By Steve Hunley

Merit Council has become Political Council

Anybody who reads The Knoxville Focus regularly already knows the Sheriff’s Merit System Council has become a tar pit of politics.  It may well be beyond reform and the truth is for years it has been dominated by the very people it was supposed to eliminate: politicians.  The Merit Council was originally designed to remove politics from the grievances of law enforcement personnel.  Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Merit Council fell under the domination of former Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones and his chief deputy, Lee Trammel.  Trammel was Jones’s handpicked successor to serve as Knox County Sheriff.  To the dismay of the Jones – Trammel crowd, that plan, like the best laid plans, went into the ditch when Tom Spangler handily won the Republican primary almost four years ago.  Yet the appointees on the Merit Council appointed by the Knox County Commission were political supporters of the Jones/Hutchison administrations.  Jim Jennings, a Democrat and sometime chairman of the Merit Council, has to his credit made no secret of his backing of Jones and Trammel even while serving on the Merit Council.  It is as plain as day and there for all to see.  Gina Oster, perennial candidate for public office, cries the current scrutiny of the Sheriff’s Merit Council is all politics; she’s half right.  Lord knows there’s enough politics going on through the Merit Council to choke a mule to death, but it is Jennings and Oster who are politicizing what is supposed to be a board that is above politics. The Merit Council hasn’t done its job and the county commissioners know it. Aside from a few efforts made by Commissioners Larsen Jay and Kyle Ward, the commissioners haven’t done enough to correct the problem.  Oster predictably paints herself as the heroine of the tale; all that stands between the men and women of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and oblivion is Gina Oster.  Oster is a longtime supporter of Jones, Trammel and Hutchison.

The Merit Council is doing its best to kick two highly controversial cases down the road, past next years’ Republican primary.  The first is that of Martha Dooley, who has been working for the sheriff’s department at least since the administration of Tim Hutchison.  In fact, there are rumors should “JJ” Jones make a political comeback, so, too, will Tim Hutchison, who will become chief deputy to the sheriff.  Dooley whose job no longer requires a vehicle furnished by the sheriff’s department, demands her taxpayer-funded car back while making over $100 thousand per year.  The other highly controversial case is that involving former county commissioners Ivan Harman and Scott “Scooby” Moore, whose program, Inmate Industries, came under the watchful eye of the state comptroller’s office, which found numerous problems with its administration which Moore and Harmon supervised.  Sheriff Spangler responded by conducting an investigation into Harmon and Moore’s activities and fired them.  Both have appealed their firings and the Sheriff’s Merit Council has routinely kicked that political can of worms down the road.  Keep in mind “JJ” Jones described Moore and Harmon as “model public servants”, which they probably would be by JJ’s standards.

Now a lawsuit by the Knox County Law Director has gone to Knox County’s Chancery Court seeking the recusal of both Gina Oster and Jim Jennings from another case as well.  So, too, it will likely be that the law director’s contention the Merit Council is out of compliance with Tennessee State law.


Woke Politics Rampant in Public Schools

The Left tells us through their usual media mouthpieces the teaching of Critical Race Theory is a figment of our collective imaginations.  Yet training materials for the Springfield, Missouri school district tells teachers they might well be white supremacists if they insist on the use of the English language or by calling the police to report a black suspect.  The information came as part of an effort to train teachers on how to better address “systemic racism and xenophobia” as well as to understand those who are oppressors and those who are the oppressed.  Just so teachers could keep up, the course included an “oppression matrix” which helpfully identified those privileged groups who are most likely to be oppressors: “white people,” “male assigned at birth,” “gender conforming CIS men and women,” “heterosexuals,” “rich upper-class people,” and of course, “Protestants.”  Teachers were told those who are most likely to be oppressed included minorities, transgender people, poor Americans, working class folks, and gays.  The course also listed examples of “covert white supremacy” which included “calling the police on black people,” “treating kids of color as adults,” “English-only initiatives,” “mass incarceration,” and the term “all lives matters.”


Partisan School Board Elections Approved by State Legislature

It’s official.  The Tennessee General Assembly has passed and Governor Bill Lee has signed into law, making races for school boards partisan elections.  The Knox County Republican Party has notified the Knox County Election Commission that a primary will be held next year for seats on the Knox County Board of Education.  Presumably, primary races will occur in May, followed by the general election in August.  There are four seats on the board of education up for election next year, including the First District, which is represented by Evetty Satterfield; the Fourth District represented by Virginia Babb; the Seventh District represented by Patti Bounds; and the Ninth District seat represented by Kristi Kristy.  Bounds has said she will be retiring and there are indications Babb will opt to quit rather than run in a partisan race.

There are several candidates already off and running for the board of education, likely inspired by recent events in Virginia.


Rittenhouse Acquitted

The media coverage surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse trial confirms, yet again, the mainstream media prefers the official narrative to facts.  That narrative was Rittenhouse had to be a white supremacist Trump-supporter; during the rioting, looting and burning, which the mainstream media labeled “most peacefully” protests, the country was supposed to be divided into two distinct groups.  There were the folks seeking racial justice versus those who supported Trump.  Rittenhouse was featured in a campaign ad by the Biden campaign and of course the official narrative of the Left and leftist media meant anyone who either disapproved of, much less opposed the riots, must surely be a white supremacist.  Unfortunately, at least for the media folk, none of the facts bear out any of the narrative they’ve stuck with from the beginning to the end.  The people who attacked and chased Kyle Rittenhouse were white; at least one of them was a convicted child molester, while another was also a convicted criminal.  Every shred of evidence – – – forensic, video, and witness accounts – – – disproves the media narrative.

Americans, at least those paying attention, can easily discern the facts in this case are completely different from the narrative carried by the press.  No less an authority than PolitiFact doubled-down upon its statement that Kyle Rittenhouse wasn’t old enough to be carrying a rifle under Wisconsin law.  WRONG.  That much was admitted by the prosecutor and the charge was summarily dismissed by the judge.  And as this is written, the jury has unanimously acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges.  Yet again, Americans are able to see past the manipulations of the mainstream news media.


City Council Approves Baseball Stadium… Barely

After about three hours of discussion, the Knoxville City Council sort of followed the county commission’s example and approved the stadium proposed by businessman and UT President Randy Boyd.  Councilman Tommy Smith had said he was undecided on a proposed stadium throughout the campaign, probably because he didn’t want to risk losing the votes of progressives who are deeply opposed to the stadium.  Nor did Smith feel the need to use an endorsement given to his campaign by former Governor Bill Haslam pretty much for the same reason.  Still, evidently Smith didn’t think the election was that non-partisan.  Tommy Smith made up his mind to vote in favor of the stadium project pretty quickly when the time came.

The professional Leftists on the city council – – – socialists Amelia Parker and Seems Singh as well as far leftist Charlie Thomas all fought a rear guard action for a worker’s agreement, insisting contractors pay a certain hourly rate.  One wonders if they had the good sense to be embarrassed when someone pointed out all of them except for Parker had voted for the budget and they were asking contractors to pay a higher hourly rate than they pay some city workers.  Oops!