Wrap: Sun Sets For 12 County Officials

By: Nick Bona
By: Nick Bona

Knoxville (WVLT) -- The sun has now set for 12 Knox County government officials.

On Friday at Noon, Chancellor Daryl Fansler announced what will happen as a result of the county commission violating the state open meetings law.

His answer to the problem?

The removal of eight appointed commissioners.

They include Josh Jordan, Chuck Bolus, Richard Cate, Lee Tramel, Frank Leuthold, Sharon Cawood, Jack Huddleston, and Tim Greene.

Four other county wide positions were also put out of office.

They are Sheriff J.J. Jones, County Clerk Billy Tindell, Trustee Fred Sisk, and Register of Deeds Sherry Witt.

The Chancellor's official reason for the ruling was due to the back-room wheeling and dealing at the January 31st commission meeting.

In his decision he said the public must be told everything during the appointment process.

According to him, that didn't happen so all the appointed commissioners must be removed to prevent them from further violating the open meetings law by sitting on the commission.

Even though the commissioners had to be removed under penalty of fines or jail time, that doesn't mean they can never serve the county again.

Fansler also ruled they are eligible to be re-appointed.

But a problem still remains.

It still isn't clear how or when replacement commissioners should be appointed.

County Law Director John Owings has already come up with his own idea for where to go next.

"At the commission meeting on October 22nd, the commission by motion will call a special called meeting for Monday November 5th to fill the eight county commission seats," Owings said. "We want to do that so that we may reconstitute the legislative body of Knox County."

Once all 19 commission seats have been filled, he would call a second meeting for November 19th to fill the four county wide offices.

The most interesting of those four remaining offices is the Sheriff's.

At the January 31st meeting, J.J. Jones took over for long time Sheriff Tim Hutchinson.

In the position, Jones was in charge more than a thousand sworn deputies, correctional officers, and employees, plus 411,000 citizens.

But his removal does not mean Knox County is temporarily without law and order.

Jones's Chief Deputy, Tom Spangler, has already taken over the position till a new appointment is made.

"We will continue with the business, nothing changes, only titles temporarily," Spangler said.

We will still provide the great law enforcement that you've come to know and the citizens expect," said Jones who moves back into his previous as assistant chief.

Jones does not plan to appeal the decision and hopes to be re-appointed.

If he isn't, he says he will run for re-election.

The Chancellor's decision did not seem to catch the commissioners off guard.

Though some of them did admit to being wary about what happens next.

They say the remaining 11 commissioners making new appointments is a problem since the full body should be at 19.

But they are split over how to fill the remaining eight seats.

"Let's take it back to an election, knock county commission completely out of it, let's let the people make the decision," said 7th District Commissioner R. Larry Smith.

"Legally, what can we do and how would it work? When would the elections be held," asked 5th District Commissioner Mike Hammond? "Right now we have an 11 member body. Can we survive as and an 11-member body for 90 days or 60 days until a special election could be held?"

Commissioner Smith isn't the only person in favor of a special election.

Citizens attorney Herb Moncier says Chancellor Fansler's ruling is a dream come true.

"The people that I represent have instructed me to continue to press forward and to try to get special elections in Knox County as soon as it can be done," he said.

Moncier has already made motion for a special election that is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

If passed, it would allow a Tennessee judge to rule on the special election by December.

But event with that pending motion, there is still no time table on when a decision will be made regarding the voided seats

We will continue to bring you the latest on the commission on Volunteer TV News and right here on VolunteerTV.com.


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