Oct 23 2007

Hey BlountToday, your bias is showing!


What is it with the County and women? First we have an elected official who apparently does not like women regardless of race or religion. Now we have a County Mayor who circumvents the county's own ethics policy by running to CTAS for a legal opinion just because one women stands up, does her job and asks those hard questions.

Here is just one little old fact that the BT article misses and since it is obvious that at least one of the Commissioners who wants to see Reeves shut up leaked this I feel compelled to point this out. If they really, really think that having an agreement with the County's PPO that creates a situation where these health care providers MAY see county employees is a real conflict of interest then they are willing to sacrifice the Commission Chair as well.


There is much more to this and I know it will be explored but for now, this just shows that BT is willing to be the mayor's lapdog.

Now we need to ask what the status is of Mr. Commissioner Bankman because he was the subject of the AG Opinion and nothing to date has been publicly discussed regarding his situation.

[Ed. Note: "Mr. Commissioner Bankman" referenced above is Commissioner Mike Lewis, who is an officer and is (was?) a shareholder of Green Bank, which the county does business with.]

Blogger noted update. I have now attached the actual letter Commissioner Reeves gave the Commission when she resigned from the HR/Insurance Committee.

WPR.jpg20.04 KB

Okay, it took a while. Am I

Okay, it took a while.

Am I correct, this link you provided is to show Robert L. Ramsey is on the list of providers as well? But not included in the opinion?

Who is this Bankman person? Where does he fit in? I don't see him listed as a Blount County Commissioner. I don't see his name mentioned in the article.

Re. Mr. Bankman, I think

Re. Mr. Bankman, I think she's referring to Lewis.

The county's website is up

The county's website is up again. The link shows Dr Ramsey on the county's PPO style dental plan and no place in any of the Oct 3 and Oct 5 letters to the mayor is a dentist talked about.

However, we need to note that no one has seen the letter the mayor sent to CTAS to begin with. Since CTAS used the term doctors I thought the Commission Chair was involved because WPR is not a doctor.

Mr. Bankman- (link...)

One more key issue. The dates.

July- the Lewis appointment to the Purchasing Committee is questioned by WPR.

July-request to TN AG for Opinion on Lewis

Aug- Helton and Burchfield spew off in Commission about WPR and her clients

Sometime between July and Oct 3 the mayor requests opinion from CTAS.

Oct 2- the BC Ethics Commission meets and no one asks or files a complaint about WPR or Proffit.

Oct 3- the mayor gets first letter from CTAS on possible conflict

Oct 5- the mayor gets second letter from CTAS on possible conflict

Oct 10- TN AG Opinion issued

Oct 19- mayor sends his memo to county commissioners informing them of the CTAS opinion.

What in the world are they so afraid of???

Blount's New Brand! - Daily Times Lite

In the statute most recent version, said Austin, “A county commissioner is prohibited from voting on a contract in which he is directly interested. The attorney general opined that it is a direct conflict of interest for a county commissioner who is a county employee to vote on a budget that contains his salary."

Why does the BT article not reference Burchfield(BCSO), Helton (BCSO), Ramsey (Dentist) and Farmer (Teacher)? Those are just the ones I can remember. Does the story end where the Mayor tells you it does?

“I sent these letters to you for your information. I felt it better to provide them in this manner as opposed to any public forum. I have no intention of blind siding or embarrassing anyone relative to these matters,” Cunningham said.

No, I think I'd rather meet the BT editor for dinner on the patio, make sure he gets his story straight, and then let him print my dirty work. The emperor has no clothes. Apparently still a lot of power - but no clothes.

Doesn't Blount Today share owners with the Knoxville News Sentinel? Does the SUNSHINE only in Knox County?

Something else the CTAS

Something else the CTAS said: "Woody concluded that Bennett could serve as assistant county mayor although filling in for the county mayor in certain situations would present a conflict." (link...)

