Mon
Apr 21 2014
08:49 am

Betty Bean in the Shopper:

Remember when:  

Knox County Commission meetings were punctuated by long and frequent recesses so the boys could go out back to smoke and return with done deals?  

Mike Arms served two years on county commission while he was chief of staff to county Mayor Mike Ragsdale and nobody said squat?  

County commissioners figured they could pick their successors after a judge booted them out of office for ignoring a term-limits referendum for 13 years?

So Black Wednesday wasn’t all bad. But Jan. 31, 2007, still lives in local infamy, and Knox newcomers who find the term a bit overwrought are probably wondering what, exactly, it was about. And what was the big deal about some old ex-sheriff?

Read more at the link about how Black Wednesday still resonates in the upcoming election. (See also: Sandra Clark.)

FLASHBACK: LIVE: County Commission appoints replacements

ARCHIVES: Knox County Charter and Term Limits Controversy

BONUS TRIVIA: How to get excused from jury duty

Topics:
reform4's picture

Yes, we've come a long way...

County Commission is in a much better place.

Now we only have the Ethics Committee embarrassing the County by repeatedly voting themselves back to their seats, so that's progress.

amybroyles's picture

I'll have to pull up the notes from the meeting -

as my memory isn't completely clear on this, but I believe the Commission took care of this last year, restructuring the Ethics Committee and the appointment process. The Audit Committee has also refused to allow them to take over the functioning of the "County Hotline" when the Ethics Chair expressed an interest in doing so. Not only because it was inappropriate, but because it would have been a breach of state law.

reform4's picture

Thanks for the update!

And good job! I recall there was some talk in doing so, but I missed some meetings after that, and there wasn't much press coverage about the fix. I guess it wasn't very "sexy" news.

(Yep, web searches yield nothing....)

Since the media didn't report on this, do you have a quick summary of the changes to the process? From what I can tell from the EC web page and from what I remember, it looks like some seats previously appointed by the EC got moved to the Mayor and Commission? I didn't see any reference to any term limits, I recall that was floated at one point.

amybroyles's picture

I think we did include term limits

I've asked the Law Department to pull up the original resolution and the newer one so they can be compared. I'll post them when I get them.

amybroyles's picture

Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee still gets to appoint two of it's members, BUT each member is limited to only one term, so they cannot be reappointed by their fellow Committee members.

Here's the response I received from the Law Department:

Commissioner Broyles:

Attached is Resolution R-13-4-901 which sets forth the current composition of the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Policy, which includes a section regarding the Ethics Committee, has been amended several times since its original adopted in January 2007. I did not attach the original January 2007 resolution; instead, attached is Resolution R-08-11-804 which describes the composition of the Ethics Committee prior to it being changed by Resolution R-13-4-901. If you also want the original resolution from 2007, let me know.

A RESOLUTION OF THE COMMISSION
OF KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE,
AMENDING THE KNOX COUNTY CODE OF ETHICS
AND APPOINTING THE FOLLOWING
NINE (9) MEMBERS TO THE KNOX COUNTY
ETHICS COMMITTEE: CAPTAIN BRIAN STANNARD,
MR. REX DAVIS, DR. RON STEWART, MR. CARSON
DAILEY, MS. JULIA TUCKER, MR. FRANK SHANKLIN, SR.,
COMMISSIONER RICHARD BRIGGS, MR. LEWIS COSBY
AND MR. CHRIS ETTERS.

