Nov 19 2007
11:49 pm

Both the Tennessee Supreme Court decision in January and the judge's ruling in the recent News Sentinel lawsuit reached the same conclusion: Knox County Commission is required by Tennessee's laws and Constitution to appoint replacements for the term-limited officeholders kicked out of office due to term limits.

The judge's ruling in the KNS lawsuit was a month and a half ago, yet Knox County Commission still has not appointed the replacement officers as they are required to do. Six weeks after Chancellor Fansler's ruling, Knox County is still short eight County Commissioners, a sheriff, and three other elected officers. The people of Knox County are waiting for County Commission to fulfill its mandated duties.

So, will someone please explain to me how it is conceivably a good idea to do this?

Knox County voters will have direct input into appointments to 12 vacant county offices after County Commission voted tonight to wait until after the Feb. 5 primaries to fill the seats.

The effort to delay the appointments was spearheaded by Commissioner Mike Hammond, who proposed holding public forums starting on Feb. 6 for candidates to make their cases, with actual appointments on Feb. 20.

Commission is planning to wait until the day after the County primary to appoint the temporary officeholders they should have appointed back in January.

Does that mean they're going to appoint those receiving the most votes in the primaries, thus giving the appointees an incumbent advantage, or will they appoint the second-place finisher in the primary?

How can one possibly construe either alternative as a good idea?

This honestly has me scratching my head, wondering just exactly what they're thinking. Instead of holding district-by-district community meetings, accepting resumes and nominations from anyone, and appointing the best temporary caretakers, Commission seems to be determined instead to anoint those with the richest real estate developers backing them.

And one more thing: how does it serve the public to wait a full 13 months after the original Supreme Court ruling for County Commission to fulfill its mandated duties? Just who are they serving here?

These are not rhetorical questions; I'd like some answers, or at least well-founded speculation.

knoxrebel's picture

Russ, I was at the meeting

Russ, I was at the meeting tonight and am absolutely disgusted with the result. I'm certainly not a fan of Scoobie Moore's or Lumpy Lambert, but man, it seemed like they were the only two people making sense tonight. I am extremely disappointed in Mark Harmon for casting a vote to delay things until after the elections. That was a horrible decision on his part and one that he'll hear about for the next 2 years. The upshot appears to be precisely what Lambert mentioned: these six Commissioners - Harmon, Smith, Leuthold, Hammond, Ballard, and surprisingly, Norman - have developed a coalition of power to thwart not only the Court-ordered appointments, but also the Ragsdale audit. This also means that Ballard, the swing vote, has lined up the Mayor's support in his race against Mike Lowe for Property Assessor. Finally, I'm lining up a group of bi-partisan plaintiffs to either intervene in the lawsuit in Fansler's court and ask him to enforce his order or file a new lawsuit in federal court because the 4th District remains unrepresented and other districts are underrepresented, and the Commission is still making decisions. We'll intervene or file suit by the week's end.

Don Daugherty

Rachel's picture

Man, it makes me really

Man, it makes me really nervous to agree with Scoobie, Lumpy, & Pinkston (who needs a nickname too - how about Grumpy?). But it seems to me that waiting till after the primary not only leaves us with a partial Commission until Feb. but opens up a big can of worms with respect to the appts.

If Commissioners appoint either the Republican or Democratic primary winner, that gives them a leg up on the general. And if they don't appoint one of those folks, then what's the point of waiting till Feb.?

Maybe somebody (Commissioner Harmon?) can explain the logic of this so I can understand it, but it just looks like an opportunity for more mischief to me.

P.S. This does NOT mean I endorse the idea of another lawsuit.

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

knoxrebel's picture

Rachel: I've decided against

Rachel: I've decided against filing a new lawsuit. But we can seek relief before Chancellor Fansler in the pending lawsuit. Just a motion to intervene seeking to protect the interest of residents who have a substantial and compelling interest in the subject matter of that lawsuit and appointing replacement Commissioners. The plan is to get that done this week and try to get before him by Dec. 3. If he says he intended to give the 11 remaining Commissioners complete discretion to fill the seats whenever they want to, well, that's it. But he might just say, "hey, I've been waiting for somebody to ask me to enforce my order."

rikki's picture

Lumpy Eleven

How we will be able to distinguish a fair appointment process from tampering with an election?

Are there ground rules for who can be appointed? If not, the election is irrelevant. If so, those rules should have been included in the resolution. I'm guessing they were not. Unless they voted on a specific process linking the primary results to their appointment proceedings, they are merely neglecting their duty, and Mr. Daugherty's threat to file a suit seems warranted.

I'm having a hard time seeing anything but interference with an election resulting from this dereliction, and I'd like to commend the commission for keeping its streak of finding the worst possible path intact. More than a decade of getting everything wrong has gone into this farce, and if we are lucky the laughs will never stop.

Rachel's picture

Are there ground rules for

Are there ground rules for who can be appointed? If not, the election is irrelevant. If so, those rules should have been included in the resolution. I'm guessing they were not.

Your guess is correct. Mike Hammond, who sponsored the resolution, said specifically that Commission could choose to appoint the primary winners or not. There was much blathering about how waiting till after the primary would allow them to get information about "the will of the voters" and several Commissioners stated that almost everyone they talked with were in favor of waiting till Feb.

I suggest their circle of conversation is not that large.

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

Mark Siegel's picture

I was there, and , personally, I think it's a good idea

There are a ton of people running, and the primary will at least weed some of them out. It would be an awful move to appoint someone who is running, and have them lose in the primary, and then continue to serve for another 8 months.

After the primary, they may or may not be appointing either of the primary winners. Several of the people now running have said that they don't want to be appointed by Commission, they want to be elected by the voters. So they will not be asking to be appointed.