Every time the press needs a statement, the Mayor seems to be out of town. Which one of Jerry's kids are in charge when he's on holiday; Assistant Mayor Bennett or Acting Mayor Ramsey? The Blount County government is a conflict of interest. It conflicts with the people.

A little history...

Quote from the Blount Today article states:

A little history

The questions concerning conflicts of interest began at the July County Commission meeting when Reeves questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for Commission Mike Lewis, a Republican, to serve on the purchasing committee since he is employed at Green Bank, the bank the county uses.

Lewis, who was not present at the July meeting, later asked for an opinion from the state attorney general, which has not yet been released.

It was released October 10th as referenced on this site:


"Reported here first"

If I might make a suggestion, it would be a really nice touch to include a permanent link to a "you read it here first" section - for things like the Attorney General decision, etc. Just so it is clear which news source scooped who :-)

But we were still under Act of 1981 in June

Even if I thought Mrs. Reeves was in violation of a Conflict of Interest Law (and if I'm wrong and she is, a great number of the rest of them are also), this entire article references a legal consultant's opinion based seemingly on the County Purchasing Law of 1957.

Only trouble is, we were NOT under the County Purchasing Law of 1957 when the budget passed (and Mrs. Reeves presumably voted erroneously) in June. We were still under the Act of '81:

Austin said the County Purchasing Law of 1957, which Blount County went back to on July 1, 2007, contains a separate, more stringent conflict of interest provision. T.C.A. 5-14-114(a) prohibits county commissioners from being financially interested or having any personal beneficial interest, either directly or indirectly, in any contract for contractual services used by or furnished to any department or agency of the county government.

Looks like Lance-of-Blount-Today just printed what Cunningham wanted him to. And it was pretty disingenuous of Mayor Cunningham to pretend to protect people from embarrassment by sending letters to all the Commissioners and then turning around and press releasing it to Blount Today. Par for the course.

Cunningham: living up to low expectations

My intro to Mr. Cunningham came a few years ago when a innocent motorcyclist was killed by the late Senator Koella. Koella turned left in front of the rider, causing him to strike the rear fender and crash. Koella stopped his van, looked around, then continued to his home. In the meantime the rider bled to death in a ditch. (It was over 4 hours before Koella was given a blood alcohol test, but that is the way it works when you are in the good ole boys club.) Anyway, Cunningham sprang immediately into action - smearing the dead man. Yep, he said there were witnesses that saw the crazy biker on the "crotch rocket" driving recklessly and weaving in and out of traffic.

Somehow, those witnesses never materialized. Be the first to throw the mud, and that's what people will remember.

Cunningham is just a shark for hire.

More facts

Lewis, who was not present at the July meeting, later asked for an opinion from the state attorney general, which has not yet been released.

Wrong Lance, that opinion has been out since Oct 10 and if you read BV more often you would have known this. It was reported here before any other local media covered it.

Then there is this which needs further exploring.

Austin said T.C.A. 5-14-114(b) prohibits a county commissioner from accepting or receiving, directly or indirectly, any money or anything of value whatsoever from any person, firm or corporation to which any county contract may be awarded.

Match the above to the County's very own Ethics Policy.

Section 4. Acceptance of gifts and other things of value.

An official or employee, or an official's or employee's spouse or child living in the same household, may not accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, money, gratuity, or other consideration or favor of any kind from anyone other than the county:

For the performance of an act, or refraining from performance of an act, that he would be expected to perform, or refrain from performing, in the regular course of his duties; or

That a reasonable person would understand was intended to influence the vote, official action, or judgment of the official or employee in executing county business.

It shall not be considered a violation of this policy for an official or employee to receive entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, health screenings, amenities, foodstuffs, or beverages that are provided in connection with a conference sponsored by an established or recognized statewide association of county government officials or by an umbrella or affiliate organization of such statewide association of county government officials. It shall not be considered a violation of this policy for an official or employee to receive an occasional meal or other items of nominal value.

Ok then, either we are under 5-14-114 or not. It can't be both ways.