RESOLUTION: R-08-11-804

WHEREAS, by Resolution R-07-1-904, as amended, the Knox County Commission (the “Commission”) adopted a Code of Ethics for Knox County; and

WHEREAS, after due consideration, the Knox County Ethics Committee (the “Committee”) has recommended changes to the composition of the Committee; and

WHEREAS, the Committee recommends that all Complaints be sworn to under oath and signed in the presence of a notary public; and

WHEREAS, it is also necessary to appoint members to the Committee in
accordance with the proposed changes to its composition as set forth herein; and

WHEREAS, the terms of all members of the Committee expired August 31, 2008; however, by motion at the September 22, 2008 meeting of the Commission and Resolution R-08-10-112, said terms were extended until the Commission’s November 2008 regular meeting; and

WHEREAS, further amendments to the Code of Ethics are needed to reflect the Knox County Board of Education’s recent adoption of a separate Code of Ethics to govern the Board of Education and employees of Knox County Schools.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COMMISSION OF KNOX
COUNTY AS FOLLOWS:

That Section 6 of the Code of Ethics of Knox County is hereby amended by deleting Section 6 in its entirety and substituting instead the following:

Section 6. Ethics Complaints. A Knox County Ethics Committee (the “Ethics Committee”) consisting of nine (9) members shall be appointed to staggered three (3) year terms as follows:

1. One (1) member of the Knox County Commission, appointed by the Knox County Commission. In the event the Knox County Commissioner serving on the Ethics Committee is no longer serving on the Knox County Commission, said Knox County Commissioner shall vacate his/
her seat on the Ethics Committee.

2. One (1) employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, appointed by the Knox County Sheriff, or the Knox County Sheriff.

3. Seven (7) citizens of Knox County who meet the residential requirements of being a Knox County voter, who are not employees of Knox County, and are not directly related (i.e., spouse, sibling, parent or child) to any elected official of Knox County. Three (3) such citizens shall be appointed by the Knox County Commission, two (2) such citizens shall be appointed by the Knox County Mayor and two (2) such citizens shall be appointed by the Knox County Ethics Committee following an open process allowing citizens seeking appointment to submit letters, resumes and other relevant information to the Knox County Ethics Committee over a two (2)
week period.

Terms of office shall be for three (3) years, with initial appointments after September 1, 2008 as follows:

One (1) year term: One member appointed by the Knox County Sheriff and two citizen members appointed by the Knox County Ethics Committee.

Two (2) year term: Two citizen members appointed by the Knox County Commission and one citizen member appointed by the Knox County Mayor.

Three (3) year term: One commissioner member appointed by the Knox County Commission, one citizen member appointed by the Knox County Commission and one citizen member appointed by the Knox County Mayor.

The Ethics Committee shall convene as soon as practicable after their appointment and elect a chair and secretary. The records of the Ethics Committee shall be maintained by the secretary and shall be filed in the office of the county clerk, where they shall be open to public inspection.

All Ethics Committee members are strongly encouraged to participate
in the “Ethics in Government” training held by the County Technical
Assistance Service or other certified ethics training within 90 days of his/her appointment.

Questions and complaints regarding violations of this Code of Ethics or of any violation of state law governing ethical conduct should be directed to the chair of the Ethics Committee. Complaints shall be in writing, sworn to under oath in the presence of a notary public and signed by the person making the complaint, and shall set forth in reasonable detail the facts upon which the complaint is based.

The County Ethics Committee shall investigate any credible complaint
against an official or employee charging any violation of this Code of Ethics, or may undertake an investigation on its own initiative when it acquires information indicating a possible violation, and make recommendations for action to end or seek retribution for any activity that, in the Committee's judgment, constitutes a violation of this Code of Ethics. If a member of the Committee is the subject of a complaint, such member shall recuse himself or herself from all proceedings involving such complaint.

The Committee may:

(1) refer the matter to the County Attorney for a legal opinion and/or recommendations for action;

(2) in the case of an official, refer the matter to the county legislative body for possible public censure if the county legislative body finds such action warranted;

(3) in the case of an employee, refer the matter to the official
responsible for supervision of the employee for possible disciplinary action if the official finds discipline warranted;

(4) in a case involving possible violation of state statutes, refer the matter to the district attorney for possible ouster or criminal prosecution;

The interpretation that a reasonable person in the circumstances would apply shall be used in interpreting and enforcing this Code of Ethics. When a violation of this Code of Ethics also constitutes a violation of a personnel policy or a civil service policy, the violation shall be dealt with as a violation of the personnel or civil service provisions rather than as a violation of this Code of Ethics.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Section 1 of the Code of Ethics of Knox
County is hereby amended by deleting Paragraph 1 in its entirety and substituting instead the following:

