The biggest disappointmentWhen the annals of the corruption in Knox County are finally written for future generations, it may well be said that Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert has been the biggest disappointment among County Commissioners. I endorsed Lambert for election and I believed that he showed great promise. When I flirted with a run for Knox County Commission, I met Lumpy at Office Depot one day and he wished me luck and offered his support. He ran on an anti-tax and anti-corruption platform, and I never had any reason to believe that he was anything but trustworthy.
It is quite possible that in his personal life and affairs, Lumpy Lambert is among the most decent people that can be found. His behavior on January 31, however, showed a lack of political knowledge at the very least and poor moral judgment at the most. He openly admits to negotiating with other Commissioners-literally, he admits to entering into deals with some of them in a manner that-if the stories are corroborated-would absolutely stand in violation of the Open Meetings Act. If the County cannot be found liable for violating the sunshine law, Lumpy Lambert's actions are such that it will be very hard to prove that he did not.
This inability to prove that he did not violate the Open Meetings Act is likely the reason that Knox County Law Director John Owings advised Commissioner Lambert to seek private counsel:
It was not immediately clear if Owings’ letter means the law department now is refusing to represent Lambert or if, instead, it signals that Owings believes Lambert may well have violated the law.
He has acknowledged lobbying fellow commissioners in the days before the meeting and striking deals with some of them for votes. He also admitted bartering in the hallways during recesses at the Jan. 31 meeting, including an encounter with one potential nominee, Jonathan Wimmer.
Lambert admitted in a sworn deposition that he told Wimmer to prove he wasn’t “a Ragsdale man” by promising to be sworn in early and cast a vote for Lee Tramel, who Lambert backed for another seat on commission.
I distrust Mike Ragsdale as much (or more) as Lumpy Lambert does, but good intentions are no excuse in the eyes of the law-indeed, the road to Hell is paved with them. In the months since that fateful day at the end of January, I have found myself utterly astonished as Commissioner Lambert's lack of good sense and political acumen. What's more, he seems to have taken to the notion that because he was engaging in these back-hall negotiations for the good cause of giving Mike Ragsdale his just desserts, that the law should somehow not apply in his unique case.
While I agree that it is terribly hard to keep Commissioners from sharing their opinions with each other in private (and that the law as it is written probably has too much impact upon private speech if it were rigidly enforced), this goes beyond a private comment during a recess that "I think I'll support so-and-so, blah blah blah." When Lambert began to negotiate with candidates in order to strike a political deal about appointments on the very day and at the very hour the Commission was making those appointments, and attempted to do so out of earshot when the public did not have a voice, he stood in utter violation of both the spirit and the letter of the law.
I am deeply disappointed in Lumpy Lambert. I really thought that he had more sense than that.
Labels: Local politics