I haven't looked at all the races, but in some cases it may be quite obvious which candidate will be elected after the primary. There may be a Democrat elected in the First District, for instance.

With the input from the primary, they will be taking applications, holding a round of forums, and making a decision. They may go with one of the primary winners, or with a caretaker.

I am not at all uncomfortable with the two month delay. I live in the 4th District, and I would strongly oppose any legal action at this point.

D Mac's picture

Don Daugherty?

If you have such strong opinions and were at the meeting last night, why didn't you stand before the commission at the podium, as the Knox Co. Dem Chair, and speak your mind? I would say that would have been your right and your duty.

As a lawyer do you find it easier to find a legal cure after the fact?

Personally, I much prefer to wait after the primary for this group to make an appointment. And I hope that those candidates that have said they do not want an appointment will reconsider should they win the primary.

knoxrebel's picture

Don Daugherty This should

Don Daugherty

This should not have been a political decision at all. The last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in front of those 9 Republicans and tell them what the Democratic Party wants, especially since I've been hammering Scoobie, Craig Leuthold, et al for months. I know when to shut up and keep quiet. This was not rocket science. They could have done the right thing. They didn't. If these guys would follow the law and adhere to Fansler's ruling, we would not be in this mess. It is the legal opinions - the Supreme Court's, Fansler's- that have resulted in these guys being slapped down for violating the law and neglecting their duties.

Russ's picture

Primarily misguided

Personally, I much prefer to wait after the primary for this group to make an appointment.

Yes, by all means, let's do appoint Bolus and Jordan nine months early. What a swell idea.


Ennui's picture

What makes me nervous about

What makes me nervous about waiting that long is that some districts are under-represented and some, like the fourth, are completely bereft.

gingerjamrog's picture

I would venture to say that

many districts have been effectively "underrepresented" or "completely bereft" (of representation) for decades. For the most part, the representation that's occurred on Knox County Commission has been special interest representation in an almost "unionesque" manner. I would be suspicious if there seemed to be an easy answer here.

Taking the time to analyze the ramifications moving forward is worth it. It is the dawn of a new day, and politicians can no longer ignore informed, educated citizens with unparalelled networking resources who will hopefully soon realize their power and act. I'm actually optimistic.

reform4's picture

As a resident of the Fourth,

As a resident of the Fourth, I'm thoroughly disgusted with the decision tonight by County Commission to put off the December forums and appointment process for another TWO MONTHS.

This idea that the primaries will give Commission some window into the hearts of voters is unfounded. Most primary candidates have already expressed that they will not seek appointment (and the winner would probably have to be crazy to accept appointment after winning the primary), so it would go to a 'second place' or 'third place' or... well, in some cases, to nobody who actually ran.

Ruthie Kuhlman made a great speech about "getting on with it." I felt there wasn't more to add to what she said. Six commissioners just either weren't listening or were just too scared to go through the appointment process without some kind of fig leaf.

Consider this- if the Commission had its normal 19 members, and two representatives of the Fourth died/resigned and left vacancies, would we accept Commission leaving those seats open for over four months? Clearly not.

Don- let me know if you need more names to sign on to whatever you do.

Fighting for Reform and Representation, Fourth District
Steve Drevik, Commission Seat 4-B

bill young's picture

I was there

I told Mark & also Tom Salter I really thought waiting till Feb was a bit to long.

Personally I preferred Tank's position..not as quick as Dec 7 but not late Feb 5.

However,as the meeting went on..I began to think the Feb 5 idea had legs & indeed it passed.It's only 2 more meetings & it does give plenty of time to create an open solid process.

Man did Lambert go on & on & on...we need to find a red light anonymous for that dude..because Lumpy hits that red light like a crack head hits the pipe.

R. Neal's picture

I'm not sure I agree with

I'm not sure I agree with this process. Knox County is trying to turn an election into a referendum/special election that is not provided for in state law. The appointments were declared void. Prior to that, the elections of the twelve term limited officers and legislators were also declared void.

(And technically, I believe the law says any action by the voided county commission seats, i.e. votes, are void, too. I guess that could be interpreted to mean going back and leaving out the ineligible votes and see what the result is then.)

So effectively, Knox County has been without a whole government since the Aug. 2006 election. The remedy is for the county legislative body to appoint temporary replacements until the next regularly scheduled election (i.e. no special elections) at which time permanent replacements are elected by the voters.

Knox County Commission attempted once to follow the law and appoint temporary replacements. Because of violations of open meetings laws, those appointments were ruled void. Knox County Commission is now obligated by law to appoint temporary replacements again. By not doing so, they currently appear to be derelict in their duty.

Unfortunately, neither state law nor the county charter provide any timeframes or scheduling requirements for the appointment process. A reasonable person would conclude that it should be done in a timely and orderly fashion at the earliest possible date so as to ensure proper function of the government and adequate representation of all taxpayers.

In my opinion, this solution does not accomplish that, and in fact complicates and perverts the existing primary and general election process.

Somebody needs to make County Commission do their job. It's too bad that Mayor Ragsdale is politically hamstrung, because some leadership is needed. I realize he can't order them to do anything, but he could be taking the lead and holding a press conference every day and finding any other ways he can to influence Commission through whatever obscure but legal rules he can use to "punish" them for not doing their duty, such as taking away their desks and chairs or parking places or whatever. That sounds pretty silly, but that seems to be what Knox County government is reduced to at this point.

In my view, the other simple solution is to appoint the second place finisher from the Aug. 2006 elections. Because the twelve winners were ruled ineligible, appoint the next in line who was eligible. Then leave the 2008 election process alone and let it play out.

