Knox County Commission to Push for Special Election

By: Kim Bedford Email
By: Kim Bedford Email

Knoxville (WVLT) - The Knox County commission has decided they will push for a special election to fill the eight commission seats and four county-wide seats vacated because of the Sunshine Lawsuit ruling.

But they will also meet next month to plan out a redo of the appointments just in case the request for a special election is denied.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford was in at Monday's meeting and has the details.

Earlier this month, a jury decided the Knox County Commission violated the state's Open Meetings Act when replacing 12 term-limited officials in January.

That threw 8 commissioners and 4 county-wide officials out of office.

Chancellor Daryl Fansler ruled there must be a redo of the appointments but left it to the 11 remaining commissioners and County Law Director John Owings to figure out how.

"I don't know how long this will drag out," said Knox County Commission Chairman Scott Moore.

Nearly three hours of arguing back and forth on a special election versus appointments.

I have had no one, no one say to me that they want an appointment process," said Commissioner Mike Hammond.

Law Director John Owings read a response from Assistant State Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter regarding a special election.

"The simple answer is no . Even assuming that the court has the authority to order a special election, there would not be enough time to conduct a primary in December," said Owings.

"What we're looking at is a non-binding opinion from the assistant to the attorney general," said Knox County
Commissioner Mark Harmon.

But even Owings himself says he doesn't think an election will happen.

"I don't believe the chancellor will order a special election. I don't believe that because of what he's said in the past that he feels like he has the authority to do it, so don't get your hopes up," Owings said.

Still, nearly every commissioner said they'll do whatever it takes to let the people vote.

"I always, always think the people should have their voices heard through an election," said Craig Leuthold, Knox County Commissioner.

"We want to do the will of the people and we want to solve this problem," said Commissioner Tony Norman.

Some citizens came with a message for the commission.

"These appointments got you in trouble in the first place. It was filled with arrogance, and appointments send the wrong message. You should break your back to have an election," said Knox County resident Bayer Donahue.

Attorney Herb Moncier, who represented the citizens in the Sunshine Lawsuit, says he's filing a motion to declare the 12 offices in the 2006 election void.

"I'm talking about a constitutional new election because the people of Knox County never had an election to fill these seats to begin with," said Moncier.

The commission will send a letter to the governor, state legislature and state attorney general asking for a special election.

It's unclear when they could hear back.

For recent related stories, click the links below.

Be sure to stay with Volunteer TV and VolunteerTV.com for the latest on this still developing story.


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