Tue
Apr 1 2008
06:03:pm

Will attempt to live blog...

Still discussing procedural issues regarding the types of ethics complaints the committee will handle, and whether they should be referred to the County Mayor's attorney for legal review before spending time investigating.

Action: Committee will not limit the scope of the type of ethics complaints it will hear, but will make the forms and procedures consistent. The committee also decided to refer all complaints to the County Mayor's attorney for legal review.

Once that decision was made, there was no further business because the ethics complaints against the Mayor must first be referred to the County Mayor's office for legal review.

The end.

Topics:

Hot potato!

This hot potato has been passed on to the County Mayor's Attorney.

But wait...

...wouldn't that in itself be a conflict worthy of complaining to the ethics committee about? The county mayor's attorney represents the county mayor both professionally and personally, yet it will be he who investigates the merits of the complaints?

Why bother having an ethics committee or even a county government when all the important decisions are made by a lawyer?

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." -Mahatma Gandhi

a couple of interesting items from last night

I did not see the other two persons who were subjects of the complaints in the room. Nor did I see a BT reporter. Combine these two and it almost seems as if the outcome last night was known in advance by some folks.

A fun highlight was after the news reporter talked to Commissioner Reeves and then the cameras were turned off, Dave Bennett aka Asst Mayor/GOP Party Chair/Finance Director went up to talk to the reporter. All I saw was him yacking and the reporter shaking her head no.

When they finally got around to items not on the agenda, Linda King got up and said what we were all thinking and drew applause from the crowd. (link...)

"How can we send a complaint about the mayor to the county mayor's attorney?" King said.

The committee discussed the possibility it may have to hire outside legal counsel at some point.

"It may be that the county mayor's attorney may have to recuse himself, too," committee member John Davis said.

Outside legal counsel? How far outside? Me thinks they will need to hire a lawyer from Maine or Oregon who never heard of Blount County.

Lastly, I was deeply disappointed that Commissioner Walker was not wearing his SuperHero outfit. Man in Tights would have fit in well with the whole goofy mess last night.

Blount County Ethics Committee

So how long did the meeting laste? Were there any fisticuffs? When do they be meet again?

viva Evo Morales

not long enough

I think the meeting lasted about an hour or so and they are going to meet as a committee again in about a month. I swear, I missed some of those details because I was too busy watching the subplots.

Feathers were ruffled but I will let those engaged in those moments speak for themselves...

One interesting remark that

One interesting remark that has gone unreported came amid a lot of chatter near the end, when someone (French?) noted that if the County Mayor's attorney returned an opinion that something was not worthy of further hearing that the committee could still decide to pursue it.

Wendy Pitts Reeves said something to the effect (didn't catch it exactly) that yes, the County Mayor attorney's involvement would be "advisory" and not binding on the committee. I'm guessing it would have to be this way under the current policy, especially in cases that involved the County Mayor or even his attorney, because the policy does not include the County Mayor's attorney as part of the formal decision making process.

There was also discussion of hiring outside attorneys if necessary, how it would be funded, etc., and that there was already money allocated for the County Mayor attorney's duties but if that ran out or they had to hire another attorney the County Commission would have to appropriate the funds.

It makes sense if there is a complaint involving violation of state law that the committee, not being attorneys, would likely need legal advice and opinions. This was noted by several committee members.

It would not seem necessary for dealing with the two primary types of complaints covered by the county's ethics policy, which are "1) Perceived Conflict of interest 2) Acceptance of gifts and other things of value."

Part of the discussion last night was whether to restrict complaints to just those two categories. The committee voted not to limit the scope to just those two categories and to also hear complaints involving violations of state ethics laws.

Do you hear the chickens clucking?

SeeJaneRide

The Ethics committee chickened-out of doing its job?! Get real!

"I don't see any legal minds on the committee," French said. "I suggest (the complaints) go to the county mayor's attorney first."