It seems to me that another controversy waiting around the corner are the provisions in state law that make all actions of a voided officeholders retroactively null and void. There are probably hundreds of possible lawsuits over various funding and contracts and zonings etc. that litigants could argue are null and void. Knox County could have to do a whole year of government all over again.

Ragsdale2010's picture

County Commission is going to twart the election process

If things don't go the way county commission wants them to go, they can appoint the 3rd or 4th place finisher and then that person can run as an independent for the commission seat that they have been appointed to.

The commission is utilizing a state structured election as "public input" which is not "public input" to the commission at all, it's an election process and while commissions is trying to create an aura that primary election/public input are the same thing, when Lee Trammel wins the 4th district seat, do you really think those guys can appoint him to the commission? They are simply poised to handicap the election cycle now, which will lead to massive lawsuit number 2, if Moncier hasn't already filed it yet.

Commission is prone to use its appointment process to create an imbalance in the election process, they've done it in judge's races before and they are trying to do it again to shape the entire commission structure along with the 4 county office holders which were term limited last time through.

This is why our community is stuck in a hole we cannot get out of, no leadership, nothing but additional back room deals to get a job, benefits, and some political power for a bunch of hicks and rubes that can't/won't do anything else.

Greg Mackay's picture


they can appoint the 3rd or 4th place finisher and then that person can run as an independent for the commission seat that they have been appointed to.

The qualifying deadline for all candidates, independents included, is Dec. 13th at noon. Even though the independent candidates will not be on the February primary ballot they have to qualify by December.

frenchharp's picture

Independent Qualifying Deadline


Is this election not considered the County General election in August? Why would the independents not have a deadline of April 3?

Mark Harmon's picture

Knox County Commission: the value of information

Knox County Commission did some useful and proper things last night. Commissioners passed unanimously the first reading of an ordinance allowing recall elections of elected county officials. Commissioners postponed action on a revised stormwater ordinance because negotiations are still in progress (though I had ready and distributed a list of amendments that would bring the ordinance into line with the stricter city rules).

Commissioners also voted for Commissioner Hammond's proposal for how to handle appointments. It was presented as a substitute for a Scott Moore proposal that rushed forward to a December 7th appointments meeting. The Moore proposal didn't even have a call for persons seeking appointment to submit information to the commission office.

I voted for Hammond's plan. Here are some reasons why. Elections yield useful information. Let's just take an example from a member of the audience sitting just a few seats away from Don Daugherty. Ray Abbas ran for City Council and solidly won the precincts in the 2nd District, twice. Isn't that useful information that commissioners should consider? Shouldn't he be considered for the appointment and isn't his case for that appointment strengthened by those numbers (especially in light of the choice of two other good candidates, Broyles and Piper, not to seek the appointment)?

Let's consider the primaries from the perspective of useful information about public sentiment, information that should be valuable to those who must make appointments. Other information clearly should play a role, but the importance is clear. The appointment actions of our current commissioners in future elections also can be judged in this context. A voter can and should express a question like "Why did you appoint [Blank] when that person was third in [his/her] party primary, skipped most public forums, and didn't even submit a resume to the commission office?"

No answer to this unique twelve-office appointment process is perfect, but I believe the option selected was the best offered. Better still, the forums and other activities still have time to be tweaked by people such as the thoughtful ones who post here.

--Mark Harmon

Russ's picture

Fig leaf

With all due respect, Dr. Harmon:


You and the other ten Commissioners have had six weeks in which to comply with Chancellor Fansler's ruling, and the eleven of you have failed to do so. For six weeks, the people of Knox County have heard nothing on the subject other than Moore's disingenuous dissembling about his fear of violating the Sunshine Law and distractions about a special election (which, as everyone knew from the start, was not legally permissible).

Instead of holding public forums in which interested parties could submit resumes and be interviewed by Commission, or in which members of the public could nominate someone by petition, we have heard nothing but excuses and delays.

Now we're told that the February primary, which has nothing whatsoever to do with Commission's mandated duty to fill vacancies by appointment, somehow fills in the gaps of missing "useful information" which Commission refuses to solicit on its own. That is sheer nonsense. Commission could request that feedback from the public merely by announcing a series of special public meetings specifically for that purpose.

Commission has had six weeks in which to do so and has failed to lift a finger, and now we're supposed to believe that the February primary will somehow provide the twelve knights in shining armor who will ride in and save Commission's collective hide.

Fat chance.

These vacancies should be filled by caretakers uninterested in running for office, not second- or third-place finishers in random, unrelated elections (to cite your example, Ray Abbas). These appointments have nothing whatsoever to do with anyone interesting in running for the position next August; instead, they should be caretakers whose main function is to keep the seat warm for whomever the people elect next year.

The February primary is irrelevant to that inquiry.

Commission's decision to hide behind the February primary as some sort of popularity contest is nothing more than a fig leaf designed to conceal a flaccid and limp failure of political leadership.

You and the other Commissioners have a court-ordered job to do, and it's high time the eleven of you did it.

Tick, tock, Dr. Harmon. Tick, tock.


Mark Siegel's picture

With all due respect, Russ

Bullhockey back at you.

You are throwing around phrases like "comply with Chancellor Fansler's ruling", "Commission's mandated duty", and "a court-ordered job to do".

What are you talking about?

Chancellor Fansler did not order Commission to fill vacancies. Chancellor Fansler created vacancies, but he has assiduously avoided involving himself in the filling of those vacancies.

He would have to adopt a very activist posture in order to be involved in any way in the filling of the vacancies, and he's made it pretty clear that he doesn't intend to do that.

Under the Tennessee Constitution and Tennessee statutes, Commission has authority to fill vacancies in county positions. Nothing in the Constitution or the statutes requires Commission to fill a vacancy within a certain time of the vacancy being created.

