Local 8 Now WVLT | Knoxville, East Tennessee | News, Weather, Sports

Paper Will Drop Suit if Commission Reappoints Term-Limited Commissioners

By: Gary Loe
By: Gary Loe

Knoxville (WVLT) - You might call it déjà vu. Knox County Commissioners may vote again on people to replace the ousted term limited commissioners.

Knox County voters may finally get a say this round in who represents them on commission.

If commissioners "re-do" appointments, the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper will drop its lawsuit, alleging commissioners violated the sunshine law.

The Knoxville News Sentinel alleges that 12 commissioners, before and during the January 31st appointments, conducted business in secret.

In a letter to the Knox County Law Director, the newspaper's attorney says certain commissioners met without a quorum in "back room" sessions and discussed the appointees.

News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy says he's only watching out for the public's best interest.

"I don't care who gets on commission, that's not for me to say," says News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy. "I want the public to be involved, I want the public to decide and I want the public body to operate according to the law, and in the spirit of open government."

"We are likely to have serious problems with either one of these lawsuits, based on our bad behavior," Commissioner Mark Harmon favors a "re-do", which would avoid a potentially costly lawsuit.

The News Sentinel's attorney suggests in the letter that "County Commission...be reconvened at a public meeting after adequate public notice and that the mandate of the Supreme Court be once again addressed."

Further, the newspaper's attorney says "However, the ultimate decision should not be made until...the public is afforded ample opportunity to know the facts and to be heard..."

The Law Director says settling out-of-court may benefit the commission.

"One, it may aid in restoring the public trust that some are quoted as shaken. Two, it does not require the commission to admit it violated the law," says Law Director John Owings.

A majority of commissioners Tuesday voted against putting the "re-do" on Monday's meeting agenda.

"Quite frankly, I don't feel like I violated the Sunshine Law," says Commissioner Craig Leuthold.

Meanwhile, Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale says the News Sentinel has a good chance of winning its lawsuit. "It's up to the county commission to determine where they want to go, do they want to try and settle those suits out of court, or do they want a judge to settle it for them."

The Knox County Law Director told commissioners Tuesday that by resolving the newspaper's lawsuit, it would also take care of a second lawsuit which was filed by attorney Herb Moncier.

Commissioners may add the settlement item to Monday's agenda, but most think it won't be heard until their March meeting.


Join the Conversation!

To comment, the following rules must be followed:

  • No Obscenity, Profanity, Vulgarity, Racism or Violent Descriptions
  • No Negative Community Comparisons
  • No Fighting, Name-calling, or Personal Attacks
  • Multiple Accounts are Not Allowed
  • Stay on Story Topic

Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content, but the station is under no legal obligation to do so.
If you believe a comment violates the above rules, please use the Flagging Tool to alert a Moderator.
Flagging does not guarantee removal.

Multiple violations may result in account suspension.
Decisions to suspend or unsuspend accounts are made by Station Moderators.
Links require admin approval before posting.
Questions may be sent to webmaster@wvlt-tv.com. Please provide detailed information.

powered by Disqus

WVLT VOLUNTEER TV

6450 Papermill Drive Knoxville, TN 37919 Phone - (865) 450-8888; Fax - (865) 450-8869
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2014 WVLT-TV Inc. - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 5949161 - local8now.com/a?a=5949161