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By Steve Hunley

I have to apologize for the headline, but the politics involved are certainly naked.  Here lately Karen Carson and Tracie Sanger, both members of the Knox County Board of Education, have been crying “politics” on the part of Law Director Richard “Bud” Armstrong.  The supposed politics is that Bud Armstrong is not giving them the legal opinions they want and demand.  If one follows the convoluted logic, Armstrong is somehow playing politics because he allegedly doesn’t like Superintendent Jim McIntyre. Phooey!

The reality is Bud Armstrong is a very fine man, an excellent law director— honest, well-educated with bachelor’s, doctorate and law degrees, and professional in his dealings with every department and agency of county government and the public.

Another reality is that some people ARE playing politics, but it’s not Bud Armstrong — it’s Karen Carson and Tracie Sanger.  Does anyone believe for a single moment Sanger picked up qualifying papers to run in the upcoming election only to wait until just after the filing deadline had passed to announce she wasn’t running after all?   Just how much Sanger and Carson were involved in the recruitment of her replacement candidate would be interesting to know. The politics train on the school board is being driven by at least two members who are not running again – – – Karen Carson and Tracie Sanger- – – both of whom spearheaded the effort to extend Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s contract until 2019.  Now keep in mind, McIntyre’s current contract runs only until 2017, but these folks, who won’t be on the Board of Education come September 1, 2016, want to extend it another four years, giving McIntyre a golden parachute should the incoming board decide to replace him.  There’s only ONE person in Knox County who benefits from that decision: Jim McIntyre.  It doesn’t help a single kid, family, voter, school, taxpayer or anybody else, but it does put an extra half million of your tax dollars in Jim McIntyre’s pocket making him, truly, the Million Dollar Man.  McIntyre already makes more than Vice President Joe Biden, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts, and every member of President Obama’s Cabinet.  Is he worth it?  In my opinion, no.  The only lame excuse these folks have for trying to extend the contract as they leave office is supposedly because so many other school systems across the country are begging for McIntyre’s services, if we didn’t lock him down, off he’d go.  Again, phooey! The very same folks were whispering McIntyre would quit when Mike McMillan became Chairman of the Board of Education and yet he’s still here.  Folks, that’s what’s called an empty threat.  Jim McIntyre won’t leave here until or unless he’s shown the door, although he keeps waiting in vain for Governor Haslam to offer him the Commissioner of Education’s post and it hasn’t happened yet.  And just why hasn’t that happened?  Haslam has had at least two opportunities to appoint McIntyre Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education.  If McIntyre is the best superintendent in the whole wide world, why didn’t Haslam allow McIntyre to work his wonders upon the entire state?  The answer is pretty obvious to just about everyone. Evidently, Haslam doesn’t want him either.

Bud Armstrong is up for reelection come March 1 and Karen Carson is openly supporting Armstrong’s opponent and has contributed $500 to Bud’s opponent’s campaign.  Karen Carson isn’t pretending to be neutral or unbiased but she’s also sponsoring a resolution for the Board of Education to hire its own legal counsel which would cost the taxpayers a great deal more.  Folks, this is as political as it gets, although the mighty News-Sentinel will likely agree with Carson, because they play politics, and have protected McIntyre ever since he got here.  This is precisely the kind of “my way or the highway” attitude by Carson that caused the voters of her district to soundly reject her when she offered herself up as a candidate for State Representative.  Carson just doesn’t handle people disagreeing with her very well.

Tracie Sanger’s departure from the Board is a blessing, as she’s contributed absolutely nothing except to be a lockstep reliable rubber stamp for Jim McIntyre.  Carson’s own legacy is her horribly annoying bullying tactics. Furthermore, these folks have never been overly concerned about following the law and some of them have consistently seemed to think that THEIR school board policy trumps state and federal law.  They haven’t even always bothered to follow the protocols and procedures they established for themselves.  All these folks mostly care about is getting more and more money to spend; your money.  McIntyre and his merry band of rubber stampers spent $30 million of your tax dollars outside the regular budget in just two years.

Bud Armstrong is exactly the kind of person you want in elected office: an independent, honest man who calls it like he sees it without prejudice or preference. Bud Armstrong does his duty.  When Armstrong questioned the Board’s ability to rush through a contract extension for McIntyre, Karen Carson was peeved because Bud didn’t let her have her way.  Bud Armstrong solicited an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General, who cited an previous state attorney general’s opinion based on a decision by the State Court of Appeals that said extending McIntyre’s contract was illegal.  That was pretty conclusive folks, as there is only one step higher than the state Court of Appeals -and that would be the state Supreme Court. So Bud Armstrong did the right thing, as usual, in opining that the superintendent’s contract extension is in fact illegal and unenforceable if challenged.

Anyone who agrees with the tax and spend policies of McIntyre, Carson and Sanger can follow along with THEIR candidate for law director, who would apparently allow them to do whatever they want, regardless of what the law might be.

Any other member of a legislative body having openly contributed to a candidate and sponsoring a resolution designed to wound the incumbent would be roundly denounced for conflict of interest and playing politics, but just watch the establishment folks try to pretend like it never happened.

Let’s be frank about it, why is there a need to extend McIntyre’s contract for four years when it has two years left to run? It’s very simple if you’re pro-McIntyre. It is to protect McIntyre in the event a future Board wants to let him go, as they have to pay him his salary for four years instead of two. As I have said before, the Board of Education hiring its own legal counsel is merely going to cost the taxpayers more money simply to protect one man.

For Karen Carson and Tracie Sanger, they should consider there’s very little they can do in the few months they have left that cannot be undone by the next Board.  If they wish to truly “protect” McIntyre, perhaps they should have left well enough alone and if he has done a good job, the next Board could extend his contract.  Of course they won’t do that as it has nothing to do with merit, having done a good job or anything else.  What it does have to do with is getting their way politically and putting an additional half a million tax dollars in Jim McIntyre’s pocket.

Now, not only is that naked politics, it is very expensive politics too!