Hysteria aside, I have not seen any portion of the sky falling in Knox County due to the existing vacancies. I have no problem at all with the extra two months. You may, but don't pretend like Commission is violating a court order as a result.

Russ's picture


You are, of course, completely incorrect.

Commission does not merely have "authority" to fill vacancies; they are required to do so.

I would suggest you read Chancellor Fansler's ruling in this case, since it seems you have not done so.

On page 11 of the ruling, he says this:

The jury in this case found certain facts as set forth in its response to jury interrogatories from which this Court concludes that all twelve appointments made on January 31, 2007, were done in violation of Tennessee's Open Meetings Act. Accordingly, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §8-44-105 those actions are hereby declared void and of no effect and pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §8-48-101(4) those offices are vacant, to be filled by the county legislative body in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Tennessee Constitution.

The mention of Article II in Fansler's ruling is a typo. It should have read "Article VII, Section 2," which says this:

Section 2. Vacancies in county offices shall be filled by the county legislative body, and any person so appointed shall serve until a successor is elected at the next election occurring after the vacancy is qualified.

It doesn't say "may." It says "shall." That's a direct command, not a suggestion.

In footnote 3 on page 11 of Fansler's ruling, he says this:

§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.

Of course, those passages are within the section of the decision in which Fansler was responding to requests for clarification on the method for filling the vacancies, which he explicitly refused to do. However, it stretches credulity to the breaking point to suggest that Commission's consititutionally mandated duty to fill vacancies is somehow optional.


Mark Siegel's picture


I stand by every word of what I wrote.

1. In my legal opinion, the portion of Chancellor Fansler's opinion you quoted does not constitute a court order. He is merely saying that vacancies are filled by Commission under state law.

He specifically put a footnote right at the end of the sentence you quoted, and said that the lawyers had asked him to specify how Commission should go about filling the vacancies. His response: "this issue is not before the Court . . ." He went on to make some observations "by way of obiter dictum. Obiter dictum specifically means that what is being said is not a court order, but merely advisory.

2. Your prior post repeatedly talked about Commission's court ordered duty, and, in my opinion, Commission does not have a court ordered duty reggarding filling the vacancies.

3. You correctly point out that the Constitution says the county legislative body "shall" fill vacancies. Commission hasn't said that they aren't going to fill the vacancies. They just said they're going to do it in February.

4. As I said in my prior post, "Nothing in the Constitution or the statutes requires Commission to fill a vacancy within a certain time of the vacancy being created." This was true then, and is still true.

Russ's picture

Mark, you're correct that

Mark, you're correct that nothing in the law or Fansler's ruling specifies a timeframe for filling the vacancies, but the fact remains that the state Constitution and the Knox County Charter require them to do so.

Of course Fansler didn't say "You're ordered to fill the vacancies as part of this decision," but he didn't have to. He pointed out that the requirement to fill them was already present in the charter and the Constitution. It would have been redundant for him to explicitly order what the law already requires of them.

Fansler's footnote was clearly labeled as dictum, but the dictum in question was regarding the method by which the vacancies should be filled, not whether they should be filled at all.

The eleven remaining Commissioners have had ample time to arrange a public, open process for filling these vacancies, and the fact remains that they have steadfastly refused to do anything but dissemble and evade the subject.

Dawdling is not compliance with the law.

I'd love to see an attorney try to argue before a judge that a five-month delay in fulfilling Commission's mandated duties is somehow legally justifiable.


Rachel's picture

Mark, First, thanks for


First, thanks for posting here. Your participation is appreciated. Second, I read your post carefully, with an open mind. I'd like to be convinced Commission made the best decision wrt how to handle appointments.

But sorry, no sale. I just don't see how considering the results of the primary can keep from injecting more mischief into a process that already suffers from way too much.

Third, kudos on the recall and stormwater votes. Seemed like the right direction to me.

Fourth, kudos also on trying out evening meetings. I didn't attend, but I was able to watch on television.

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

Greg Mackay's picture


April 3rd is the deadline for the August State and Federal primary.
December 13th is the deadline for the county offices.

Rachel's picture

It seems to me that another

It seems to me that another controversy waiting around the corner are the provisions in state law that make all actions of a voided officeholders retroactively null and void. There are probably hundreds of possible lawsuits over various funding and contracts and zonings etc. that litigants could argue are null and void. Knox County could have to do a whole year of government all over again.

I don't really think this is a serious threat. The Supreme Court ruled that while the Commission was not a de jure Commission while the term-limited folks were serving, it was serving as the de facto legislative body and therefore its decisions were legal.

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

R. Neal's picture

the de facto legislative

the de facto legislative body

That's true and I forgot about that. Fansler's ruling, however, specifically said "no de facto office holders."

CBT's picture

I've said my peace about

I've said my peace about this before. Screw it up the first time, get a lawsuit and adverse decision, then delay for months and wait for the primary election instead of doing their job. Geez.

This delay is weak-kneed pandering, pushed by one or more Commissioners who have their eyes set on the 6th Floor. They don't want to rely on a good process and sound judgment, but rather the crutch of a primary election. So, if these Republican Commissioners vote for appointing a Democrat in any District, they'll surely be hearing about that in future elections when they are on the ballot as 'Republicans' and looking for support/money from Republicans. Same for Democrats voting for Republicans, right? At least with appointments now they could say they did their job. Just one of many pitfalls in calling for a delay.

And, Don, if you think Ballard is a swing vote, you need to attend more Commission meetings, particularly those dealing with the Ragsdale audits. Ask Lewis Cosby about the questioning he got from Comm. Ballard. The 'swing vote', if one exists, is C. Leuthold.

There are a ton of people running, and the primary will at least weed some of them out.

