Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sting Saturday

Serious classic rock


Friday, September 14, 2007

No she is not removed

One of my sources previously mentioned had a telephone conversation with a highly-placed Capitol Hill source close to the Mary Littleton situation. That source was able to verify that the story was circulated on the Hill last night, but that. Ms. Littleton has indeed not been removed from her position with the trial lawyers' lobby in Tennessee.

I waited until I received double confirmation of this before printing any retraction.

The World sincerely regrets this grevous error.


Is Ms. Littleton removed?

I have just received word via a phone call from two sources near the Capitol who wish to remain unnamed that Mary Littleton has been fired from her position as a lobbyist for the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association.

One of the sources told me that the action was taken shortly after the story became public of the depth of her associations with Rep. Rob Briley.

This story is developing...


The biggest disappointment

When 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.


I'll sign for you

At yesterday's court session of the trial to determine whether the Knox County Commission violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, Commission Office director Jolie Bonavita acknowledged that she contacted 14 Commissioners at the request of Commission Chairman Scott Moore. The testimony of Ms. Bonavita was extracted by one Herbert S. Moncier, a man who is not always known for courtroom sanity.

According to Ms. Bonavita, she called the Commissioners to get their consent for a special-called meeting of the County Commission. State Law requires a letter to be signed by the requisite number of Commissioners be submitted to the Commission Chairman. Ms. Bonavita says she did it another way:

Jolie Bonavita acknowledged that she contacted each commissioner individually by phone and then affixed their respective electronic signatures to a letter calling for the Jan. 31 meeting.

The Law Director’s Office contends that the process Moore directed Bonavita to carry out is allowed under state law.

Legal or not, it certainly is shady-if for no other reason than the fact that Commissioners were not required to physically read the official document they were sending to the Chairman and to put their names to it. Five Commissioners either didn't "sign" were were perceived by the lovely Ms. Bonavita to be unavailable.

One thing that does become clear with each passing hour is that Chairman Scott Moore was not the least bit interested in the sunshine during this entire process. According to News-Sentinel staff reporter Rebecca Ferrar, Moore wanted to have a closed door meeting with County Law Director John Owings to discuss the Supreme Court ruling. Because the violation of the Open Meetings Act would be so glaring, that idea was scrapped.

The great problem in this case is the fact that while the Open Meetings Act may have been violated, Tennessee has one of the weakest sunshine laws in terms of punitive action in the Union. Everyone talks about our open meeting and open government laws and the Public Records Act, but fails to consider that there is very little that can be done to punish the guilty. In the end, the most that can happen in the short-term is a modified (and similarly smelly) reappointment process.


Briley, Iraq, and the News-Sentinel

The unusual relationship between Tennessee State Representative Rob Briley (D-Nashville) and Mary Littleton, lobbyist for the Tennessee Trial Lawyers' Association. Thoughts on Iraq in the wake of the President's speech. The Knoxville News-Sentinel's unique coverage of its suit against Knox County for violating the Open Meetings Act.

Oatney On the Air-September 13, 2007


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where is the line crossed?

The Knoxville News-Sentinel's case against the Knox County Commission may rest, as the paper said today, on the context in the law of the word "deliberation." What constitutes deliberation? Are all "gentleman's agreements" violations of the sunshine law? After all, many at the State level will tell you that a gentleman's agreement to approve (within reason) private members' bills as they pertain to a member's specific district alone tends to keep the Tennessee General Assembly from degenerating into a complete circus.

Most of these pertain to things such as city charters within a particular member's district needing amended or a county or municipality in a member's constituency needing to have a referendum on this or that local issue. Under Tennessee law (unlike many other States) all such moves require a vote of the General Assembly. As a result, early in a legislative session it isn't at all uncommon for entire sessions of the House or Senate to be taken up with private acts. Because members must daily vote on private acts pertaining to parts of the State where they do not live and their constituents are unaffected by the proposal in question, it is generally agreed that these acts will be quickly moved through the legislature unless there is some glaring impropriety, largely because a good-faith presumption is made that since local officials brought the issue to their legislator, this is an issue that local people want to address and should be allowed to decide.

Some Knox County Commissioners spoke of a similar agreement among themselves:

Many spoke about honoring a gentleman’s agreement in which the entire body typically agreed to abide by the wishes of commissioners of a particular district when business from that district was at issue.

On the surface, there is nothing untoward or strange about such an arrangement, so long as Commissioners equally agree to take a second look if they think there is any impropriety involved in any proposal. However, appointing eight County Commission seats with little or no public input is another matter altogether.

