Click here to view this week’s Focus.
John Fugate selected interim BOE member
By Mike Steely
A Fountain City bank vice-president and former school principal was selected last Monday in a much divided vote to become the interim school board member until the November General Election.
John Fugate, II, vice-president of Commercial Bank and former principal of schools in Claiborne and Hancock Counties, edged out former Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Staples Monday afternoon as the Knox County Commission completed a couple weeks of vetting several applicants. Board of Education (BOE) Second District member Indya Kincannon’s resignation was accepted as the start of the commission’s regular meeting.
Chairman Brad Anders announced after accepting the resignation that qualifying applications for November BOE candidates would be available immediately.
Initially six different interim candidates were nominated with 2nd District Commissioner Amy Broyles nominating Staples. Outgoing commissioner Tony Norman, a vocal critic of the school administration and Superintendent James McIntyre, nominated Fugate. The first round of voting eliminated four of the six and the second vote found Broyles, Anders, Sam McKenzie and Mike Brown voting for Staples and Norman, Jeff Ownby, Richard Briggs, R. Larry Smith, Dave Wright, Mike Hammond and Ed Shouse voting for Fugate.
John Fugate is distantly related to BOE Chairwoman Lynn Fugate but his positions on questions about the school administration and the Superintendent have been less than supportive of her or the administration. For instance, Fugate told the commission workshop two weeks ago that he would not have voted to extend McIntyre’s contact another year.
Following the selection of Fugate for the three-month temporary appointment, commissioners Broyles and McKenzie chastised those on the commission who didn’t vote for Staples, whom Broyles said was the clear choice of 2nd district residents. Broyles compared the selection of Fugate to “Black Wednesday” and said “I’m ashamed of this commission. It’s a slap in the face to every person in the 2nd district.”
“I am tremendously disappointed,” she said.
“This is politics, this is bad,” McKenzie said.
Norman rebutted, saying, “I though Mr. Staples was a wonderful candidate.” He added that there was no “fix”in and said he spoke to people within the 2nd district and outside the district as well.
Smith said he knows Fugate, adding that Fugate supported a candidate that opposed Smith in earlier races, but added, “The second district dynamics have changed.”
Wright told the commission he had no idea how he would vote “until today” and said he had talked to all of the candidates.
Hammond said he has spoken to no one on the commission about his vote.
Broyles asked the commissioners to consider how they would feel if there was a vacancy in their district and the commission didn’t follow what their district wanted and voted for someone else.
“We’re entering a dangerous trend. There are forces at play trying to be the puppet masters in Knox County,” McKenzie said.
The final vote, to select Fugate as the interim school board member, saw Broyles and McKenzie vote “No.”
The commissioners also split on the vote to appoint Ray Jenkins a Judicial Magistrate to replace resigning Magistrate Richard Majors. Broyles and Anders supported Maria Danker but all of the other commissioners voted for Jenkins.