Sun
Oct 7 2007
05:51 pm

The Swear Them In and They Vote Them In proposal on filling the County Commission vacancies is just a horrible idea. Who came up with it? I had first heard that it was in a footnote in Chancellor Fansler opinion. This is untrue. It is NOT in Chancellor Fansler's opinion.

For one thing, people would be sworn in and start voting who had not been preparing themselves for such a vote, but trying to win such a vote for themselves. Mostly likely, they will not be reading resumes of various other candidates, talking to various other candidates, etc. If they do start talking among themselves, will they start to lobby each other and cut deals among each other? This presumably would not violate the Open Meetings law, since they are not yet elected to the Commission, but is this a good thing to encourage?

And how would such interplay work out when the candidates start interacting with the Commissioners?

Most importantly, such a procedure will place a premium among the existing commissioners on controlling the order in which seats are filled. We will start to see the same kind of pushing and shoving we saw last time. John Valliant will become involved.

If anyone wants to maximize the "raw politics" we will see in County Commission trying again to fill these vacacncies, by all means, let's do this.

244
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Bbeanster's picture

I agree with Mark. I think

I agree with Mark.

I think this notion comes from the same misconstruing of the definition of "quorum" as did Owings' proposed defense of this case.
Clearly, Fansler was talking about the number of commissioners needed to constitute a quorum when only 11 are lawfully seated. He was not advocating vote, swear-in, seat; vote, swear-in, seat -- he was saying that SIX is the only sensible quorum for an 11-member body rather than the usual 10. But evidently, however, there's no legal bar to prevent the appointees from running upstairs one-by-one and finding someone to swear them in, a la Bolus.
Realistically speaking, it might be tough to find a judge to do this, given the beating Fansler took in the rumor mill, though. Not many Hutchison allies in the local judiciary that I know of.

"§2.08. VACANCY., of the Knox County Charter provides that in the event of a vacancy in the office of a
member of the Commission, the remaining members of the Commission shall fill said vacancy. §2.05 of the
Knox County Charter defines quorum as a majority of the membership of the Commission. Membership is
commonly understood to mean the total number of members in a group. At present, with eleven members, a
quorum of the Knox County Commission would be six members.

This does not mean that for purposes of conducting business a quorum would be the majority of those present.
When a seat is filled, the person holding the seat is a member of the body. When the seat is vacant there can be
no member. It would be an absurdity to treat the vacant seats as if they were held by a phantom member for
purposes of determining the majority of the membership. Additionally, defining a quorum as a majority of
nineteen in these circumstances would in effect render the Knox County Commission ineffective inasmuch as
it would require ten votes of the eleven remaining members to conduct business."

Rachel's picture

I agree with Betty & Mark -

I agree with Betty & Mark - this is a terrible, horrible, no good idea. Even if it didn't produce shenanigans, there's bound to some perception of them.

Let the same 11 people - who will presumably be prepared - vote on all 8 appts.

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." - John Maynard Keynes

CBT's picture

Betty and Rachel, I'm sure

Betty and Rachel, I'm sure Mayor Ragsdale agrees with you.

Rachel's picture

And your point is?"The

And your point is? This is bad idea because Ragsdale agrees with it?

I could care less whether Ragsdale or Shurf Tim likes it - it's what makes sense to me.

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." - John Maynard Keynes

Bbeanster's picture

But Scoobie won't, will

But Scoobie won't, will he?
I know you don't like Ragsdale, Chad, and you have good reasons. But what about the merits?

CBT's picture

Betty, you're off a bit. I

Betty, you're off a bit. I don't like some things Mayor Ragsdale and his staff have done. He has done some good things as well. I certainly have nothing against him personally. I had hoped for more from his administration. That is a sentiment shared by many Ragsdale supporters. There are enough enemies out there. You only increase their numbers when you make enemies out of friends. The reverse seems to work better. Just ask Bill Haslam.

It's not a bad idea because Ragsdale disagrees with it. It's bad for one because the 4th would be unrepresented in every appointment. The vacancy law doesn't take Knox County's form of government into account. It was also never intended to replace 12 at one time, but that's a dead dog I've beaten too much. Other districts are over/under represented through the process. As that can be cured, it should be. There is nothing to prevent someone who is appointed from being sworn in and taking a seat to vote.

I also think having all 19 consider the 4 county wide offices at a later date is a smart move. Those interested can submit resumes, participate in meetings and make speeches. The public will be better informed. I say make it all as fair and open as possible.

And Betty, as for the politics which will be at play here, you would agree that Ragsdale has the majority of influence if the 11 make all the appointments, yes?

Bbeanster's picture

And Betty, as for the

And Betty, as for the politics which will be at play here, you would agree that Ragsdale has the majority of influence if the 11 make all the appointments, yes?--

Yes.
There are two choices here, and it appears that MR would have the majority of the 11, barring some sunshine law/injunction violation.

rikki's picture

as the worm turns

I also think having all 19 consider the 4 county wide offices at a later date is a smart move.

Thanks, Chad, glad you like it. That's what I was saying way the hell back in January, maybe a day after the Supreme Court ruled, back when Scoobie was resisting any semblance of planning or order for this whole process so as to best manipulate it to (his) ends.

