Jackson City Mayor Scott Conger believes there was a miscommunication between the city and the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower after being sent a cautionary note from Mumpower regarding Conger’s proposed bitcoin payment option for city employees.
Conger, who pitched the idea last year, wants to allow city employees to have the option to take a payroll deduction and convert the money to cryptocurrency through a third-party platform.
The letter came on the heels of a recent interview with the New York Times regarding Conger’s plan, stating that the comptroller’s office was “currently unaware of a provision in the law that authorizes the City to directly pay its employees or contractors in cryptocurrency.”
Mumpower stated that “such direct payments could run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other state wage laws.”
Conger believes an inquiry by a New York Times reporter triggered the letter through a miscommunication.
“I didn’t talk to Mumpower specifically (when I originally proposed the idea),” Conger said. “It was someone in his office, and so that was six or seven months ago.”
Conger emphasized that the city was never intending to directly pay its employees in cryptocurrency — only offer the option.
“We’ve been very clear that it’s a third-party platform,” he said in a virtual press conference. “It exactly mimics what our current payroll deduction for deferred compensation looks like. So I think it’s a great opportunity for us as a city to move the conversation forward — not just in this one instance of cryptocurrency payments, but how we can look at the big picture and set our goals high as to what we want Jackson to look like in 10 years.”
Mumpower alluded to the rapidly changing landscape of cryptocurrency in his letter, saying that based on “significant fluctuation in the cryptocurrency market in recent days,” his office would “therefore urge you to remember your fiduciary responsibility to the citizens and to govern accordingly as you make such decisions in the future.”
Conger addressed Mumpower’s concern regarding the fluctuating market.
“I think people get lost in the minutiae of it,” he said. “We talk about cryptocurrency and bitcoin, and there’s a lot of short term-volatility. If you zoom out since its inception, though, it’s up almost 273,000 percent. That’s a pretty good percentage.
“This (kind of asset) puts us on the same stage as Miami, New York, San Francisco…those are pretty great cities to be in company with when we’re talking about recruiting the next generation.”
Conger is taking the letter as a “great opportunity” to “forge a path.”
“What this has done has created a great opportunity for us,” he said. “Several states have passed statewide legislation on bitcoin and cryptocurrency, so with our government relations person, we’re working on setting up meetings next month with the comptroller, with the attorney general, with the commissioner of finance, governor’s office staff and some legislators to talk about state-wide, over-arching legislation.”
Pioneering this legislation will allow Jackson to meet the future needs of the growing area, according to Conger.
“For me, cryptocurrency isn’t the only thing we’re looking at,” he said. “How do we start attracting more people that are looking for that 21st century economy — those tech companies, entrepreneurs, small business owners? We don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket. We want to diversify how we attract people to Jackson. This is a way to do it.”
The Request for Purchase agreement is set to close on Feb. 9, allowing the city to move forward with a third-party cryptocurrency
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