“As previously stated, the penalty for an official who violates the provisions of T.C.A. 12-4-101 is the forfeiture of all pay and compensation under the contract and dismissal from office. However, under the present situation, the commissioners in question receive no pay or compensation under the county’s contract with Highlands Health Partnership. Nevertheless, they could face removal from office if they have failed to publicly acknowledge their 'indirect interest' prior to voting on the contract,” Austin said.

Here we must note that neither Reeves or Proffit voted on the Highlands / Health Insurance contracts. Got that folks? That contract was voted on by the prior commission.

As far as any disclosure goes that can be found at (link...) on page 114 of the Commission's Feb meeting minutes.

Commissioner Reeves resigned from the Human Resources and Insurance Committee. The committee took no action, but decided to postpone the nomination for one month and look at the number of
County Commissioners on the committee if no one is interested.

Understand? The Mayor appointed Reeves to the HR/Insurance Committee and as soon as she realized just what was involved Reeves resigned from the committee. WHY? Because no doubt she realized she may well have a conflict of interest on that committee.

It all boils down to Reeves and Proffitt voting on the 'budget' which is a massive package and does not contain line item approval or veto. County health insurance is mixed in with all benefits and payroll.

For the record Reeves voted NAY on the budget.

Final note to the DT staff who read this blog. Don't screw it up. Stick to the facts and be honest about who went public with this memo from Cunningham. And have the balls to print the facts about Lewis' stock.

Mello 101 - Nice lesson

The emperor has no clothes, the old establishment is showing cracks and the people are noticing. BT and DT, if you don't do your research, it will be done for you.

There must be a fear of losing ad dollars, but what happens when the people start looking for the story and all you have is real estate and the Mayor's take. Take the long view.

Don't you love it when

Don't you love it when reporters parrot what they are told to say and leave the truth behind? Maybe they should be called 'repeaters' instead of reporters!

One sad yet silly side note. The only way to explain Blount County politics is to say it is a novel where John Grisham meets Stephen King.

My head is spinning

County health insurance is mixed in with all benefits and payroll.

Wow, so while Mrs. Reeves voted "no" on the budget in June (with its mix of benefits and payroll), the bulk of the Commission including several who either receive County funds and benefits directly or via their spouses voted "yes" and it is she who is taking the hit from our Mayor via Blount Today?

Are you ready to play

Are you ready to play Read That Conflict Statement- the home version?

I think this deserves a new thread.

I wanna play

The Parker Brothers "Read That Conflict Statement" home edition? That's my favorite! Even though the game is for 18 and up, as a 5 year old, I think I can still figure it out.

I want to be the bag of cash. Someone already has it? I'll take the uniformed citizen (Thanks Blount Today ;-)

Speaking of Games and money

Bonus round! Do you know what next week is?

Traditionally, the State Comptroller completes our county audit and sends the findings back to the county the last week of Oct. Then the county has something like 30 days to review, make comments or state how they will change things and send it back to Nashville. Then sometime in early Dec the state will issue the final audit report.

Keep in mind this is simply the traditional dating for standard audits. No one really knows just what the heck they are auditing.


Take a look at the audit report from just about any other county in TN (you can find them on the net) they ALL look the same. It's like the state has a "form" for the yearly audit report...all that is added is: a letter from the county's Mayor, and the names filled into the blanks to protect the 'not so innocent'. Oh yes, they do include some numbers that reflect the county in mention, but their rhetoric is all the same..."everything is just fine". One would not have to be good with numbers or even have an understanding of budgeting etc. to sign their name to an audit in TN.


Does anyone know where Dave Bennett worked before he came to Blount County?

quantum lawyering

The state AG says "fine as long as interest is disclosed," while the CTAS attorney says "forbidden unless interest is disclosed." Identical conclusions, different spins, and what a difference the spin makes.

