JASPER, Tenn. — When auditors recently reviewed Marion County's Title VI policies at the county assessor's office, they discovered there were no guidelines governing limited English proficiency.
At the Marion County Commission's October meeting, County Attorney Billy Gouger said Title VI of United States code requires that local governments have a limited English proficiency policy.
"It's simply a policy that's designed to provide translation services for any residents or citizens within your community or your county that may not have English as their first language," he said.
The policy covers various courts and other government services, but Gouger said it does not extend to the school system.
"They're entitled to the same benefits as the English-speaking members of your community, so that's what this policy does," he said. "It is compliant with federal law."
Translators are typically provided free of charge to the county in the court system, Gouger said.
The board voted 12-1 to approve the new policy.
Commissioner Tommy Thompson, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he had read through all of the paperwork about the policy and was concerned about its ramifications.
"I think it's ridiculous to ask the taxpayers to be doing something like this," he said. "One of the first requirements should be if they immigrate to this country, they should learn our language to start with."
Commissioner Matt Blansett asked if there would be any civil liability for the county or for any individual board members if the board did not accept the policy.
"There won't be any civil liability, but it would jeopardize [Marion's] eligibility for federal funds if you don't have a policy adopted," Gouger said. "That's the punishment."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.