The Unicoi County Policy Committee met on Jan. 9 to discuss several issues, including Unicoi County Courthouse holiday closures, county employee workers compensation and changes to the county employee handbook.
Unicoi County Commissioner and Policy Committee Chairman Dwight Bennett told committee members, commissioners and county officeholders in attendance at the meeting that recent citizen complaints regarding courthouse holiday closures prompted him to bring the issue before the policy committee.
Myself and some of the other commissioners have been asked why the courthouse was closed here and there and I had to admit I didnt know, Bennett said.
Bennett presented copies of a Tennessee Attorney Generals opinion from 1998 to committee members, commissioners and officeholders which stated that Tennessee Code Annotated statute 15-1-101 allows for only 11 legal holidays: January 1; the third Monday in January for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; the third Monday in February for Washington Day; Memorial Day in May; July 4; Labor Day in September; Columbus Day in October; November 11 for Veterans Day; Thanksgiving Day in November; December 25; and Good Friday.
According to a copy of the opinion distributed at the meeting: The Tennessee Attorney General has opined that the only days that county offices are authorized to close are those listed in the statute.
The opinion cited the case of Wright v. Blalock as evidence that the closure of courthouse offices can, according to the opinion, have serious consequences.
For example, in the case of Wright v. Blalock, a clerk of court closed the clerks office on the day after Thanksgiving, which is not a legal holiday, and a litigant was unable to file a notice of appeal that was due on that date, and the court refused to extend the time for filing the notice of appeal.
Bennett said the 11 legal holidays were all that they are authorized to give employees.
Other holiday information circulated during the meeting to committee members stated that the county legislative body has no statutory authority to establish uniform courthouse hours and require other officials to remain open or closed during these schedule hours.
For the remainder of this article please see the January 22, 2013 edition of The Erwin Record.