Defense Takes the Stand in the Knox County Sunshine Trial

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Knoxville (WVLT) - The jury in the Knoxville News Sentinel's lawsuit against the Knox County Commission learned more about the meeting the newspaper alleges commissioners violated the state's open meetings law.

WVLT's Kim Bedford was in court all day and has the latest.

In court Monday, Knox County Chief Deputy Law Director Mary Ann Stackhouse first called Commissioner Larry Smith to the stand.

Smith shared some contradicting testimony surrounding Scott Moore and also learned some surprising details about his fellow commissioners from Attorney Richard Hollow.

Commissioners had until January 31, 2007 to appoint 12 new commissioners to seats vacated because of term limits.

"I tried to keep an open mind. I'm not going to make up my mind till the deadline," said Commissioner Smith.

As the deadline approached, Smith says he wasted no time and went through more than 70 interviews.

"Bottom line is, I wanted to make an educated vote," said Smith.

Smith told the jury he talked to other commissioners about the candidates but the conversations strictly surrounded their qualifications.

"At no time did I, or any of the people that called me, say well, I like that person, I'm going to vote. I never told anyone who I was going to vote for," says Smith.

As attorney Richard Hollow cross examined Smith, there was a sense of deception felt by the commissioners, as he learned about a nominating committee formed to appoint Tim Green for District 8 Seat B.

"Are you telling me that Mr. Green, they got together and came up with this name, Mr. Green, and never met with the public?" Smith asked.

"That's what the record in this case reflects, sir," answered Hollow.

"That was not the way it was projected to me," said Smith.

Smith then revealed what he says Scott Moore told him during the January 31st meeting after a recess regarding a deadlock vote for the Second District commissioner.

"I was walking to my seat and Commissioner Moore turned to me and said 'We've got this taken care of now.' And I walked over and there was Commissioner (Chuck) Bolus and he sat right beside me," said Smith.

Contrary to Moore's testimony, stating he was unaware Bolus was sworn in early.

Smith says the majority of the commissioners took the lazy way out by appointing family members and friends.

"I walked out thinking, guys, can you not think for yourselves?" said Smith.

But he was quick to point out that not everyone is to blame.

"I think there's five or six of us on the commission trying to do the right thing and don't have to be told how to vote.

Commissioner Frank Leuthold also took the stand Monday and told the jury his son, Craig Leuthold, did not influence any of his votes at any time.

County Clerk and Former Commissioner Billy Tindell also testified, stating his support for candidate Jonathan Wimmer.

Stay with Volunteer TV and for the latest coverage on the Sunshine Lawsuit.

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