So, Ron French you really think Rob Goddard has a legal mind? Uh-hem. Let me see if I can help you here. HE HAS A GOB/REPUBLICAN PARTY mind! Duh.

The commission created the Ethics committee with the mission of reviewing complaints. It doesn't take a nuclear scientist to figure out that some are going to be full of sour grapes, and some will be REAL. So, when the committee thinks there is a REAL violation, the law simply tells you to send it to the DA for possible action. Of course, Blount's DA is up the Republican south side, too. So, in many instances involving his GOB buddies, he would (if he is ethical) have to recuse himself and send it to another DA.

This committee needs to quit the bull-hooey, and get on with its work. Every complaint doesn't require review by a lawyer. A good dose of common sense goes a long way.

Why you are OH SO correct

Folks really need to step back and understand just how we got to this point.

The state created this mess in response to Tennessee Waltz. The state created the rules the County is suppose to play by. CTAS wrote a version of the Ethics Policy that a county could follow.

Key here is that the State relieved itself of any responsibly to the residents of any given county by placing that county's newly created Ethics Committee in charge of the mess.

So, the State says "it's a County Issue, not a state issue!"

County Ethics Committee says "it's a lawyer's issue, not a Commissioner's issue!"

ACK! I just hope all those good citizens who showed up for the meeting last night will continue to come to these committee meetings and demand that the committee does the job the state trusted it to do.

Trust is in short supply around here these days.

*Updated* - Blount County ethics committee unethical?

Here's a link to WATE's coverage, in case you missed the news last night: (link...)

And the report from Blount Today: (link...)

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." -Mahatma Gandhi

Ethics

Surely no one is suggesting that Wendy Pitts Reeves is unethical, except maybe the unethical themselves. There was a delicate dance going on at the meeting. It has to be hard when two members of the Ethics committee had a conflict. Besty Cunningham works and reports to the Mayor and the other complaint involved Wendy. What should have happened is that they should have dismissed the complaint against Wendy as having no merit, but that wasn't what happened. I look for it to happen at the next meeting. I also think that Linda King will have to bring these two items to suit because I have serious doubts that everyone will see these as ethics violations. My two cents.

Ethics

A jury decides in a trial if people are innocent or guilty without deferring to an atty. Why does the ethics committee need someone else to decide for them? Maybe if they can't make a decision, they should resign.
I don't understand what is so difficult about two issues they decide.
Sue

County Mayor Hires New Attny for Ethics stuff

(link...)

“I’ve got the firm of Andrews and Burgin to vet any complaints to see if there is a legitimate complaint,” Cunningham said.

Man O'Man was that article hidden at the BT website.

Familiar name

In response, Mayor Cunningham recommended hiring Kirk Andrews, of another Maryville law firm, to preview the complaints as requested.

http://pittsreeves.blogspot.com/2008/04/little-more-on-ethics.html

Kirk Andrews? Now where have I heard that name before?

Most of the argument comes from a statement made by James, who was a prosecution witness during the 2000 trial, to a private investigator during the trial of Reginald Stacy Sudderth — who was accused of placing a $10,000 bounty on Jackson’s life. Sudderth was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in August of 2006.

Attached to Copeland’s motion was an affidavit by the private investigator, which laid out James’ accusations. The affidavit states James claimed her testimony was molded by prosecutors Kirk Andrews and Ed Bailey, with whom she “rehearsed and practiced her testimony on at least two occasions.” Other claims made by James include that prosecutors told her what emotions to show during the trial and that she was asked at one point to cry. The most serious charge made in the affidavit — one termed by Copeland’s attorneys as the “subornation of perjury” — was that James claimed prosecutors told her to change her story and to “testify to what (another witness) said happened and not what she (Ashley James) said happened.”

Andrews and Bailey denied the allegations when they came up during Sudderth’s case.

http://www.thedailytimes.com/article/20070925/NEWS/70925005

My guess at this point, no one in Blount County is going to get mad about someone coaching our Mayor on the right things to say.

