Friday, April 21, 2006

Suing Commissioners may have a point

Today’s News-Sentinel actually had a pretty good article about what would happen if Chancellor Weaver ruled that the Knox County Charter was invalid. Many County Ordinances passed under the authority of the invalid Charter could be made null and void. For those who don’t know, without a Charter, the County Commission would have to wait on the General Assembly to pass a “private act” before it could take final action on many ordinances. This is, however, the procedure for most counties in Tennessee.

I agree that Knox County needs an effective Charter, but I think the Plaintiffs in the suit before the Chancery Court may actually have a point: Based on what I have read of the Charter, it seems to me to be an extremely flawed legal document. As Chancellor Weaver has pointed out, the Charter does not even spell out the responsibilities of most County officers, which means that it is relying on the Tennessee Code to do this instead. As a result of that, questions can be raised as to whether the Charter, which is supposed to be a kind of Constitution for the County to give it autonomous local government, is even valid, because it fails to do one of the key things constitutions should do-delineate the responsibilities of government officers.

Regardless of your opinion on term limits, the suing County Commissioners may have inadvertently done a tremendous public service by pointing out the blatant flaws in this document. Regardless of the outcome of the suit, perhaps we should consider drafting a new and more thorough Charter that actually does what such a document is supposed to do.


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