I think the point about some districts being underrepresented has validity, but curing it will require careful planning of the order of appointments, and if there ends up being a tie after three weewee breaks, there will be no readjusting the agenda so the next seat on the list can be appointed, sworn in, and the tie broken. They absolutely must define thorough ground rules this time.

Since the underrepresented districts brought it upon themselves by electing term-limited incumbents, it seems reasonable to let them suffer, but not necessary. In other words, I don't care how they do this as long as the rules are defined ahead of time and adhered to.

Also, thank you to Mark for bringing this up. I saw on Friday that some people were misinterpreting Fansler's footnote to mean appointees should be sworn in as they go, and I wanted to jump in and correct them, but I'm in Boston for my brother's wedding and mostly lurking.

If the 4th district is the only one without a commissioner, maybe the 11 should become 12, then the 12 decide on the remaining 7 in one lump. I love the idea of 6-6 ties with someone having to change their mind and be persuaded entirely in public view. Squirm, bastards!

bill young's picture

It is what it is

I'm not sure what I'm for or who I'm for here in the 1st.I do know these 11 commissioners need to put the county's interest over any personal interest.Well at least 6 of them..anyway.Plus any plan the commission comes up with they should take to the judge for advisement.

Mayor Ragsdale needs to start fixin his probems...stay out of it.let the commission do whatever it is they are going to do...& work with the newly appointed members.If the Mayor plays politics it will blow up in his face.

Sam's picture

Bill you are very wise,

I agree with you 100%. Ragsdale has enough problems and trouble of his own making and he should stay out of this and not create more. From what we seen from him, I wonder if he is smart enough to stay out of this and think about the people for once.

Mark Siegel's picture

I think everybody needs to play it straight up

I can't see anyone really helping themselves by trying to be too smart or trying to get an edge on someone else in this process, for their own advantage, or the advantage of their faction, at the expense of the general common good.

That's why I think the best thing is to create a process where a vote of the people selects the replacements, and this can be easily done, IMO, so long as you don't call it a "special election" and the Commission appoints the vote winners to fill the vacancies.

I think they would all be smart to go the "vote of the people" route.

jbr's picture

Why is it the Nov. 6

Why is it the Nov. 6 election cannot be used to allow voting for the 'to be filled' positions?

Mark Siegel's picture

Why is it the Nov. 6

Why is it the Nov. 6 election cannot be used to allow voting for the 'to be filled' positions?

You can't change the ballots less than 40 days before an election.

jbr's picture

Why appoint any fee offices?

Why appoint any fee offices? Fill those with contingency staff until Feb elections then let voters decide.

bill young's picture

caucus

Would a caucus work?
Could the commission hold district caucuces & a county wide cauccus run by the commission?
They set the rules..pass a will of the caucus resolution.

CBT's picture

Why yes, Bill, we could

Why yes, Bill, we could caucus, have meetings, hold a special election and whatever else which would maximize the citizens voice (some of which isn't presently consistent with the law, but I digress). Call me cynical, but despite the lawsuit, verdict and judgment, I don't think we're quite 'there' yet. I'm not saying there will be any private meetings or agreements. I'm just saying there will always be politics involved.

Nothing prohibits the executive branch, interest groups (developers and others) and lobbyists from trying to get an upper hand with folks more friendly to their cause. And, I'm betting they'll all be doing just that. I guess we'll see how much impact the process for public input and citizens have on the decision(s). Just because there is no open meetings violation doesn't mean Commissioners will not have made up their mind. I mean, if Amy Broyles wants it will Mark Harmon vote any other way? Will Pinkston vote for Tramel? The list can go on.

It is a new day in many ways for Knox County. This lawsuit and judgment definitely mean something. I'm just not sure we know exactly what...yet.

CBT's picture

I have a question on fee

I have a question on fee offices. Are the folks who got appointed collecting a county paycheck after 12:01 p.m. last Friday? Some were deputies before, but put others in those jobs. Now, they're just out of a job. No insurance and other benefits either, right? I wonder if these folks are still showing up for work(?).

The lack of a paycheck and insurance might drive some of these folks to place a call to their favorite Commish asking to make those new appointments asap.

BTW, I'm assuming we're only paying and providing benefits for 11 Commissioners too.

One other thing, I heard Herb Moncier on TV yesterday say he didn't get paid for this trial. Any bets on whether Herb or the KNS hit the county up with an attorney fee request? Will the cost savings of having a number of folks out of a job pay even 10% of the fees requested?

CBT

Mark Siegel's picture

attorney fees

One other thing, I heard Herb Moncier on TV yesterday say he didn't get paid for this trial. Any bets on whether Herb or the KNS hit the county up with an attorney fee request? Will the cost savings of having a number of folks out of a job pay even 10% of the fees requested?

I suspect there will be a fee request. I don't know if there is a statute that would provide for fee shifting.

In any event, though, I don't look at good government as a function that has to justify itself economically.

CBT's picture

Guess I should have checked

Guess I should have checked the KNS online. Story this afternoon...Witt, Jones and Sisk all re-hired as 'deputies'.

Lisa Starbuck's picture

Want a Voice?

I'd suggest anyone who wants to have some input into this process show up at the October 15th County Commission meeting where they are going to discuss how to go about filling the empty seats. Unfortunately I won't be able to be there, but I hope some citizens show up and speak up.

My personal feeling is that absent some kind of special election whereby the public gets to say, only the 11 who were elected have the right to appoint the empty seats.

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