Or get a 'winner' with 25% of the total vote.

knoxrebel's picture

Don Daugherty Chad: Mark my

Don Daugherty
Chad: Mark my word. Ballard was not the swing vote before because Ragsdale wouldn't pitch in and help him and he can't get help from the folks on the other side, who are lining up behind Lowe. But the deal is done, my friend. It is done.

CBT's picture

In my view, the other simple

In my view, the other simple solution is to appoint the second place finisher from the Aug. 2006 elections.

Seriously Randy, make a list of the second placers. Do you think in each instance a more qualified temporary appointment couldn't be found with public input and an open process?

There's not an easy solution. But, we didn't elect Commissioners to do work that's easy.

R. Neal's picture

a more qualified That's the

a more qualified

That's the point. They were qualified and eligible to run according to state election law. The winners in those races weren't.

bill young's picture


If commission chooses to appoint folks that ran & lost,last year or next,thats cool.I'm also down with appointing folks that win the primary.

What I'm not cool with is motions/process excluding those that have not '06 or '08.

I will be talking to commissioners in the next couple of months & express my thoughts.

R. Neal's picture

Here's the scorecard and

Here's the scorecard and what the lineup would be if commission appointed the Aug. 06 runners up.


• Sheriff Tim Hutchison (R) replaced by J.J. Jones (R): Runner up: Randy Tyree (D, 47.2%)

• County Clerk Mike Padgett (D) replaced by Billy Tindell (D): Runner up: (Unopposed)

• Trustee Mike Lowe (R) replaced by Fred Sisk (R): Runner up: (Unopposed)

• Register of Deeds Steve Hall (R) replaced by Sherry Witt (R): Runner up: Scott Emge (D, 33.5%)

County Commission:

• 1-A Diane Jordan (D) replaced by Josh Jordan (D): Runner up: Nick Della Volpe (R, 27.8%)

• 2-B Billy Tindell (D) replaced by Charles Bolus (R): Runner up: Amy Broyles (D, 28.5%)

• 4-A John Schmid (R) replaced by Richard Cate (R): Runner up: Joan Wagner (D, 40.0%)

• 4-B Phil Guthe (R) replaced by Lee Tramel (R): Runner up: Elaine Davis (D, 44.6%)

• 5-C John Griess (R) replaced by Frank Leuthold (R): Runner up: Tom Salter (D, 40.1%)

• 6-A Mark Cawood (D) replaced by Sharon Cawood (D): Runner up: Chuck James (R, 47.4%)

• 8-B John Mills (R) replaced by Jack Huddleston (R): Runner up: Thomas Michael Pressley (D, 40.5%)

• 9-A Larry Clark (R) replaced by Tim Greene (R): Runner up: Steve McGill (D, 39.2%)

Chad, who among the runners up isn't qualified? The number of votes they got in the Aug. election is in parenthesis. Seems pretty respectable to me, especially since a couple of them were write-ins. It seems like the biggest problem is Republicans running unqualified, i.e. ineligible candidates.

Mark Siegel's picture

You're missing the fact that

the commissioners who supported waiting until February are not the commissioners who got the Commission in trouble on January 31.

knoxrebel's picture

Don Daugherty Actually, this

Don Daugherty

Actually, this may not be correct. By getting the "Commission in trouble" do you mean violating the Sunshine law? If that's so, even Mark Harmon did that, and he was one of the 6 - the only Democrat - who voted to wait until after the primary. None of these guys are untainted. None of them. And the idea that "waiting" is somehow going to help is ridiculous.

Mark Siegel's picture

By getting the "Commission

By getting the "Commission in trouble" I mean committing serious violations of the Sunshine law to make decisions about filling the vacancies in private.

Sure, they all had conversations in private in which they discussed and deliberated about the vacancies. To the best of my knowledge, however, Mike Hammond, Tony Norman, Mark Harmon, Craig Leuthhold, Larry Smith, and Phil Ballard were not at the core of the discussions, deliberations, and decisions which justified filing of a lawsuit and voiding of the appointments.

In my opinion, these people were sincere in thinking that it would assist them to allow the election process to filter out at least through the primary, and that doing so would allow the voters to have a shot to express their collective will.

You may think this is ridiculous. You're entitled to your opinion.

R. Neal's picture

That's true, Mark. Gives

That's true, Mark. Gives them a little more credibility I guess. I just don't like the process. Seems "back door" to me.

KC's picture

Commisioners and the will of the people

While it seems that what happened last night was that a special election was created, without having to create a special election, I believe that the commissioners' actions were what they felt like the best they could do.

Any move by the commission now is like crossing a mine field on a pogo stick, dangerous no matter what you do.

By waiting until after the election, the commissioners will have a legitimate declaration by the public, upon which it will be much safer to make the appointments. No group will be able to declare it wasn't listened to, or it wasn't allowed to be heard.

Rachel's picture

But in a district with a

But in a district with a Democratic primary winner and a Republican primary winner, how do they choose between the two? Especially without looking like they're influencing the outcome of the general.

I don't think they can.

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

bill young's picture

1st district

I agree that 27% is good for a Republican over here BUT 72% of 1st district voters did not for Nick.

No way would I support appointing a Republican in the 1st district.

I would fight that as hard as I know how.

But if R can get 6 votes for a 1st district Republican appointee..I would tip my hat to old chap & move on.

R. Neal's picture

The law does not require

The law does not require public input from voters or public forums or special elections, or any of that. All it says it that the commission has to make the appointments. It's left up to them to how to do it.

They could have been doing any of these things last January. They could have gone down to Nashville and gotten a special election. They could have held public forums or at least had an open forum on Jan. 31st.

