President John Adams said, ours is a “government of laws and not of men.” This idea guides me when I recommend appointees to election commissions in Davidson, Sumner and Trousdale counties.
When looking for potential commissioners, I seek individuals who will follow Tennessee law to ensure the free and fair elections that are the foundation of our republic.
Moreover, I want commissioners who will call “balls and strikes” as they see them and not allow outside interests or pressure to sway their vote.
I personally made the commitment to each commissioner that I would never interfere in their voting process. They would never receive a call from me trying to influence them.
I believe every commissioner I have recommended lives up to these high expectations.
Davidson County Election Commission (DCEC) Chairman, Jim DeLanis is no exception.
When I recommended him for appointment, not only did I believe Mr. DeLanis would hold himself to the highest standards, but also that he brought a lifetime of legal experience that would enable him to guide the commission through hotly contested elections and contentious debates.
As covered in the media, the DCEC is currently grappling with a wide-ranging referendum that includes language to roll-back the recent property tax increase. This is an important, technical and contentious matter.
Whether we agree or disagree with the referendum, we all must support the independence of the commissioners to follow the law and vote their consciences without fear of reprisal.
Unfortunately, in this instance, it appears reprisal is exactly what has occurred, and Mr. DeLanis has been terminated by his employer because of his vote on this matter. According to Mr. DeLanis, his law firm was pressured by a client or clients in an effort to force him to change his vote or suffer the consequences.
This behavior is unacceptable!
In today's highly charged political and social media atmosphere, it is difficult to get capable, thoughtful people to engage in public service. The actions taken against Mr. DeLanis will only worsen this problem.
I have real concerns about the unintended consequences of some features of the referendum and do not support it. What I support, however, is that civic-minded citizens should feel free to serve their communities without fear of retribution. We must let the process work without unwarranted inference.
Regardless of the outcome of this referendum and appeals, we must have capable, thoughtful, civic-minded individuals serving for the betterment of our communities.
Senator Ferrell Haile D.Ph.
Speaker Pro Tempore
Sumner, Trousdale & Part of Davidson Counties