Smoke filled rooms

So, a former member of Mike Flynn's office will be representing Cunningham and these jokers still want to act indignant about there being a local machine. At any rate, this small group seems to have all their bases covered;

A complaint in one of these areas should be for an alleged action that has occurred in the past. According to the County Technical Advisory Services legal staff, the person or committee, whatever structure or individual that is assigned the duty of hearing these complaints should be prepared to dispose of a complaint in 1 of 3 ways.

(1)Pass the issue to either the District Attorney or County Attorney for the proper legal action
(2)In the event that it is about a employee of one of the elected officials of Blount County, the appropriate office holder should be advised that the employee has broken the County Ethics Policy and in which area.
(3)Publicly declare the complaint has no standing and why, then dispose of the complaint by voting according to the previous statement.

(link...)

In review:
1. The District Attorney (Mike Flynn) and the County Mayor's Attorney (Rob Goddard) either have worked or do work for the Mayor.
2. Who will advise the Mayor?
3. The reason they have set up number one the way they did.

I'm confused

Help me out here: why would ANOTHER lawyer hired by the Mayor solve anything? The primary problem/conflict with using the existing County Mayor's attorney (Rob Goddard) is that he answers to the Mayor for the job. So would this guy. So why bother? The ethics committee needs to send out a request for proposal (or whatever lawyers do) to the Knoxville Bar Association, and get someone clear of Blount County politics.

"Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference." --Voltaire

BINGO!

ethics committee needs to send out a request for proposal (or whatever lawyers do) to the Knoxville Bar Association, and get someone clear of Blount County politics.

Well, I was really thinking we might need to go clear to Memphis to get someone who does not have umpteen Blount County ties.

Did you not love* the mayor's chatter about COUNTY Attorney vs County Mayor's Attorney? That topic deserves a new thread!

Just too hard to figure out, ain't it boys?

From the Daily Times; (link...)

“That’s what I thought would happen from the get-go,” he said during a telephone interview on Monday. “It’s just unfortunate that these kinds of frivolous things are filed. It takes a lot of time and energy for the committee to have to address this kind of foolishness — frivolous complaints. There should be some way that when folks file something without merit that they are taxed with the cost. If we did that, it would make folks thinks twice about frivolous things for media attention.”

These comments echoes those of Davis, who said something similar during the meeting. His motion to ask the County Commission to investigate whether it would be allowed to charge legal costs to people filing the complaints died for lack of a second.
“Is it fair to ask the taxpayers to bear (the expense)?” Davis asked. “I don’t think so. I think it ought to be borne by the person who files it.”

For those unclear about the echo, Mr. Davis (foreground in picture) is an appointment of Mayor Cunningham’s. The Mayor gave him this position after Betsy Cunningham (facing camera in picture), who works in a department that reports to the mayor had to recuse herself.

As for loser pays, I’m guessing litigants who had Jerry as an attorney and lost, are glad he came to this revelation late. Same old red herring, attack the messenger. Citizens use the proper channels of government, government fails, then government blames the citizens. Getting tired of this yet?

There was a lengthy discussion about who would review complaints to determine if they were frivolous. Davis said he wouldn’t be comfortable without legal guidance from an attorney.

The best explanation as to why that statement is bunk, is explained by Sue above in this thread:

A jury decides in a trial if people are innocent or guilty without deferring to an atty. Why does the ethics committee need someone else to decide for them? Maybe if they can't make a decision, they should resign.
I don't understand what is so difficult about two issues they decide.

Mr. Sinclair had this to say;

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

- Upton Beall Sinclair
Jr. American novelist and polemicist, 1878-1968

Interchange “salary” with “position” and you cover nearly every appointment King Jerry has made.

Davis and Cunningham

These two have a lot more in common than the fact that Cunningham appointed Davis to that seat on the ethics committee to protect him from ethics complaints. They both own big properties in Walland less than a third of a mile from each other, and they have both served as Chairman of the Blount County Republican Party. Like Bennett now does.

