Hamilton County, Tennessee

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Transparency Grade
Budget Y
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Meetings P
Elected Officials P
Administrative Officials P
Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts P
Lobbying N
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Public records Y
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Local taxes Y
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County websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

Hamilton County is one of 95 counties in Tennessee. It is a member of the National Association of Counties, a government sector lobbying association.[1]The 2010 census reported the population at 336,463. The county seat is Chattanooga and the county is named for the first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.[2]

Chattanooga is ranked 8th out of America’s 100 largest metro areas for the best “Bang For Your Buck” city by Forbes magazine. The study measured affordability, housing rates, and more. Since 1990, Chattanooga has been recognized as a Tree City Community.[3]

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of Tennessee county websites

The good

  • The current budget is published and previous budgets are available for the last three years[4]
  • The calendar of meetings and meeting agendas are available[5]
  • Commission meetings and minutes are available.[6]
  • Names of elected officials, individual email contact forms, and a physical address is available[7]
  • Some names of administrative officials, including individual email address, individual phone numbers, and a physical address is available[8]
  • Permit applications are available for download[9] and zoning ordinances are available[10]
  • The current audit is published and previous audits are available for the last three years[11]
  • Bids are posted[12]
  • A public records contact is available and public records policies are available in a central location[13]
  • Tax revenues are available[14] and tax rates are published[15]

The bad

  • Many departments listed do not include the names of department heads.
  • Commission minutes are only archived for six months, as opposed to three years.
  • Commissioners do not have individual phone numbers and email addresses listed.
  • Other than statement of interests, a list of employed lobbyists is available, memberships to lobbying organizations, and associated fees are unavailable; Does not disclose if belongs to government sector lobbying associations.
  • Awarded contracts are unavailable.
  • Information on how to make a public records request is not provided on the site.

Public records request

In September 2009, the Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation group sought records from the county of "emails, studies, reports" and other documents relating to a proposed annexation by Chattanooga of about 4,000 homes.

The county told the group it could look at the county's website or talk to the county's attorney.

Kyle Holden, president of the anti-annexation group, objected to this, telling a local newspaper, "We just feel that the Tennessee Law is on our side as far as obtaining documents from the city and don't feel that we should have to go through attorneys to get this information."[16]

Elected Officials & Salaries

Name Title Salary
Jim Coppinger Mayor
Fred Skillern District 1 Commissioner
James Fields District 2 Commissioner
Mitch McClure District 3 Commissioner
Warren Mackey District 4 Commissioner
Gregory Beck District 5 Commissioner
Joe Graham District 6 Commissioner
Larry Henry District 7 Commissioner
Tim Boyd District 8 Commissioner
Chester Bankston District 9 Commissioner

Administrative Officials & Salaries

Name Title Salary
Bill Bennett Assessor of Property
Michael Compton Chief of Staff
Paula Thompson Clerk of Court
William Knowles County Clerk
Bill Cox District Attorney


The budget adopted for FY2012 is $184,213,210, lower than the 2011 budget. Forty percent of the fund is dedicated to operations, thirty-nine percent to employee compensation and twenty-one percent to employee benefits.[17]


The city of Chattanooga, the Hamilton County seat, received $42,902,366.56 of federal stimulus money in 3 contracts and 36 grants.[18]

Local taxes

Taxes (both property and business) generate the most revenue in 2012, expected to reach $135,260,272.

Included in property taxes is that portion of the property tax allocated to the General Fund, which is $1.3926 per $100 of assessed valuation. In FY 2012, one cent of tax revenue is estimated to generate $805,454, provided by the Assessor of Property. The Assessor monitors and evaluates newly completed construction not currently on property rolls, and makes projections of values on construction in progress that is expected to be completed by the date of the property tax levy.[19]

City In the News

  • In March 2012, Tennessee received a “C” in the State Integrity Investigation, a report that analyzes state governments’ accountability and risk for corruption. Even with the average grade, TN ranks #8 in the nation and is cited for establishing an ethics commission six years ago, although that commission has not yet issued a single ethics penalty and complaints are not made available to the public.[20]
  • In January 2012, the Chattanooga city attorney will investigate a city-owned tennis club, Champion’s Club, after an audit found its managers were operating it as a for-profit business and using city employees to help run it. Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder challenged the audit and claims that the problems in the results are due to lost records. The audit found that the manager operated a pro shop, giving lessons and conducting tournaments, while pocketing the revenue. The managers collected tens of thousands of dollars from events held at the publicly owned tennis courts, and in many cases, the money was never seen by the city.[21]
  • Also in January 2012, the Chattanooga City Council began investigating whether an $800,000 contract was awarded properly to a friend of the city’s chief of staff. The move comes after auditor Stan Sewell made public an informal review of city contracts and found that a those made to Excalibur Integrated Systems, Inc. were awarded without soliciting bids.[22]
  • Operation Tennessee Waltz was a sting operation set up by federal and state law enforcement agents, including the FBI and TBI. The operation led to the arrest of seven Tennessee state lawmakers and two “bagmen” in the indictment in May 2005. Additional arrests of two county commissioners, one from Hamilton County and Shelby County occurred days later. Three officials from Hamilton County were sentenced to time in prison and six officials were indicted from Memphis. Six of the elected officials were Democrats and two were Republicans.[23]

External links