Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mark Harmon's double standard

Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon, who I would likely have challenged for the 2A seat had my write-in candidacy (spurred by the original Tennessee Supreme Court decision) continued and gone to a District Republican Convention, testified in Court yesterday in the News-Sentinel's suit over whether the Knox County Commission violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act on January 31. Harmon has always struck me as the well-meaning but misguided liberal sort, but as a person who entered the entire process of appointing the term-limited Commissioners definately having his own agenda.

Since January 31, Mark Harmon has attempted to play the saint-the guardian of the people's will and the champion of open government:

Harmon said he believed commission Chairman Scott Moore engineered the Jan. 31 meeting by using his fellow pro-Hutchison commissioners and a private polling process. Moore was motivated, Harmon said, to craft a process with little public input to make sure that the pro-Hutchison group maintained its power on commission by seating in term-limited positions those similarly loyal to the sheriff.

“I believe it was done with speed and secrecy to make it less likely that other options would get a fair shake, that we would be locked into this procedure,” Harmon testified.

“It was necessary to make certain at least most of the new appointees … were sympathetic to the sheriff.”

What little debate was conducted in public was “window dressing,” Harmon said.

How awful! Commissioners loyal to one side or the other in the perpetual feud between former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale were angling to stack the Commission with people who supported their ideas and aspirations. Mark Harmon would never stoop to the level of trying to force those who supported his agenda on to the County Commission.

Or would he?:

Stackhouse and Harmon sparred this afternoon for nearly an hour. Harmon conceded that he made a deal with Commissioner Greg “Lumpy” Lambert in secret in which Lambert would back one of Harmon’s nominees, and Harmon would in turn back one of Lambert’s picks.

That deal fell through when Moore decided to nominate his campaign treasurer, Chuck Bolus, a choice Harmon said Lambert told him was a done deal before the meeting started.

I understand it much more clearly now, and I see Harmon's point. He believes that the sunshine law applies to other Commissioners but not to him, and somehow it was alright for him to enter into negotiations with Lumpy Lambert out of the public eye, but the same practice ought not be utilized by Lambert and any other Commissioners. In other words, other Commissioners should do as Mark Harmon says but not as Mark Harmon does.

I have heard from multiple sources that Mark Harmon did have his own agenda that day, and that he made it clear to others that he intended to do whatever he could to see liberals appointed that day. If true, it was apparently just fine for him to use whatever tactics that he deemed necessary to accomplish this goal, but those same rules should not apply to other Commissioners-perhaps because that would mean that Harmon would be both out-maneuvered and out-voted.

Oatney On the Air-September 19/20 2007



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