Mercifully, I was not there that awful dayToday's Knoxville News-Sentinel details what more about what supposedly happened in the lead-up to the January 31 Knox County Commission meeting that became infamous for the appointment of eight Knox County Commissioners without public input. The paper has sued, claiming that the Open Meetings Act (more popularly known as the Tennessee Sunshine Law) was violated repeatedly that day by nearly all Commissioners present.
The News-Sentinel does manage to detail somewhat accurately the reality of the struggle between backers of corrupt Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison. I have openly admitted my sympathies for the Sheriff and his backers before, but two things become clear as the story of what happened that day becomes more apparent. The friends of the Sheriff-however just I believe their cause might have been-behaved in a way that did great discredit not only to the very concept of free government, but to the man whose ideas they represented, Sheriff Hutchison. Hutchison served Knox County as Sheriff for nearly 17 years, and has been a bulwark against the corruption in Ragsdale's office-precisely the reason for the political showdown between the two sides. That Hutchison would have sat back and allowed his supporters to behave in the manner in which they did tarnished his own character in the eyes of many who had previously thought well of him.
Then there was the Mayor, who was no less vocal about the fact that if he didn't get his way, he would not assist the districts where Commissioners didn't vote with him.
“He asked me who I was going to support — Lee Tramel or Scott Davis,” Ivan Harmon recalled. “I said, ‘I’m supporting Lee Tramel.’ The mayor more or less said, ‘Well, if you support Lee Tramel, I can’t support your district.’ Of course, he says he didn’t say that but I had no reason to lie to him about it or anybody, but he just didn’t feel like Lee would be a good team player.”
"Team player" in Ragsdalespeak means "he will not always do as I want or bend to my absolute will." So as the Sheriff and his backers were making manuvers to use the process to clean the Ragsdale people off the Commission, Ragsdale was equally busy threatening those who would not do as he wanted with cutting their districts off from his plans for the county. This shatters the myth that Ragsdale set about perpetuating after the fact that he-the living Saint of the whole affair-was completely opposed to this backroom wheeling and dealing. He himself was actively engaged therein.
The tragedy is that people who I believe are good people with the right motives for being involved in public service-folks like Lumpy Lambert-got caught in the trap of self-interest that this entire proceeding created. Lambert was not alone in his belief that the process of replacing these term-limited Commissioners was a golden opportunity to run the Ragsdale crowd off and render the county's shady chief executive powerless.
“I said, ‘OK, if you are not a Ragsdale man, will you go find yourself a judge, get sworn in and cast a vote and break this tie for my buddy, Lee Tramel?’ I said, ‘The press will eat you alive for that, but if you are really not a Ragsdale man’ and he said, ‘Oh, no, no, I won’t do that.’ I’m like, ‘OK, that’s what I thought.’ ”
Lumpy became so concerned with beating Mike Ragsdale that getting the County Mayor's pants in a wad became more of a concern than doing what was in the public's best interest. Both sides became so obsessed with being the immediate political winners that they cared not what the public might make of the way they were conducting the people's business.
By the way, for those who think that Mark Harmon is the one with clean hands in all of this, I have heard from multiple sources that Harmon made it clear that day that he would only be pleased if liberals were appointed to these Commission seats. Mark Harmon has his own agenda, too.
As for me, I hate to say that I am glad I never finished my campaign for the 2A seat. I might-just might have beaten Harmon because unlike David Collins, I never had the specter of flouting the wishes of the people over my head. However, had I been serving on that day, I fear that no matter which way I might have come down, the people would have been the losers. I am thankful in the end that I was never in a situation where I had to come away feeling that I had "blood on my hands." When I realized our family could be moving, I remember how disappointed that I felt that I couldn't finish the campaign. I was sore over it for several days after I made the decision because I had wanted to serve so badly-and serve was all I had in my heart to do.
As the events that led up to January 31 in Knox County unfolded, I began to see that the Lord knows far better than we do when certain things ought to happen. I now see it as an act of God's mercy that I was not on the Knox County Commission in January. I do not have to deal with sleepless nights and endless trips to the confessional as a result. I leave it to Mark Harmon to try to avoid going to the commode to vomit after every Knox County Commission meeting, for the conscience of any man or woman in that corrupt government should surely cause them to throw up.