Thursday, September 27, 2007

Knox County political agendas and the sunshine trial

Knox County Commissioner Paul Pinkston on Tuesday used his time on the witness stand to state something (or at least part of something) that a lot of us have been saying for months-and in some cases years-on end. Like the Energizer Bunny keeps going and going, so does the charge that Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale has an agenda of his own. I have pointed out all along that Ragsdale's primary goal up until recently was not to govern solely in the best interest of the people of Knox County, but to be elected Governor. Since it has become clear that Ragsdale can't keep his county house in order, few can likely imagine that he would survive ten minutes without corrupting himself in the cesspool that is the Capitol-hence, his ambitions of inheriting the mantle of John Sevier, Willie Blount, and William Carroll are all but dashed.

Nonetheless, Ragsdale has certainly demonstrated a "my way or the highway" style of governance, and has been said to threaten to cut people off and attempt to ruin their careers if-God forbid-they should threaten to expose or oppose him. We already know that he thinks that concerned citizens who bring his administration's malfeasance to light for the world to see are "showboats." If Paul Pinkston is to be believed, Jack McElroy and all of the resorces at the disposal of the News-Sentinel are a part of Ragsdale's machine:

“Sir, I’ve read in the newspaper about the Hutchison faction,” Pinkston told attorney Richard Hollow, adding that it doesn’t exist. “I think one side is the people’s side, and I think the other side is M and R. McElroy and Ragsdale have an agenda.”

I can't be nearly as quick as Pinkston to accuse McElroy of being part of some sort of tandem-type arrangement with Mike Ragsdale. However, considering that the News-Sentinel has always gone out of its way to praise Ragsdale, and that from the beginning the paper paid less attention to the mideeds within the Ragsdale regime as it did the seemingly underhanded doings of the Knox County Commission, I have always been inclined to place Jack McElroy firmly in the "Ragsdale is Messiah and Lord" camp. By its editorial positions, the News-Sentinel has never done anything to correct that impression.

The problem in Pinkston's case is the strange interpretation he seems to have of the Tennessee Constitution:

Asked if commission rules barred public debate at the Jan. 31 meeting, Pinkston responded, “It sure did, and I believe the (state) constitution says that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Pinkston is right that the Constitution gives the Commission the right to fill vacancies, even (it would seem) in a unique case such as this (see the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, Article 7, Section 2). I am not an attorney, but I have poured over the State Constitution and have yet to find anything in that document that would specifically prohibit public input at any meeting where such appointments were made. The fact that no public input was allowed in Knoxville on January 31 was likely the one factor that caused the News-Sentinel and the Moncier Nine to believe they had a decent case.



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