Instead, they chose to go with a process of secret deliberations and back room deals. One commissioner tried to have a public forum, but got smacked around by everyone for his troubles.

To me it seems the danger lies in doing nothing, or worse, perverting the election process.

Brian A. Paone's picture

The answer is in the middle

I agree with Bill Young on Strickland's proposal. Doing the appointments in early January gives the public time to know who's vying for which appointment, and gives us time to dig into their backgrounds and find out more about these prospective appointees. The last time the process was rushed, we got a former crack dealer, a guy who was successfully sued in Federal court for sexual harassment, a handful of cronies, and two family members as representatives.

I live in Fourth District. I'm fully aware that I have no representative sitting on commission. I am also aware, though, that I can easily keep score of what's coming up for a vote that could affect me, and I also have not only the public forums during committee meetings and the General Session to speak my mind about it, I can also ask one of the other commissioners to call me up while the issue is on the floor to address it. In short, we can represent ourselves until we have enough information to choose a temporary replacement who suits the task.

February is too long, but better late than back to court.

Mike Cohen's picture


I think Commissioners know that no matter what they do, a lot of people are going to be unhappy. So, after a fairly spirited debate, they narrowly chose to wait and not fill until after the voters have spoken. What they are hearing from people more than anything is that they, the people, want an election.

You can criticize them for what they chose, but if they had chosen the other way they'd still be criticized.

Who do they appoint? That's up to them. But I suspect they will largely (if not entirely) follow the option of appointing the winner in the party that has traditionally held the seat and was ousted by term limits. That would mean 1,2,6th districts go Democrat, 4,5,8,9 go Republican.

The other possibility is they appoint whoever gets the most votes...but there are some problems with that. Say in District X, ususally Republican, 6 Republicans run...but just one Democrat. On primary day, the Democrat may have more votes even though the district went Republican.

There's also the chance that someone could win the primary that, for whatever reason, they are simply not prepared to appoint.

I'd suggest going with the party of the last elected person, or the winner of the primary in the party that has the most votes cast...not just the individual who gets the most votes.

edna waters's picture

we are where we are

I have to agree with Cohen on this one - any decision made by the commission is going to be criticized. Many of the remaining commissioners are trying to do the right thing and they are NOT the players that got us to this point. I'm still trying to figure out how an entire body "forgot" about term limits.

Lumpy's display is a reaction to losing control - he's not used to it and he doesn't perform well under adverse conditions. I don't know that I've ever seen a public figure that was so transparent and so very needy.

R. Neal's picture

I'd suggest going with the

I'd suggest going with the party of the last elected person, or the winner of the primary in the party that has the most votes cast...not just the individual who gets the most votes.

If they're going to have a pseudo-fake special election, that seems reasonable.

How does this affect/change primary candidate strategies? What about the ones who said they would not seek appointment but wait for a legit election by the people?

KC's picture

I agree with R.Neal and Rachel, but

with extreme voter discontent, I think the commission decided to put the decision in the hands of the voters, for the most part.

Although Fansler's decision was clear, how to apply that decision really wasn't, so I think the commissioners decided if they were going to err, they should at least err in such a way as to be perceived as following the will of the voters.

Sure, the appointment process that follows the primary could influence the general, but both the primary and the genral will be decided, in the end, by the public rather than what is believed to be a group of insiders.

To paraphrase a famous quote, it's probably the worst possible plan, except for all the others.

Stan G's picture


Duplicate Message

Stan G's picture

Another Embarrassment?

Given yesterday’s decision, Mike Cohen ‘s suggestion appears reasonable. The flaw, however, is that County Commission did not commit to base the appointments on the results of the primary. As I read the News-Sentinel, they, in fact, announced that they would begin holding public hearings immediately after the primary for candidates to make their cases. Presumably, that would include candidates who are not seeking office in August.

In should be clear that the voters elected the current commissioners to conduct the business of the county in compliance with the Sunshine Law. That business includes the appointment of replacement commissioners when vacancies occur to assure that all Knox County voters are represented equally. Had the commissioners done so in January, there would have been no trial and there would be no talk of a special election. What the Commission should have done in January, they could have done in November, and can do in December.

The one good thing about being pessimistic is - at least it shows you understand the situation. -- Unknown

rikki's picture

if camberal nonsense is something you wish...

The best way for commission to respect the will of the voters is to convene shortly after the Dec 13 filing deadline and appoint nominees who are not running for office.

Candidates should not be forced to decide whether to seek appointments, nor should they have to alter their campaign strategies to conform with the commission's arbitrary appointment rules. The fact that some candidates have declared they will not seek to be appointed makes the post-primary plan messier than it already is.

Commission continues to operate without leadership or vision. There is no problem solving going on, no efforts to establish parameters and identify drawbacks and benefits of different approaches. Their proposals are half-formed at best because they will not constrain their options. If they want to use the results of the primary, they should have declared how those results will constrain their choices. For example, they could have voted on any of the several alternatives discussed here, such as appointing the primary winner from the party that last held the seat legitimately. Because they can still appoint whoever they want, regardless of the results, their decision ultimately amounts to nothing but a delay tactic. If they appoint a primary winner to one seat, a loser to another and someone who did not run to another, it will be obvious that the wait was pointless. Similarly, if they think public forums are a good idea, they need to formally define how those forums will constrain their choices.

Because all they have really decided is a timeframe for making arbitrary appointments, delay is all that has been accomplished. Maybe the chancellor should be asked how he feels about the delays and the potential interference with the election.

The one bright light in all this is that when the commission makes these appointments, they will have to publicly deliberate or risk court penalties, so we should have some understanding of why they might, for example, respect the will of one district more or less than another. That will be fun.