(1) “County” means Knox County, which includes all boards, committees, commissions, authorities, corporations or other instrumentalities appointed or created by the county or an official of the county, the county election commission, the county health department, and utility districts in the county; however, the Knox
County Board of Education and all Knox County Schools administrators, teachers, and other employees are specifically excluded.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Section 4 of the Code of Ethics of Knox
County is hereby amended by deleting in its entirety the subsection titled “Lobbying by former local officials – prohibition” and substituting instead the following:

Lobbying by former local officials – prohibition. A person who has been elected to any county office may not personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the governing body of which the person was an officer for a period of one (1) year after vacating that office.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Pursuant to Section 6 of the Knox County Code of Ethics, as amended herein, the following members are appointed to the Knox County Ethics Committee:

1. CAPTAIN BRIAN STANNARD, an employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office appointed by the Knox County Sheriff, or the Knox County Sheriff, MR. REX DAVIS, a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Ethics Committee, and DR. RON STEWART, a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Ethics Committee, shall each serve one (1) year terms expiring October 31, 2009.

2. MR. CARSON DAILEY, a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Commission, MS. JULIA TUCKER, a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Commission, and MR. FRANK SHANKLIN, SR., a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Mayor, shall each serve two (2) year terms expiring October 31, 2010.

3. DR. RICHARD BRIGGS, a member of the Knox County Commission
appointed by the Knox County Commission, MR. LEWIS COSBY, a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Commission, and MR. CHRIS ETTERS, a citizen member appointed by the Knox County Mayor, shall each serve three (3) year terms expiring October 31, 2011.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that if any notifications are to be made to effectuate this Resolution, then the County Clerk is hereby requested to forward a copy of this Resolution to the proper authority.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution is to take effect from and after its passage, as provided by the Charter of Knox County, Tennessee, the public welfare requiring it.

A RESOLUTION OF THE COMMISSION
OF KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE,
AMENDING SECTION 8 OF THE KNOX
COUNTY CODE OF ETHICS IN ACCORDANCE
WITH THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF
THE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON ETHICS
(THE AD HOC COMMITTEE ALSO
RECOMMENDED THAT THE COMMISSION
REVIEW SECTION 4 OF THE CODE OF
ETHICS REGARDING THE ACCEPTANCE
OF GIFTS AND OTHER THINGS OF
VALUE).

RESOLUTION: R-13-4-901

REQUESTED BY: COMMISSIONER BRIGGS

WHEREAS, by Resolution R-12-11-110, the Knox County Commission created an ad hoc committee (the “Ad Hoc Committee on Ethics”) to study and evaluate the composition, structure, and terms of members of the Knox County Ethics Committee and to report its findings and recommendations to the Commission; and

WHEREAS, the Ad Hoc Committee on Ethics met on four (4) occasions for this purpose; and

WHEREAS, at their meeting on March 18, 2013, the Ad Hoc Committee on Ethics recommended the amendments to the Knox County Code of Ethics set forth hereinafter and also recommend that the Knox County Commission review for possible revision Section 4 of the Code of Ethics entitled “Acceptance of gifts and other things of value”.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COMMISSION OF KNOX
COUNTY AS FOLLOWS:

The Knox County Commission hereby amends the Knox County Code of Ethics to delete Section 8 entitled “Ethics Complaints” in its entirety and substitute a new Section 8 and Section 9 to read as follows:

Section 8. Ethics Committee.