I'm confused by this TCA language: "prohibits county commissioners from being financially interested or having any personal beneficial interest, either directly or indirectly, in any contract for contractual services used by or furnished to any department or agency of the county government." To me, it sounds like a commissioner breaks the law if he or she drives on a county road or checks out a book from the library or asks the sheriff to figure out who stole their lawnmower. It's like you'd need to airlift (via Shurf Tim's helicopters, of course) commissioners in from other counties. What am I missing?

Nice to see ya Rikki!

You are missing nothing in our Blount County political witch hunt.

37 million $$$ vs the social worker.

Happy Halloween!

Some more discussion at

Some more discussion at Michael Silence's blog:

"Two county commissioners may have to resign"

An interesting comment from the editor of BT.

The whole article is updated.

The whole article is updated.

What a crock of shhhhhhhhhhh

The whole article is

The whole article is updated.

I saved the original from the google cache.

Looks like they did the responsible thing and reported all sides of the story.

UpUp Date

Not all has been reported.


Let's look at what Dr. Ramsey just said this week..

Ramsey said this isn’t the first time this has come up. Former commissioner Dr. Otto Slater, a dentist, was questioned about the subject when he was in office, and the state attorney general sided with Slater.


And Dr. Ramsey and the facts in 2005

"This stops now," Ramsey said. "If you have grievances with other commissioners, take them outside."

Slater explained in a telephone interview Thursday that he is a preferred provider with Highlands, the third-party insurer for employees of Blount County as well as employees of Blount Memorial Hospital and the cities of Maryville and Alcoa.

Highlands IS the issue, right?


Sounds like the exact same situation with Highlands.

I continue to believe that Mrs. Reeves voting "NO" on the budget back in June was better than reading some crummy statement that "well, uh, I have a conflict, but I'm votin' how I see fit anyways." I mean really. What good does THAT do?

My point is, I think her "No" vote makes the entire thing moot.

Also from Blount Today

Also from Blount Today online; (link...)

I was asked to get the opinion, by fully one-third of the commissioners on separate occasions over the past couple of months after she didn’t request an opinion as did Mike Lewis,” he said. “I was the conduit, and I got the opinion, and there it is. Whatever they decide, I’ll abide by it.

Who are the commissioners who asked? You are our representatives, SPEAK UP! Blount county employee Helton admitted it - but that hardly makes one third.

Or could this be another lie Mayor Pinocchio is telling. Remember the TBI investigation of Kerr and PBA:

"Cunningham, a former U.S. Attorney, announced at a Financial Management Committee meeting in April that he had referred that matter to District Attorney General Mike Flynn to ask the TBI to investigate the PBA and that the TBI was looking into the situation.
However, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said Wednesday that the TBI was not investigating the PBA and never had been."


People of Blount, follow the story, just not the Mayor's. He is a proven liar.

Others said she was simply playing politics, could have asked her questions in private and that she had conflicts of interest of her own she should have revealed.

Who are "others"? And why do "others" want public business done in "private"? The reason you are there is not for your "private" benefit. You are there for the public, quit letting the mayor be your mouthpiece.

Lastly does anyone know what's the difference between a opinion and a ruling? Is CTAS advisory or authoritative?

CTAS is advisory. I believe

CTAS is advisory. I believe AG opinions are also advisory and non-binding. I believe only a judge can make an enforceable ruling, and a citizen has to bring a civil complaint.


Many Opinions from the AG will clearly state whether or not it has even been to trial.

One more thing that people who care need to understand is that just because an AG Opinion is ask for, it does not mean the AG has to give one as noted in the article below.

I, for some reason prefer AG opinions to CTAS opinions. Something about the title of Legal Consultant for CTAS vs the AG's signature followed by the title Attny General and Reporter then two more signatures which are the Solicitor General and a Senior Counsel.

article (link...)

Daniels said the issue has been addressed by the state before, and requesting another opinion was superfluous.

“It’s no surprise the answer they got back,” he said. “The law clearly states that my situation does not constitute a conflict of interest.”

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