Chancery court to hear dispute between KCSO, its Merit System Council

By Ken Lay

Knox County Sheriff’s Office Merit System Council Chairperson Gina Oster and council member Jim Jennings will not recuse themselves from the Merit System Council.

The board voted unanimously to leave the two members in place at a meeting Friday morning at the Andrew Johnson Building.

But this matter is far from over. And the dispute between the KCSO and its merit system council is headed to Chancery Court for a hearing today (Sept. 27).

Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler’s attorney, Gary Prince, was noticeably agitated during Friday morning’s proceedings and he objected to the meeting.

“Get the politics out of the merit council,” he said. “We have a Chancery Court hearing on Monday, and a chancellor will decide whether this will be thrown out. I want you all to file a written statement about where you all stand on this.”

Attorney John Valliant, who represents the merit council, said that Prince’s demand is unprecedented.

“I know that (Prince) wants a hearing,” Valliant said. “But I have never heard of any case where you have to give a written statement in something like this.”

In his response, Prince said. “Mr. Valiant is right. I want a hearing, but now is not the time, the time is at the Chancery Court.”

Jim Jennings said that he has been unfairly accused of having prejudiced opinions because of pictures portraying him with Lee Trammel, who lost to Spangler in a bid for sheriff in the last election, and Jimmy J.J. Jones, who was sheriff before Spangler and is running to unseat him for the office.

“I’ve been seen with a Lee Trammel hat,” Jennings said. “But I have 200 hats. Lee Trammel is a friend and he’s been a good friend. But this council was designed to protect the men and women who are the employees.”

Oster said that there were mistruths as she’s been accused of being biased against Spangler.

“I’ve been accused of supporting people,” said Oster, who is seeking a seat on the Knox County Commission. “I can file to run for office. Today, I’m here to defend myself against misinformation and mistruths.

“This tribunal was started because our officers were being hurt when new sheriffs came in. This is not about Sheriff Jones, Sheriff Spangler or Sheriff (Tim) Hutchison and it’s not about 15 sheriffs down the road. It’s about protecting the men and women, the employees of the sheriff’s department.”

“We had a chairman on this council that ran for county commission before, and when he won, he stepped down from this tribunal,” Oster said. “And if I’m so honored to win, I will do the same.

“I haven’t taken money from Sheriff Spangler or Sheriff Jones and I haven’t had a yard sign for either one because I can’t.”