Friday, July 13, 2007

A pattern of abuse and corruption

There were many media outlets that didn't think the Tyler Harber Affair was noteworthy enough to follow up on-they did not think, apparently, that someone of Harber's arguably shady reputation could be indicating corruption on a much larger scale in the Knox County Mayor's Office. Only one major media personality kept the heat up constantly. The rest of the press didn't even get on the story until the furor was already fading. Virtually no one in the major local press (the Knoxville News-Sentinel has previously been known to treat Ragsdale as if he were the Second Coming) recognized that this story could be an indication of much larger problems in the Ragsdale regime in Knox County, Tennessee

Mike Ragsdale wanted Tyler Harber to "help me be Governor,' and whatever one might think of Harber personally, his story about corruption, cronyism, phony job appointments (such as his own), and misuse of public funds should have triggered a widespread media investigation of improprieties in the Knox County Mayor's Office. The signals were there, Harber blew the whistle, but no one except the local blogging community really bit.

Now we learn of the depth and breadth of abuse of Knox County purchasing cards by officials in the County Mayor's inner circle. Ragsdale's own Executive Assistant Margie Loyd charged $227.56 for two lobster tail lunches at Regas-and two more lobster tails to go! Loyd also charged a cruise she took to the county at $900. She has since had to reimburse that money, but likely would not have had all of this not been discovered.

I understand that county and State officials have a need to build relationships and have lunch or dinner with Commissioners and community members as part of doing business-that's politics. Does it have to cost the taxpayers that much? Regas is delicious and all, but it is also East Tennessee's most expensive restaurant. It is the place you take your friends to celebrate when you have plenty of money to burn. If I am going to lunch or dinner on government business and I know the taxpayers are footing the bill, Red Lobster will do just fine, thank you-and even cheaper than that if possible.

Knox County Finance Director John Werner has been forced to resign over the repeated misuse of public funds in the Mayor's Office.

“I’m disappointed and frustrated at recent events,” Ragsdale said. “I’ve made it clear that the misuse of public dollars will not be tolerated.”

Mr. Mayor, where is it that you suppose that so many people in your inner circle got the idea that it was perfectly fine to use their county cards for everything under the sun?



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