Is the “People’s Work” Suffering?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - Knox County Commissioners are spending the next two and a half weeks trying to decide whether it's worth spending more tax money, to figure out who may have misspent how much of your tax dollars.

The issue is whether to let the state comptroller help more, or take over, those ever-growing county audits.

But Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd reports there may be more to the bottom line.

Publicly, at least, a number of commissioners, even the mayor himself would welcome, or wouldn't fight, letting the state lead the charge so they can focus on “the people's work”.

Eight thousand kids hosted at the Knoxville Convention Center at a back to school event.

“That doesn't take any tax dollars,” says Scott Bacon from Knox County Schools.

But now that the tangled web of county audits includes claims that at least one convention has been sales tax free, thanks to a taxpayer funded non-profit with ties to a Mayor's senior manager.

“The perception would be, oh, if nothing is found, they're sweeping it under the rug, or if something is found, they're just being political,” explains Commissioner Greg “Lumpy” Lambert.

“Which ever Commissioners are getting to the auditors ears, that's what he's auditing,” says Commissioner R. Larry Smith.

“I think bringing in the state comptroller is exactly what's needed right now,” Lambert says.

Mayor Ragsdale laid the rail a month and a half ago, telling the county auditor that leaking findings early “not only compromises the process, but undermines confidence”.

Whoever winds up in charge of them, nobody's guessing how long these audits will take to finish, begging the question, what's missing in the meantime?

“The county's work is absolutely being done. It's the first day of school, the schools are open, the kids are going to school,” says Lambert.

“We're looking at a health clinic for the employees,” says Smith. “That's been put on hold.”

“If you have a prowler in the yard, the Sheriff is gonna answer the call,” says Lambert. “We looked at one time of doing, a new library Downtown, I've not heard about that anymore. There's a lot of projects that need to be doing.”

Some of which, Commissioner Larry Smith claims, could have been started already.

But the longer the spending probes take, “It's keeping where we can't move forward.”

The Mayor couldn't disagree more, “We're building schools across Knox County, attendance at our senior centers is at an all time high, parks and recreations flourishing, we're paving roads, everything's taking place as usual and that's the way it's going to stay.”

The probes are growing. Late Thursday evening, we've learned Mayor Ragsdale is asking the feds: Housing and Urban Development to “review all programs and processes regarding federal entitlement funding”.

That apparently, is his response to questions concerning grants and the ties his Community Services Director Cynthia Finch, has, or has had, to some groups receiving them. Ms. Finch is the manager mentioned earlier in the report.


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