Beautification issue takes ugly turn

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2007

MURFREESBORO – Emotions ran high as a strong discussion took place here between Mayor Lynn Johnson and Councilman Bill Theodorakis after council members voted to dissolve the town’s beautification committee.

At Tuesday evening’s Murfreesboro Town Council meeting, council members voted unanimously to dissolve the beautification committee pending further notification by the council, despite opposition from committee members and Johnson.

The motion was placed on the floor by Theodorakis and seconded by Councilman Bill Stephens during committee reports.

After the motion, beautification committee member Elizabeth Phillips voiced her disapproval, calling the decision “unjust.” She also noted the special town council meeting held on Monday, in which only Councilwoman Sarah Wallace attended.

Other than Wallace, the council members that did not attend said they had previous engagements. Stephens was reportedly the only one who offered his reason in a timely manner.

Phillips said Monday’s meeting was to discuss guidelines for the committee to follow at the discretion of the council.

It was also stated that the beautification committee had a long history with town and is listed on the Murfreesboro Town Charter.

Johnson said she agreed and wanted to exercise an executive override on the council members’ motion. Town Attorney Bob Lee informed Johnson she could not override the decision.

“I don’t think we have anything about it,” he said.

When Phillips asked Theodorakis for a reason why the committee was being, he refused to state an explanation.

“I’d rather not say,” said Theodorakis.

When Johnson said the committee deserved an explanation, Theodorakis fired back.

“You don’t tell me what to do,” said Theodorakis, pointing his finger at Johnson. “You don’t tell me what to do.”

“I think we can take a recess for five minutes,” said Johnson who was noticeably upset.

“I think you should,” stated Theodorakis.

The mayor then knocked the gavel and walked out of the meeting room. She returned after the five minutes were up and took her seat.

The motion was then passed without objection.

In later separate interviews, ex-beautification committee members Craig Dennis and Phillips shared their displeasure with the council’s decision.

“They have deliberately done this to work against our mayor,” said Dennis. “Everything we’ve done they’ve been against.”

Dennis listed various projects the committee has been involved with in the past, which consist of weeding public gardens and planting trees and flowers.

Phillips described the decision “disturbing” and mentioned some of the projects the committee had done in the past, including placing the large flower planters that adorn Main Street.

“We only aim to beautify Murfreesboro,” she said.

Phillips said the ex-committee members will continue their work despite the board’s decision through Friends for Beautification, a group that held fundraisers for the now dissolved committee.

According to Phillips, the beautification committee was allotted $3,000 from the town each year, until July when it was raised to $5,000.