Macon County Chronicle

Wheel Tax to Increase, Meeks Resigns

The second and final vote passed to increase the county-wide wheel tax levy from $40 to $50 for motor driven vehicles when the commissioners met in a Legislative Body session on Monday night, July 20th. The $10 increase, from $30 to $40 will also be applied to motorcycles, motor-driven bicycles and scooters, according to the resolution.

Voting for the additional wheel tax were Commissioners Billy Bransford, David Crowder, Vernon Biggs, Jeff Hughes, Billy West, Jerry Ray, Scott Gammons, Larry Tucker, Ralph Doss, Tony Boles, Annette Looper, Junior Spears, Ronnie McDuffee, Helen Hesson, Grant Malo, Benton Bartley and Rosetta Driver.  Voting Opposed was commissioner Mike East. Commissioner Phillip Snow was absent from the meeting.

Should ten percent of the citizens that voted in the past gubernatorial election, petition in disagreement, the proposal for a wheel tax increase would then require a referendum to be held.  
Twice before the wheel tax has been voted on by citizens, with roughly two-thirds voting in favor each time.  

Judicial Commissioner Ralph Meeks, who commissioners voted to replace earlier this month after a formal complaint was made against him, submitted his resignation to county mayor Shelvy Linville. The commission voted to accept his resignation and Linville read Meeks’ letter aloud.

Commissioners received a copy of a letter from District Attorney General Tommy Thompson regarding Meeks’ replacement, in which he stresses the importance of the position and the need for a capable replacement. See letter below . . .

 Dear Mayor Linville:

The positions of Judicial Commissioners were created in the smaller counties because the clerks and deputy clerks could not work all day and also be called out at all times on the weekends or nights.  The Federal wage laws required another system using judicial commissioners.

Smaller counties normally use part-time people while counties like Wilson have four or five full time people covering night and weekends.  The system has worked pretty well.

The judicial commissioners are appointed for terms and cannot be removed except for cause during the four-year term.  I understand the Macon County Commission heard complaints last week and took the first step to replace Commissioner Meeks.

The position of judicial commissioner is not an easy job.  Their decisions, which are normally after hours, determine whether or not a person will be arrested and booked.  The judicial commissioner has no educational requirements other than being a high school graduate.  There is training available after the appointment.

The judicial commissioner must determine “probable cause” prior to issuing a warrant.  They can listen to the complainant and decide three things.  First, they can decide there is probable cause or reasonable evidence the defendant committed the offense and the issue was committed by the defendant and refuse to issue the warrant. The third option is to tell the complainant there needs to be an investigation by law enforcement prior to simply giving the person a warrant.  Should there be any real question, this is what the commissioner should do.

Whoever the Commission appoints should be someone they would be comfortable with to issue warrants for or against their own family. The person should not be lazy and should be one who has sound judgment. The position is so important for if a warrant is issued wrongly, the person is arrested, booked, photographed, and fingerprinted.  The record is then included permanently in the State and Federal photo and fingerprint records.  Commissioner Meeks in one instance issued a warrant against a woman for breaking into her own home.  The couple was going through a divorce and the husband went to Commissioner Meeks.  The case was dismissed however only after she was arrested, fingerprinted and photographed.

Hopefully the committee working on selecting a new commissioner or commissioners will discuss the present problems and needs with Sheriff Mark Gammons, Clerk Rick Gann, Judge Witcher, and Judges Wootten and Durham.  Ralph Meeks is a good man however he is not in the best of health.  He clearly does not have the energy or stamina to be on call seven nights a week making the important decisions.  Macon County is busy enough to have two people as Judicial Commissioner.

This office will gladly assist in any way, including helping to train whoever is chosen. Most judicial commissioners call out attorneys when they run into legal problems.  Please feel free to call if you have questions.

Tommy Thompson