HUNTSVILLE — Scott County Commission has accepted the resignation of embattled 5th District Commissioner Trent Cross, officially giving the county’s legislative body its first vacant seat in several years.
Commissioners voted Monday to accept Cross’s resignation. He had informally presented his letter of resignation from the legislative body a week earlier, when he attached it to an email reply of a meeting agenda distributed by Scott County Mayor’s Office Administrative Assistant Mary Ann Perdue. Cross said in the email that he intended to formally present his resignation at that evening’s meeting. Less than an hour later, however, the meeting was postponed due to snow.
Cross said it was “with a heavy heart and soul” that he was tendering his resignation, adding that the move was necessitated by a change of residence that would take him outside the 5th District he was elected to represent.
By doing so, Cross will be able to retain his appointment as Scott County’s medical examiner. Commissioners were set to vote on a recommendation by County Mayor Dale Perdue to remove him from that appointment, due to a finding by the State Comptroller’s Office as part of its annual audit.
“Over the past three and a half years I have had the opportunity to serve the citizens of the 5th District and Scott County as a whole,” Cross said. “I have tried tirelessly and with great expense to my family to serve the citizens that elected me to this position. Over this time I have fought for the best interests of the citizens of this great county we reside in. I unfortunately now find myself in a position where I can no longer provide the time nor effort it requires to adequately serve as a county commissioner. I will continue to pursue efforts to better Scott County and its citizens in other forms and endeavors to ensure we have a prosperous community for ourselves, children and grandchildren.”
Cross was elected in 2014 amid sweeping changes to the 14-member commission. He quickly rose in prominence on the legislative body, obtaining chairmanship of what are arguably the commission’s two most powerful committees — the Intergovernmental Committee and Budget Committee.
Cross, who also owns an Oneida medical practice, was named chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee as a freshman commissioner, and later replaced 2nd District Commissioner Sam Lyles as chairman of the Budget Committee.
While sparring with Perdue early on, Cross also championed alternative tax forms — including an amusement tax. The on-again, off-again tax debate covered more than two years before finally being rendered moot after failing to gain enough support for it to be forwarded to the state level. However, he later broached the idea of a fee for ATVs. That proposal made it to the state in the form of a private act before dying in a committee there.
Other outside-the-box ideas championed by Cross included a proposal to establish an industrial recruitment committee as an alternative to the Industrial Development Board of Scott County.
Cross was eventually named Scott County’s medical examiner after the death of Max Huff. He agreed to accept the position without pay to avoid a violation of a state statute. In August 2016, however, the Budget Committee that he chaired reinserted the medical examiner’s compensation in a move that was not discussed in a formal meeting of the full commission. That move, at an expense of $500 per month, drew the scrutiny of auditors with the state comptroller’s office and led to Perdue’s recommendation earlier this month to remove Cross from the appointment.
In 2017, Cross was arrested in Sevier County and accused of firing a handgun inside a public campground amid a late-night domestic dispute. He later pled guilty to reduced charges and was granted judicial diversion. It appeared that conviction would not leave him unable to seek re-election to his commission seat in the August 2018 general election. However, he said the change of residence would result in his resignation, effective Jan. 30.
“I have made some lifelong friends and welcomed all the knowledge and experience I have gained,” he said in the letter. “Due to me moving outside the 5th District, I will no longer be able to serve the citizens of the 5th District of Scott County, therefore I respectfully submit my resignation from this governing body effective at midnight on January 30th, 2018.
“I pray this body continues the proud work it has accomplished for the county and her citizens, and I ask that each of you seek guidance in prayer and constantly strive to make the best decisions possible for the wonderful people of this area and our fellow citizens,” he added.
Upon accepting Cross's resignation, commissioners were set to begin the task of finding a replacement to fill out the remainder of his term, which ends Aug. 31. County attorney John Beaty said the position would have to be advertised for two weeks. A deadline of Feb. 16 has been set for candidates to declare themselves for the vacancy. A replacement could be named as soon as the commissioners' next meeting on Feb. 19.