Or they could just appoint caretakers not running for the seats, stay out of the election process altogether, and spoil the fun of watching them drop on the deck and flop like a fish.

knoxrebel's picture

Rikki: I could not agree

Rikki: I could not agree with you more on this. Once we know the lay of the land (Dec. 13), we know who is running and who is not and who just wants to caretake and who just wants the advantage (or receives the disadvantage) of incumbency, then make the appointments. Get it done THIS year.

Asking Fansler exactly what he meant when he ordered the Commission to make the appointments is precisely what we need to do. We've got togeher a bi-partisan group of folks who intend to intervene and ask for enforcement of his order. If he intended to give the Commission complete unfettered discretion, well, that's exactly what they have at this point.

Mark Siegel's picture

Commission continues to

Commission continues to operate without leadership or vision. There is no problem solving going on, no efforts to establish parameters and identify drawbacks and benefits of different approaches. Their proposals are half-formed at best because they will not constrain their options. If they want to use the results of the primary, they should have declared how those results will constrain their choices.

This may be essentially true, but ...

1. How much leadership and vision are we going to get from County Commission, at best?

2. I think all the Commissioners are making a sincere effort to operate within the parameters of the Open Meetings Law. They have been led to believe that they are under a court order to do so, and that stringent penalties may be applied for violations.

For most of these guys, this comes about as natural as delivering the Gettyburg Address in Mandarin Chinese. So if they seem to be flopping like fish, at least they're trying to do it legally.

3. Without cutting backroom deals, these eleven guys may have trouble agreeing on lunch. They got six votes for a date on which to make appointments. You wish they had articulated a well-reasoned rationale of how they're going to make those decisions on that date. I am not surprised that they cannot make that kind of group decision.

rikki's picture

sympathy for the commissioners

It's hardly unreasonable to expect the commission chairman to have leadership skills. How hard would it be to assemble a working group to hash out a coherent appointment process? Even simple stuff like whether to appoint the fee offices before or after the commission seats has not been decided. Are we going to have rolling swearings in? How can we be this far into things, with the mistakes of January to learn from, and still have no definition to the process?

I have a suggestion for the commissioners distressed by the Sunshine Law: resign.

CBT's picture

Chad, who among the runners

Chad, who among the runners up isn't qualified?

Emge for one. There are others. In 5 of the 8, you're replacing a D for an R in districts which have almost always been R's. In 2 others, the reverse is true. Is that the goal with appointing so-called 'runner-ups', a Democrat majority by appointment? A Republican wins and you appoint the Democrat loser? This also runs contrary to the idea of appointing Dems to traditionally Dem seats and Repubs to traditionally Repub seats.

I understand the mine field Commission faces. But, searching for the easy way instead of doing their job irks me. I wish Commission would have proven to the public that they can do the job and do it right. It seems that would go a long way to restoring trust in Knox County government.

it's probably the worst possible plan, except for all the others.

Good quote.

R. Neal's picture

Emge for one. How

Emge for one.

How come?

There are others. In 5 of the 8, you're replacing a D for an R in districts which have almost always been R's. In 2 others, the reverse is true.

So party affiliation disqualifies someone for office now? But I understand what you're saying. On the other hand, I hope you understand what I'm saying re. there wouldn't be a problem (or at least as big of a problem) if the Rs hadn't run so many unqualified, as in not eligible, candidates.

(And yes, I realize that because of a bunch of legal maneuvering at the time they were sort of technically eligible, at least for a brief moment on election day. But that has since been proved wrong and voided.)

KC's picture

But, searching for the easy

But, searching for the easy way instead of doing their job irks me.

I agree, but I also think whereas we would hope that

Commission would have proven to the public that they can do the job and do it right. It seems that would go a long way to restoring trust in Knox County government.

The "public" monolith will divide, as is usually the case, into agenda driven constituencies that will make accusations that commission violated the "people's will" when the constituencies don't get their way.

Commission seems to be setting it up so that, if commission takes its cue from the primary, the commission will simply be spreading the risk and turning the voters and candidates into stakeholders in the appointment process. I think commission knows whatever it does will be criticized, so it always makes sense to share.

bill young's picture

1st district

This second place finish idea has been floating around for a year & half....first proposed as a way to select '06 county Democratic nominees by the Executive Committee..if nominees had not been allowed to be on the general election ballot.

I was opposed to that proposal because the 2nd place candidate for commission received 9.2% of the total 1st district primary vote(1,096 total vote..2nd place 101 votes).To me that wasn't enough support to gain the nomination.The same holds true for 27% support in the general election to gain an automatic appointment.

However,I over re-acted & was being closed minded when I said I would no way support a Republican for the seat.

If,when the time comes,a 1st district Lincoln Republican or an independent is our best choice to get on with the bidness of Knox be it.

Pamela Treacy's picture

Listen to Rikki

I think we need to listen to Rikki when she suggests to appoint those who are not running. It would not be fair to allow one candidate to have name recognition as an advantage over another. Basically, it would be letting the commissioners choose who will be elected.

We need a fair election that focuses on the issues and vision for the future.

Stan G's picture

Tongue In Cheek, Pamela

I think we need to listen to Rikki when she suggests to appoint those who are not running.

She definitely needs to shave more often; some of us are beginning to think she's a guy.

Pamela Treacy's picture


Did I just call a guy a girl?

rikki's picture

I take it as a compliment.

I take it as a compliment.

frenchharp's picture


Did County Commission explain why they want to wait? Do they have a specific plan? How will this effect the independents?

bill young's picture

Commissioner Mark Harmon

I do hope that commissioners in the appointment process do their level best to not be partisan but look for appointees that help us thru what we've got ourselves into.