There shall be a Knox County Ethics Committee (the “Ethics Committee”) consisting of nine (9) citizen members. The Ethics Committee constitution, qualifications of members, terms of office, organization and other requirements shall be as follows:

a. Members shall be citizens of Knox County and also registered to vote in Knox County.

b. Members shall not be employees or elected officials of Knox County. In the event a member of the Ethics Committee submits a Candidate Nominating Petition to the Knox County Election Commission to be a candidate for an elected office in Knox County, then that member shall immediately resign as a member of the Ethics Committee.

c. Members shall not be directly related (i.e., spouse, sibling, parent or child) to any elected official of Knox County.

d. One (1) citizen member shall be appointed by the Knox County Sheriff, which appointment shall be spread of record on the minutes of a Knox County Commission meeting.

e. Three (3) citizen members shall be appointed by the Knox County Mayor, which appointments shall be spread of record on the minutes of a Knox County Commission meeting.

f. Two (2) citizen members shall be appointed by the Ethics Committee, which appointments shall be spread of record on the minutes of a Knox County Commission meeting.

g. Three (3) citizen members shall be appointed by the Knox County
Commission.

h. The Knox County Mayor and the Knox County Sheriff shall appoint one (1) employee of their respective offices and the Knox County Commission shall appoint one (1) commissioner to serve as non-voting liaisons to the Ethics Committee.

i. Members of the Ethics Committee shall serve staggered four (4) year terms. Members shall be permitted to serve only one (1) full four (4) year term regardless of who appoints the member. However, if no qualified person is interested in filling a vacancy, then a member shall be permitted to serve a second four (4) year term on the Ethics Committee. If a person is appointed to serve an unexpired term, this partial service shall not be considered a term. The terms of citizen members serving on the Ethics Committee prior to the effective date of the resolution from which this section derives shall not be counted as part of the term limitations established herein. Members of the Ethics Committee serving as of the effective date of the resolution from which this section derives shall continue to serve until their terms expire as provided by previously adopted resolutions of the Knox County Commission or spread of record on the minutes of a Knox County Commission meeting.

Upon the expiration of the terms of the Knox County Commissioner and the employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office serving on the Ethics Committee as of the effective date of the resolution from which this section derives, the seat of the Knox County Commissioner shall henceforth be filled by the Knox County Mayor’s appointment of a citizen member and the seat of the employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office shall henceforth be filled by the Knox County Sheriff’s appointment of a citizen member.

j. Any vacancy occurring on the Ethics Committee shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment. However, for those Ethics Committee members serving as of the effective date of the resolution from which this section derives, if a vacancy occurs prior to the expiration of one of these terms, the vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment to serve the remainder of that unexpired term. If a vacancy occurs prior to the expiration of the term of the Knox County Commissioner or employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, a citizen shall be appointed
by the Knox County Mayor or Knox County Sheriff as provided hereinabove to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.

k. Notice of all vacancies on the Ethics Committee shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation.

l. All Ethics Committee members are strongly encouraged to participate in the “Ethics in Government” training held by the County Technical Assistance Service or other certified ethics training within 90 days of his/her appointment.

m. The Ethics Committee shall convene as soon as practicable after November 1 of each year and elect a chair, vice-chair and secretary.

n. The minutes and other records of the Ethics Committee shall be maintained by the county clerk and shall be filed in the office of the county clerk, where they shall be open to public inspection.

Section 9. Ethics Complaints.

Questions and complaints regarding conflicts of interest or the acceptance of gifts and other things of value should be directed to the chair of the Ethics Committee.

Complaints shall be in writing, sworn to under oath in the presence of a notary public and signed by the person making the complaint, and shall set forth in reasonable detail the facts upon which the complaint is based.

The County Ethics Committee shall investigate any credible complaint against an official or employee charging a conflict of interest or the improper acceptance of gifts and other things of value, or may undertake an investigation on its own initiative when it acquires information indicating a possible violation of those provisions in the Code of Ethics. If a member of the Committee is involved in the
facts of a complaint, such member shall recuse himself or herself from all proceedings involving such complaint.

