Knoxville (WVLT) - After four months researching, Tennessee's Supreme Court has settled an almost year-long fight that could have thrown out the rules that have governed Knox County the past 16 years. The verdict: The rules, including term-limits, stand.
Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd has more on why that means Knox County not only will need some new commissioners, but a new sheriff too.
The court says yes, the Charter is flawed, even vague, but it has in fact, functioned and that the will of the voter means term limits are
"I didn't know what to expect. I think it could have went several different ways," Knox County Commission chairman Scott Moore said.
Few expected six of the eight term-limited commissioners would win their Charter challenge and keep their seats, however for Tennessee's Supreme court to rule that the term limits amendment meets due process, and therefore applies to almost all Knox County elected officials?
"I feel a little sting from it, but the decision didn't shock me," term limited county commissioner Mark Cawood said.
What does? That it also knocks out the County Clerk, Trustee, Registrar of Deeds, and Sheriff Tim Hutchison, just beginning his fifth term. The Sheriff had argued Tennesseee's Constitution created and defined his office, but the Justices have ruled Charters can define qualifications of other elected officials and set permit limits, therefore they can determine who's qualified to serve in other offices and for how long.
"We must make certain that qualified citizens assume these offices, ultimately, this is a decision for our legislative body," Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale said.
Which means County commissioners, not voters, will decide who'll fill
the term-limited commission seats and the other offices, including sheriff. But which commissioners? Only the 11 not term limited?
"My first take on it would be the eleven," Ragsdale said.
"Term-limited commissioners are still commissioners until their successors are named," Moore said.
Who'd they choose first? Replacement commissioners or a replacement sheriff?
"In don't think there's any doubt it makes a difference, and I don't think there's any doubt we don;t have an answer right now," Moore said.
The Mayor is fairly sure the decision is unappealable, but worth the trouble getting it. One term limited commissioner says don't blame him, he tried to take himself off the ballot.
"There's no mechanism for that unless I'm sick, dead, or in the army, Those are three options, and none of them sounded very good to me at the time," Cawood said.
Commissioner Mark Cawood favors letting you, the voters, pick the successors in a special election. Could voters petition for it? It's not clear. Nor is it clear where Sheriff Hutchison stands on this. He's not talking yet. What is clear is that the next elections would be next February and August.