Ethics Committee Discusses Nepotism

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Knoxville (WVLT) - A new ethics policy passed Wednesday would mean no Knox County employee could serve in an elected office if the policy makes it to the ballot in August.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford takes us to Wednesday morning's meeting and explains what the new revisions to the nepotism policy mean.

All of the amendments to Knox County's ethics policy Wednesday were spear-headed by commissioner Mike Hammond.

"The biggest thing on the ethics policy was clarifying elected officials not being able to influence family members in getting raises and promotions and hirings," Hammond said.

The new nepotism policy says no elected official of Knox County shall advocate, recommend, appoint or promote his or her relative to a Knox County government position.

"There are many, many good citizens in Knox County that have not been involved up to this point in government, and I believe they're ready to step up now," Ethics Committee Chairman Ron Stewart said.

But some committee members didn't even think the nepotism revision should make it to the ballot...

"We're taking away the rights of a lot of people because you have people that follow the careers of their parents and school teachers," Ethic Committee Member Paul Pinkston said.

The other amendment passed bans all county employees, including the school system, from serving in elected offices.

"I feel conflicted by this," Ethics Committee Member Kim Waller said.

A conflict of interest that sparked some heated debate.

"If the editor for the Sentinel would decide to run for commission and be involved, would that not be a conflict?" Ethics Committee Member Mike Duncan said.

"Let's just get it on the table. You're saying since I'm a member of the media, do I have a conflict of interest and no, I don't feel that's a conflict because my main paycheck does not come from Knox County government," Hammond said.

Even more controversial is the 35 dollar limit Hammond recommended for all Knox County employees. Currently there is no limit.

"Not being able to accept gifts over 35 dollars will, I think, help restore some confidence in the public. They know that their public officials aren't out there living lavish lifestyles at their expense," Hammond said.

"I really don't think you can legislate ethics or morals, either one. That's just up to the people," Pinkston said.

The committee will vote on the final policy November eighth. The Knox County Commission will then decide if it should go before the public for a vote in August.

Knox County Ethics Model

Addendum or Clarification to Knox County Ethics Policy (Notations by Commisioner Mike Hammond)


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