Effort to change Tenn. law to let city contract with medical director fails

Heather Mullinix
Crossville Chronicle

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — An effort to change state law and allow the city of Crossville to contract with a medical director failed to receive a supermajority from the Crossville City Council.

Councilman Rob Harrison moved to direct the city attorney to draft a resolution for a private act from the Tennessee General Assembly, supported by Councilman Scot Shanks.

“It would enhance our medical services for the people of Crossville for very little money,” Harrison said.

Major James Mayberry said during the July 5 work session, “We’ve been told no three times … I think it’s a waste of time.”

The city had sought an opinion from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service regarding its ability to contract with Dr. Mark Fox as medical director. Fox, a surgeon, had previously served in the role, assisting the Crossville Fire Department while also serving as the county’s medical director and overseeing Cumberland County Emergency Medical Services.

The city paid Fox $200 a month and provided him with a vehicle that allowed him to respond to emergency scenes. They also paid for an additional medical liability insurance policy.

The county appointed a new medical director in April.

The city has an agreement with the county to offer emergency first responder medical services through the county’s EMS service, and the medical protocols established by the county’s medical director.

During the discussion in May, Fox said there are several things he could do that would not fall under the city’s agreement for first responder services, such as the firefighter cancer surveillance program, the city’s AED program and workplace safety training.

“Those things need oversight that is out of the purview and the responsibility of the county EMS medical director,” Fox said.

Fox said he could respond with the fire department on a mutual-aid call in a neighboring county to assist with rescue of an injured hiker, for example, and the firefighters could administer advanced care.

Fox has responded to emergency scenes. When doing so, Fox said, “I’m not responding as a first responder. I’m the most advanced responder. I’m not responding under the auspices of the county EMS medical director. I’m a standalone entity.”

That distinction led to the request for an opinion from the MTAS.

Ridley noted that as a representative of the city, he did not feel Fox was a “standalone entity.”

At the June council meeting, Ridley said the opinion of MTAS is that the contract is null and void.

Fox could become a volunteer firefighter or first responder, Ridley said, but the city could not contract with him and needed to take possession of the city vehicle that had been provided to Fox.

The Tennessee General Assembly can pass a “private act” that impacts a specific county or city. These acts are typically considered at the request of the local governing body.

Ridley noted the vote to pursue a private act required a supermajority by the council — at least four votes.

Then, he could draft a resolution the panel that local representatives would take to Nashville, though they are not required to introduce legislation.

A private act must pass the state House and Senate and be signed by the governor and then returned to the requesting governing body.

Mayberry said a private act would take at least a year to be introduced and considered by the General Assembly.

“You have to write the proposal then get your legal to go over it and then send it to the state and their legal, and then you go back and forth,” Mayberry said.

He added he wasn’t going to “hold back” anything, but added again, “I think it’s a waste of time.”

Ridley said the state would determine if the private act would constitute a change in the city’s charter, which would require a referendum by the voters, or if approval by the council was sufficient.

Ridley said the state may also determine a general law change is necessary rather than a private act.

“They may say they can’t make an exception for the city because of general health codes,” he said. “They’ll make that decision. We just send the resolution and it’ll be up to your representatives to work it through the session.”

Councilman RJ Crawford asked, “If we passed this, we would be unique across the state?”

Mayberry said, “Yes.”

Voting in favor were Harrison, Shanks and Councilman Art Gernt. Mayberry and Crawford voted against.

The motion failed for lack of a supermajority. Ridley noted council standing rules prohibit bringing an item back before the council for 90 days after it is acted upon.


(c) 2022 the Crossville Chronicle (Crossville, Tenn.)

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