Knox Commissioners disgrace themselvesRarely is it that I agree with Mark Harmon about much of anything in terms of issues. Indeed, had the initial decision from the Knox County Chancery Court not come down that overturned the Knox County Charter to begin with (which, thanks to the Tennessee Supreme Court ultimately led to the current crisis), and I had stayed in the race instead of moving, I might very well have faced Harmon for the 2A Commission seat in the August local election in Knox County.
In spite of my many disagreements with Commissioner Harmon's politics, Harmon is dead on about the need for the Knox County Commission to "re-do" the appointment process of January 31, since it is very clear that the Open Meetings Act was violated. This should not be a political issue, because no matter what a person's political views might be, it is very obvious that free government itself was dealt a blow by the entire process, and Harmon is not the only person in Knox County who feels violated by a process that wreaked of the kind of closed-door politics that were common in the South during the days of Huey Pierce Long.
To be certain, both Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and the Knoxville News-Sentinel have motives of their own that go beyond the public welfare here. For Ragsdale, this is merely a case of him not getting his own way-he doesn't like it in the least that people may serve on the County Commission who are unfriendly to his rule over Knox County. Hence, he will use the popular sentiment against this sham of a process to try and get a Commission more agreeable to his ways. If the public paid more attention to the abuses of Ragsdale's office, there would be as much or more anger directed at him as at the County Commission.
For the News-Sentinel, this charade of a lawsuit seems less about concern for the popular will as it is an attempt to curry favor with a public previously skeptical of the paper and its biases-not to mention continuing to enhance its cozy relationship with Mike Ragsdale.
Just because the KNS and Ragsdale may have ulterior motives, however, does not mean that the public of Knox County does not deserve a fair shake and that the suit brought for said motives does not serve the public good-clearly it does.
What is most disappointing about this entire process is that Commissioners who were believed to be trustworthy have shown themselves to be slaves of the political system they claimed to want to reform. Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert comes to mind in particular. Lambert ran on an anti-tax and anti-corruption platform, and received the endorsement of this weblog. From time to time, I have lauded Lumpy as an example of how a public servant ought to behave. Lambert chose to disgrace himself by flagrantly violating the sunshine law in order to negotiate appointments of Commissioners of his liking to certain seats. I have been told by several sources that this may have been done in an attempt for Lambert to "buy" support in certain quarters for a future run at countywide office in Knox County.
If Lumpy Lambert chooses to continue to behave in this way, I somehow doubt he will be elected to countywide anything-and neither he nor the other Knox County Commissioners who choose to abuse the law under the color of law deserve the public trust.
Labels: Local politics