NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A private meeting involving Lebanon city commissioners and department managers was accidentally broadcast Thursday live for anyone to hear for almost an hour.
It turns out a microphone in the city council chambers was hot, and none of the department heads knew that every word they said was being broadcast across Lebanon on the local cable channel.
According to city attorney Andy Wright, the unknown transmission happened Thursday from around 10:45 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. It was audio only.
Wright told News 2 Lebanon city commissioners from both the finance and public works departments, as well as two city department managers from water and gas, were at the private staff meeting.
The accidental broadcast was not recorded, but staff members at The Lebanon Democrat newspaper were able to capture approximately 15 minutes of the live audio, which contains excerpts about city employees.
Again, it was a thought that hit me. It was not Chris-driven. Right. Chris don’t [sic] care. I mean I hate to say it but you know it. He just don’t care [sic]. He isn’t even interested in generating any money. I know. He sat right back there. I saw that. I mean, he just doesn’t have any interest in it. And I don’t mean any disrespect to Chris, but Chris and them [sic] don’t want to do nothing [sic]. As a fire department, they don’t want to do nothing [sic].
Finance commissioner Robert Springer described the meeting as a normal department head staff meeting that they do multiple times per week. He says the department heads spoke about city issues like upcoming city council meetings, fire hydrants, and the budget.
When asked if he felt like the broadcast was embarrassing, Spring said, “It doesn’t bother me. We didn’t say anything negative about them.”
Jeff Baines is the commissioner of public works. He told News 2, “It was routine city business. Everything was positive. It’s how we operate our business. Everything we talked about we don’t just throw our stuff out. We make sure we got our act together. Pretty routine. Doing it 25 years.”
Ward 6 councilwoman Kathy Warmath says she watched a good portion of the broadcast and she was shocked.
“Anyone who wasn’t in the room was discussed, and that means other department heads. The tone they had was if you weren’t in the room, you were fair game. Basically, they broadcasted [sic] their true feelings about all of us,” she explained.
Warmath said every council member was referred to, and the mayor and other department heads were criticized.
“I was disappointed, wondering who else is hearing this disparaging discussion,” she added.
She said she’s most distressed by how the department heads speak about Lebanon city mayor, Philip Craighead.
“We’ve been trying to make him understand the budget but he still can’t understand the budget when it comes to the enterprise funds and things of that nature. I don’t think that would have been said.”
When asked about Warmath’s allegations, Springer said “I can’t tell you how any council person construes something. Obviously you need to talk to them about that. Nothing was said negative about the council as an entity or a body or anyone individually.”
Attorney Wright says the hot mic was just an accident. City officials say the broadcast was not recorded, at least not by the city.
News 2 asked the mayor what he thought about the story; he said he had no comment on the matter.