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Sullivan looking at cell phones for county commissioners

J. H. Osborne • Jan 15, 2020 at 5:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A proposal to provide publicly funded cell phones to Sullivan County’s 24 commissioners, the county attorney and the county mayor is on the agenda for the Sullivan County Commission’s meeting Thursday.

Sponsored by Commissioner Hunter Locke and Commissioner John Gardner, the proposal would cost $1,039.74 per month.

That’s based on a monthly rate plan option through FirstNet, which Locke said provides cell phone service for first response emergency workers across the state. The total monthly cost is for 26 phones at $39.99 each per month. Locke said the plan through FirstNet would allow the county to be month-to-month rather than having to enter into an annual contract.

Why

Locke and Gardner’s proposal comes a month after County Attorney Dan Street spoke to the commission about using their private email addresses or electronic devices, such as cell phones. Street said he wanted to make sure commissioners were aware any communications regarding county business are considered public. That means they are subject to requests from the public to review such communications.

Street said the number of such public requests is on the increase and likely to continue to grow. He told commissioners the best option is simply not to conduct county business on personal devices.

Locke said the proposal for county-issued cell phones aims to make that easier.

Commissioner Hershel Glover asked if having a county-issued cell phone would mean his personal cell phone wouldn’t be subject to also being taken in the event of a public records request for his communications involving county business.

Street said if commissioners continue to use their private cell phones for county business, then their cell phones would still be “exposed.” But he also explained that doesn’t mean anyone could physically take the phone. 

“It’s what’s on the phone,” Street said.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday at 6 p.m on the second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse.

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