an executive with Hometrust Bank. He was appointed by the county commission to represent the county on the the JCDA board.

“I do not manage or handle in any way the Johnson City Development Authority’s relationship with Hometrust Bank,” Malone said. “In any of those instances where I have a conflict I would indeed recuse myself but none exist here because I do not manage the Johnson City Development Authority relationship.”

Right after the lengthy Monday meeting, Harris asked the county attorney to get involved. Late Tuesday, she sent an email to all commissioners saying the matter could be reviewed by her or the county ethics committee.

“We’re not looking at something small, we’re looking at $4.6 million that was loaned by the bank that he works at,” Harris said.

News Channel 11 reached out to Harris after Washington Co. attorney Allyson Wilkinson sent that email. We have not received a response.

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