Upon investigating a credible complaint, the Committee may:

(1) refer the matter to the County Attorney for a legal opinion and/or recommendations for action;

(2) in the case of an official, refer the matter to the county legislative body for possible public censure if the county legislative body finds such action warranted;

(3) in the case of an employee, refer the matter to the official responsible for supervision of the employee for possible disciplinary action if the official finds discipline warranted;

(4) in a case involving possible violation of state statutes, refer the matter to the district attorney for possible ouster or criminal prosecution;

(5) take no action and dismiss the complaint.

The interpretation that a reasonable person in the circumstances would apply shall be used in interpreting and enforcing this Code of Ethics. When a violation of this Code of Ethics also constitutes a violation of a personnel policy or a civil service policy, the violation shall be dealt with as a violation of the personnel or civil service provisions rather than as a violation of this Code of Ethics and reported to the appropriate department.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the current Section 9 of the Knox County Code of Ethics entitled “Applicable State Laws” shall be renumbered as Section 10.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that if any notifications are to be made to
effectuate this Resolution, then the County Clerk is hereby requested to forward a copy of this Resolution to the proper authority.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution is to take effect from and after its passage, as provided by the Charter of Knox County, Tennessee, the public welfare requiring it.

I'll post the Ethics Policy as well, if anyone wants to see it - and a big thanks to Jill Rosberg in the Law Department! Also, reading over this, I'm wondering how many of the members went through the recommended training?

reform4's picture

Thanks, Amy!

And a BIG thanks to Commissioner Briggs, too! That lays the framework for a good reform of the committee over the next 2-7 years.

I would hope most everyone did the CTAS training or equivalent.... Good question.

Yep, we've come a long way.

amybroyles's picture

Training

I've requested the Law Department to send out a letter asking each member if they have, indeed, participated in any of the recommended training.

Did you know that our MPC Commissioners and BZA Representatives are not required to receive any specialized training, either? If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the state requires some for MPC Commissioners, but as a Home Rule County, we were able to opt our MPC Commissioners out. If I'm wrong on this, I'm sure someone will quickly let me know.

Rachel's picture

You're not wrong - unless

You're not wrong - unless things have changed recently.

amybroyles's picture

Response

Here's the response I received from Deputy Law Director David Buuck regarding training for Ethics Committee members. I am pleased.

Amy, The training is scheduled to be given to them after the May 14th meeting. It has been set up by Rhonda Bennett in our office. It will be presented by Tony Smith of HR. He is the one who conducts the ethics training which all employees are required to attend upon their employment. -- David

reform4's picture

If that's the same thing?

Does that mean the CTAS training is not that much different then a ethics orientation for a new employee? I had assumed that training was more about how to run an ethics program, and it was specifically called out in the ethics committee ordinance. Or are they confusing two different things?

jbr's picture

That is when I first began

That is when I first began reading Knoxviews regularly. I was home sick with the flu and had just bought a MacBook the week or so before and was fooling around with it. Knoxviews was active with the commission meeting and I turned on channel 12 and watched and read kv. It also got me interested in local politics. Previously I was somewhat indifferent.

B Harmon's picture

The "not so good" old days

Mark was just a few months into his term when all of this hit, quite a 'freshman' commissioner. We knew that day would be crazy which is why I thought to bring blank paper and sharpies on which to express my opinion from my seat. However, I did not think that one of the signs would show up on the front page the next day.

I agree that it was great to follow everything from a Knoxviews perspective.

amybroyles's picture

Mark's Book

If you want a really good in-depth look at all that mess, read Mark Harmon's book, "Crashing the Commission."

Bbeanster's picture

Agree with Rachel and Amy,

Agree with Rachel and Amy, with the caveat that the rules were not enforced. The image of Mose Lobetti at a training session is pretty priceless.

amybroyles's picture

Interesting, but off topic

Where I sit at Commission meetings, the name "Mose" is carved into the wooden desk. Always wondered who did that.

Rachel's picture

Ha! That used to be my seat.

Ha! That used to be my seat. I remember I almost fell out of my chair the first time I saw it.

Bbeanster's picture

We can thank Ragsdale for

We can thank Ragsdale for Mose. My sources told me that Harry Brooks wanted him appointed.

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