At issue, though, is whether the Commission deliberated in private as a body:

“There may be a lot of politics in this case,” Owings said. “Sometimes politics are unpleasant, but this case is not about politics. At the close of this trial, you’ll be asked to decide if the plaintiffs have proven by a preponderance of the evidence whether Knox County Commission deliberated — key word — in private.”

It is impossible to expect Commissioners, who are human beings, not to discuss among themselves casually (as colleagues) what their personal preferences might be as it pertains to these appointments. Like everyone else who actually knew what was going on, I'm sure they had their opinions and their personal preferences about who they would like to see appointed, in at least eight cases, to replace themselves.

The real problem was not that they had those opinions and preferences, and not even that they privately expressed them, but that they proceeded to act on them without allowing for the public input of their constituents. Constituents are those people who elected you in the first place, and if you have to appoint replacements for vacancies created for whatever reason (in this case, a Supreme Court ruling) it is only right that when the time comes to make that appointment, citizens from the affected constituencies should not only be allowed to speak but ought to be given priority in the speaking order. Instead, the Commission did all in its power to shut citizens up that day while they deliberated.

I am not certain if that qualifies as a violation of the Open Meetings Act in the strictest sense. If it does not, the Act should be amended to prevent anything like what happened in Knoxville on January 31 from ever happening in the State of Tennessee again.


Presidential Primaries and Larry Craig

Adam Graham of the Truth and Hope Report joins the show to discuss the latest developments in the 2008 Presidential race. We will also discuss the scandal surrounding Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig and his future.

Oatney On the Air-September 12, 2007


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Credibility and the Left

The reaction of some on the Left to the arrest of State Rep. Rob Briley is quite laughable. The Guerilla Woman says:

"I've always viewed him as one of the most respectable and credible of our state lawmakers (and he probably still is). I've stood outside the polls and held signs with the Nashville Democrat. I am stunned."

Having observed Briley in action, credible is hardly a word I would use to describe the man. Words like "snotty," "hateful," "prudish," and "arrogant" come to mind when thinking of him. On the House floor, Briley looks as though he is off in outer space somewhere. Often, Jimmy Naifeh will call on him out of the blue, and you can tell when this occurs because he has that beady lost look in his eyes. Naifeh and the Democratic Leadership like to use Briley as their attack dog. When they can't win a real debate, they bring in Rob Briley to try and shut the opposition up by accusing them of trying to "score cheap political points." His desire to personally attack his opponents-even on the House floor-has not known any bounds up to this point.

There are plenty of Democrats at the Capitol who are very credible, not to mention that they are upstanding people (whether I agree with their politics or not). Mike Turner is a credible leader and a decent human being, as is George Fraley-and he is also a very nice person. Frank Buck is an individual who strikes me as being primarily interested in his constituents. Stratton Bone, though I don't often agree with the way he runs the House Agriculture Committee, is courteous and kind to people and treats the opposition with dignity and respect. Gary Moore is intelligent, insightful, seems to love a good joke (and is rather fond of mattresses), and will break bread and drink a few beers with the other side.

While their politics are not generally to my liking, these people are decent folks and if I am looking for credible leaders and I were a Democrat, I'd like to think I would hold those people up as examples of credibility. Hence the difference between certain liberals and conservatives: Some on the Left are "shocked" that a person like Briley, who seems to make it his business to snub his nose at his colleagues and behave like a complete horse's arse, would conduct himself in the manner in which he has. Rather than hold him accountable for his actions, they instead make excuses for him and groan that at least he is not a Republican. Then liberals proceed to harp on the Republicans for demanding accountability and not joining them in excuse-making. When conservative leaders do things that are really wrong, conservatives call for their head. The other side just makes excuses-unless the guilty party is a Republican.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You can't arrest me, I am all-knowing Rob Briley

State Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) is not known in Republican circles as a particularly nice guy. In a Capitol atmosphere where legislators from both parties go out of their way to get along when the gavel goes down and the legislature adjourns for the day, many Republicans and conservatives avoid socializing with Briley out of session (so I've been told). This is largely because during session, Rob Briley often goes out of his way to treat his political opposition as if they are beneath him. The snotty, uppity character that portrays himself like a know-it-all on the House floor is apparently not an act.

One legislator I talked to once referred to Briley as "the devil," while another simply called him "that man."

People who treat others with such hatred and contempt (regardless of political party) usually get theirs handed to them on a silver platter. My mother used to say to me when I was growing up that "your sins will find you out." Hence, we can truly say that the Almighty works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. For it was as the House Republicans were meeting this weekend in seclusion for their Caucus retreat that their deliberations were suddenly and unceremoniously interrupted by the news that Rob Briley had been arrested for drunk driving. Briley wouldn't be the first State Representative to get a DUI, so that wouldn't be very big news if it weren't for the fact that he also evaded police, resisted arrest, and vandalized a law enforcement vehicle. It is said that Briley reportedly "went berserk" when told he was going to be arrested.

Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) From The Tennessean.

Briley reportedly returned to the automobile he was driving to finish his adult beverage before taking a field sobriety test. Wilson County Sheriff's Deputies had to approach Briley with guns drawn because he hit a pickup truck in front of him, attempted to flee the scene of the accident, and tried to evade police.

What is Boss Hogg's reaction to all this? Are he and the Democratic Caucus he leads scandalized by Rep. Briley's conduct? Apparently not:

Naifeh (D-Covington), speaking via conference call to reporters, said Briley was battling alcoholism and he was going to help him “get back on his feet.”

“Rob has a lot of pressures on him, and I’m not at liberty to go into those, but he has a lot of pressure on him at this time,” Naifeh said. “And it just was more than he could take at this particular time. And for that, I want to do all that I can to help him.”

I don't doubt that Briley both needs and deserves help, but note that Speaker Naifeh seems to show no difficulty with Briley's conduct whatsoever. If he did have such difficulty, he would take immediate punitive action by removing Rob Briley from his committee Chairmanship (the bizarre irony is that Briley chairs the House Judiciary Committee). It speaks rather poorly of Jimmy Naifeh's leadership of the House that he does not call on Briley to resign immediately, especially considering the gravity of these charges.

Of course, this is a liberal we are talking about, so we don't need to hold him to a high standard. If Briley were a conservative House member, no amount of pleading could call off the dogs. Jimmy Naifeh should keep running his mouth, as the Republicans inch ever closer to a majority every time he now opens it.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Oatney tackles Truth and Hope

Adam Graham and myself do a run-down of the issues of the week as part of Adam's TRUTH AND HOPE REPORT. No shortage of controversy.

Oatney On Truth and Hope


Jeri Thompson

The chauvinistic attitudes that surround Fred Thompson's wife, the former Jeri Kehn. Democrats are equality hypocrits when it comes to a Republican having a strong-willed wife.

Oatney On the Air-September 9, 2007


The metropolitan siren song

WBIR-TV in Knoxville is to be commended for its recent television special The Knox County Files, during which the news department examined the extreme level of corruption at all levels of Knox County government, corruption that has been exposed here in some detail for many months. WBIR's cameras even appear to have caught Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale calling former Knox County Auditor and concerned taxpayer Lewis Cosby a showboat, a charge the Mayor had denied.

Perhaps most disturbing, however, are the results of an opinion poll sponsored by WBIR and the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Most of the poll questions reveal things you might expect. A majority of those surveyed feel that Knox County Government is badly managed. Over 2/3rds of the people give county law enforcement high marks, however-which would explain in part why the Sheriff's Office has always had the upper hand over Mike Ragsdale. Over 75% of the people gave the Knox County Commission a negative rating, and even more give Ragsdale the thumbs-down.

The shocker comes when the question turns to the issue of whether the City of Knoxville and Knox County should consolidate government. According to the poll, a metropolitan government is supported by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. I suspect that many respondents think that this will simply mean a merging of services, but many may not be aware that if consolidation were to occur, Knox County as an autonomous and free entity will cease to exist. This is especially dangerous to people who live in parts of Knox County that are struggling to maintain a more rural way of life. Consolidated government will almost certainly bring the days of a largely-agrarian East Knox County to an end. The major proponents of metropolitan government in Knox County dream of an urban paradise, in which the interests of both the people and the landowner are superseded by the interests of the government official and the real estate and business developer.

Democrats await the notion of consolidated government in Knox County with baited breath, and the poll proves it. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to support consolidation-and no wonder: Mass urban governmental units breed government dependency and discourage individualism and personal freedom. Large cities with intrusive governments are the breeding grounds of modern liberalism and neo-Marxism, and are also (not coincidently) the epicenter of many of the ills of our society. It is no wonder that the modern Democratic Party-a Party which thrives on dependency and the welfare state-supports the urbanization of almost everything. Then after these people achieve their urban paradise, they bemoan that lack of green space and the pollution that results from their enlightened urban living.

I'd be willing to bet the ranch that the Republicans and independents in the WBIR poll who live in the county are not fully aware that Knox County as they know it will cease to exist under a consolidated government. Why do I have such an interest in this when I now live in Jefferson County? If Knox County goes Metro, it has an effect on everyone in all the counties around it, especially if urban development began to proceed in the manner that I would expect.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Pavarotti and Kennedy

The loss of two giants: Musical giant Luciano Pavarotti and spiritual, cultural and political giant Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy. Also, Mother Teresa's 'dark night."

Oatney On the Air-September 9, 2007


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