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Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey says he's embarrassed and his colleagues looked "weak and confused" after two commission initiatives went "down in flames" at Wednesday's meeting.

Mackey wasn't present Wednesday when commissioners Greg Martin and Joe Graham forced a public vote on whether to double their travel allowance, or when a group of court officials spoke forcefully against revamping the county's judicial commissioner program.

But he weighed in Thursday in an email sent to fellow commissioners, County Mayor Jim Coppinger, County Attorney Rheubin Taylor and others.

"Yesterday was not a good day in the eyes of our constituents for as a bid [sic] we looked weak and confused," Mackey wrote in the email.

"Truth be told I felt a bit embarrassed with two big Commission initiatives going down in flames. All of us are seasoned enough to where our egos shouldn't need to be fed with media attention."

Mackey last week accused Graham and Martin of being headline-grabbers and said they should just "shut up" when they publicly opposed doubling the travel allowance from $12,500 to $25,000 a year. Most commissioners don't spend what they're getting now, and many roll the funds over to a new year and then hand them out as donations in their districts.

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Some commissioners told the Times Free Press last week they support having a pot of money they can use for good causes in their districts. But when Martin and Graham on Wednesday forced a vote to keep the travel fund amounts the same in fiscal 2019, only Commissioner Chester Bankston voted no.

Chairman Randy Fairbanks later said Mackey and Commissioner Greg Beck were the ones who asked him to seek the budget increase. That request wasn't publicly discussed, though Coppinger included it in his general fund budget presentation Tuesday.

Mackey's email also appeared to decry Graham's proposal to revamp the judicial commissioner program to save what he says could be as much as $400,000 a year.

"When policies invoked years and decades ago by Commissioners who were much sharper than us and those policies have stood the test of time then we need to be very very cautious in using our pea sized brains to try and improve them," Mackey wrote.

"FOLKS TURN IT DOWN A NOTCH AND QUIT SEEKING THE SPOTLIGHT. ... As we approach this next term is it possible for us to seek to take care of the people's business and move on. WE ALL DO OUR HOMEWORK. If you need attention please do it on your own time."

Among the commissioners, only Graham responded Thursday to a request for comment on Mackey's email.

"Yesterday was what good government is all about," Graham said in a text message. "We had an open meeting to discuss an idea publicly, again good government!!! As for the other issue 7 out of 8 commissioners voted again in the open, great day in Hamilton County on both issues.

"Good Government is open and transparent, great great day for Hamilton County!!!"

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

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