Was Annexation Vote Legal?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - If you've ever doubted whether one single vote matters, look no further than last month's annexation of a multi-million dollar shopping development into the City of Knoxville.

Now, after more than six weeks, we finally are hearing from the voter at the center of the controversy, more specifically from his lawyer.

Questions over this vote first prompted a lawsuit, later dropped.

Now, calls for Tennessee's Attorney General to see whether the election was legit, a legit loophole, or a flat end-run around the law.

"There were probably six to seven people living in the trailers over there," says Jason Fox, who lives near the South Grove Development.

"When did they start moving people out?" asks Gordon Boyd.

"It was probably, I'd say, a couple months before the Lowes started being put in," he estimates.

Fox says one of his neighbors could have held out long enough, to be the only voter around to approve annexing the 60 acre South Grove development into Knoxville last month.

But, "Does the name Garrett Meek mean anything to you?" Gordon asks.

"I've never heard the name," says Fox.

Registration records show 20-year-old Garrett Meek changed his legal voting address to south grove back in march.

"This one person is said to have become a resident at a construction site, and immediately after the vote, the home in which they were living, the building in which they were living, was torn down," explains Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond.

Other neighbors have mailboxes.

So why, Knox County Commissioners wonder, would Meek keep having his mail delivered to a P.O. Box in Powell?

Why, as Thursday's News Sentinel reported, would utility records show no electricity or water used before May?

"My guess is he might not have lived there in March, he might have lived there in October and I'm not sure about the period in between," says Knox County Commissioner John Griess.

"Did they actually live there, or were they there in name only?" Hammond asks.

Annexation into Knoxville will allow south grove's developers to claim about $2 million dollars in site improvements.

Would-be-tenants: restaurants or clubs, could apply to sell liquor by the drink.

"There's no question in my mind this is going to be a wonderful development for South Knoxville. It's going to generate a lot of tax revenue which will benefit our community, that's not the issue," says Hammond.

"I would like to feel at the end of the day that the system was either gamed or legitimate, as to how this went down," says Griess.

Late Thursday afternoon, Garrett Meek's lawyer told us his client is a 20-year-old construction worker who was a resident of the South Grove site when he registered and voted, living there first in a trailer, then in a house.

The lawyer won't say whether meek worked for south grove's developer, or who paid the rent or utility bills.

Rather, he says everybody, commissioners included, should quit speculating, calm down, and wait for the Attorney General's verdict.

The developers' lawyer also takes issue with Thursday's Sentinel reports, but has not gotten back to us with a specific breakdown.


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