And the state set up these ethics committees to encourage those who observed problems to report them, not to discourage them. If the freaking ethics committee can't decide what has merit and what doesn't without consulting an attorney, how should we expect citizens or employees to be so sure they would be willing to put money on it before bringing it to the committee?

Charging people if the lawyer their tax money pays for decides their complaint is without merit is a really stupid idea. So I am not very surprised to hear it come out of the two mouths it spewed from.

Were they implying that Assistant Chief Deputy Jeff French should reimburse the county for his frivolous complaint of hurt feelings? Or should only those who complain about the Mayor have to pay?

"Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference." --Voltaire

Kirk Andrews & Mayor Cunningham

SeeJaneRide

Yes. Kirk Andrews used to work for Mike Flynn's office. She resigned to go into private practice with Martha Meares. Based on the new name for her practice, she and Meares must have parted ways somewhere along the line.

Here's the more pertinent observation. Why did Cunningham hire her law firm? Since he knew Goddard couldn't give objective advice, a smarter move would have been to send word back to the Ethics Committee to hire outside legal help of its choosing. This is where Jerry is scary. In his mind, he really believes he's of much higher intelligence than everyone else.

Meanwhile, the committee needs to figure out that the ONLY thing it needs to do is send complaints to the DA if (and only IF) members believe there is a violation of law. There is NO NEED for legal advice or the extra expense.

Jerry is scary- oh, I like it. Great for a bumpersticker

“That’s what I thought would happen from the get-go,” he said during a telephone interview on Monday. “It’s just unfortunate that these kinds of frivolous things are filed. It takes a lot of time and energy for the committee to have to address this kind of foolishness — frivolous complaints. There should be some way that when folks file something without merit that they are taxed with the cost. If we did that, it would make folks thinks twice about frivolous things for media attention.”

I can't put the exact date on this but I do remember at a CC meeting Jerry stood up and went on and on about something very similar. It involved the BZA doing its job, a citizen who wanted the BZA to do its job, a judge and person who donates to the local machine.... yeah... oh yeah.

Or did it have to do with a man and his dog?

Ethics Committee

So, I count 6 people in the picture. Why don't they fill the ethics committee seats with the county's 6 financially poorest citizens? I'd assume their ethics would have different meter than most (NOT ALL!) of the existing ones', and may have a different idea as to which complaints are frivolous.

viva Evo Morales

Ethics Committee????

Obviously the ethics committee is to follow the law, but is it that hard to find a group of ethical people in Blount County? Hiring (that means paying with some of my hard earned money) an attorney to comment on ethical issues is an oxymoron. Once I stop laughing, I will continue with my comments.

The complaint against WPR is beyond ridiculous. The complaint ties up a group of people who have better things to do. The definition of ethical (Webster's Dictionary), is having to do with right and wrong. Commissioner WPR did not say or do anything wrong. Her comment was made privately, not in a public forum. Even if she made her comment in public, Commissioner WPR, as a citizen of the USA, has the freedom of speech as noted in Amendment I of the Bill of Rights (ratified 2/7/1795).

For the person who complained about WPR's comment, avoid school playgrounds in Blount County. The accusations and remarks made by children towards other children would make your skin crawl. Although kids can have venomous tongues, they can forgive better than adults. Being less sensitve about esoteric comments would go a long way in bettering Blount County. Please don't file complaints against these venomous tongued youngsters!

Sorry about the social studies lesson, but there are a number of folks in BC government who probably should know the Constitution and laws better than most, but are choosing to edit and rewrite portions of our Constitution to be self-serving. The only place "self" served a purpose for our forefathers was in the Declaration of Independence when Thomas Jefferson wrote about TRUTHS being self-evident (circa 7/4/1776).

The sniping taking place in this County will either mobilize citizens to correct the problem or dissuade a potentially good candidate from geetting involved in County Government. And I thought Cocke County was the "meanest" county in the state.

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