That is why,after reflection I wanted back off my partisan rant per the 1st district.However I do think a Democrat will be appointed in the 1st but I'm not set in stone.I will talk with Tank per this appointment.

Futhermore,I did tell a friend of mine Ray is the kind of person I would be interested in being appointed.

Let be clear on one thing...when it comes to county elections I am a Democratic partisan to the core.I will always support the nominee & I will always support a Democratic incumbent in the primary.

I supported Mark Harmon when he was the 2nd district nominee & I will support him in the 2010 Democratic Primary.

CBT's picture

Emge for one. How

Emge for one.

How come?

Uhh, no experience in the Register's office or anything remotely related to the work in the Register's office (title work, maps, document retention). What's his profession again? I think I asked before on this blog and was told he was a house painter. No offense to painters or Mr. Emge personally, but he has zero qualifications to be Register of Deeds. Turning it over to him because he qualified for ballot purposes and put up signs in intersections and right-of-ways 6 months early is ridiculous.

And Randy, you know and I know "R's" didn't run anyone. Each candidate made their own decision. The Republican Party played no role whatsoever in what Republicans ran. There were (now declared) term limited D's who ran also. Of course, as you point out, there was a lot of confusion back then as to who could run, should run, etc.

Scott Emge's picture

In Response to Mr. Tindell

Mr. Tindell,

First let me say that I have previously stated that I will not seek or accept appointment as Register of Deeds by this County Commission. I will only serve as Register if elected.

In reference to your comment that I have no experience in title work, maps, document retention, etc…you are absolutely correct. I have not worked in the Register's Office, therefore if elected, I will have to complete the mandatory CTAS training for County RoD's that all newly elected County Registers are required to go through. I will also voluntarily complete the Certified Public Administrator program just as former Register Steve Hall and Ms. Witt have done. I have every bit as much experience with title work, maps, document retention, etc… as Mr. Hall had when he first became Register and Ms.Witt had when she started working in the office.

As you know, The Tennessee Legislature sets the requirements for eligibility to seek and hold public office in our state. The following is an excerpt from the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) manual for County Register of Deeds…

Legal Qualifications of the Officeholder

Article 7, Section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution requires each county to
elect a Register for a term of four years. The Tennessee Constitution, like all state constitutions, is essentially a limiting instrument which restricts the discretion of the Legislature. The Legislature may pass any law which does not violate the state or federal constitution. Therefore, since the state constitution does not define qualifications for the office of Register, this task is one for the Legislature. The Legislature has chosen not to place any requirements regarding education or experience upon the person holding the office of Register. Any person who is a citizen of the United States and of Tennessee, who is not otherwise disqualified from holding public office, may be elected to the office of Register. Also, the person elected must be eighteen (18) years of age upon taking office. T.C.A. § 8-18-101. The Register must also reside in the county during the term of office or vacate the office. T.C.A. § 8-13-104.

If your opinion is that I am not qualified to hold the office of Register of Deeds, you are most certainly entitled to your opinion, but please note that your opinion is at odds with that of the State Legislature.

If we operated under your assertion that only persons who have working knowledge of the office were entitled to be the Register, we could just do away with elections and replace the Register every 8 years with their chief assistant. I would contend that in a democracy, election is always the better method. Luckily in our country, any concerned citizen who desires to help their community and who qualifies has the right and ability to run for and hold public. It doesn’t matter if they work in the residential home painting business, the legal council field, or even as a used car salesman.

If anyone would like information about my campaign and my plans for the Register's office if elected, please visit my web site, (and I apologize for the simplicity of the site… as a person who is not a political insider, with no big financial donors, I am operating on a small campaign budget). You can also reach me by phone anytime.

Scott Emge

CBT's picture

Mr. Emge, Thank you for

Mr. Emge,

Thank you for confirming you have no experience for the job of Register of Deeds. You will note I made an important difference between 'ballot qualifications' and actual qualifications for the job of Register of Deeds. You are ballot qualified, but so are tens of thousands of other people in Knox County. You have no more qualifications than these other thousands. On the other hand, if Knox County wants someone who has experience in the actual work of the Register of Deeds office that's a completely different comparison.

Contrary to your assertion that Knox County would simply elect the Register's assistant every eight years, there are lots of other people who would certainly have qualifications you do not possess. Folks such as title attorneys, title searchers, those who deal with mapping, information technology, records retention and other positions which have some relation to the business of the Register's office. People who work in the Register's office would also be in this category of people with job qualifications. These would no doubt be better choices than someone who has virtually no idea what goes on in the west end of the second floor of the City-County Building.

The Legislature passes laws which sets minimum criteria for candidates to run. I trust that the voters in Knox County will have higher standards for the person they elect to the office of Register of Deeds.

Scott Emge's picture

Sir, As I said, I have just


As I said, I have just as much experience with title work, maps, document retention, etc… as Mr. Hall (who you supported) had when he first became Register and Ms.Witt (who I assume you support) had when she started working in the office.

It is certainly your perogative to support whom you choose.
If you prefer a title attorney as Register, by all means find a republican title attorney and get them to pick up a qualifying petition.

I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving.


CBT's picture

Happy Thanksgiving to you as

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. By the way, the last time I checked Steve Hall isn't running for Register of Deeds. Comparing yourself to Steve's qualifications some, what, 20+ years ago, seems meaningless. I would mention that prior to running for Register of Deeds Steve had served as a State Representative in Nashville and was very active in local government at the time. So, he did have qualifications you do not possess. For now, you might want to compare your qualifications to candidates currently in the race.

Mark Siegel's picture

prior to running for

prior to running for Register of Deeds Steve had served as a State Representative in Nashville and was very active in local government at the time.

That's an incredibly weak argument, Chad.

Scruffy Citysin's picture

Frank Talk

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