By Steve Hunley

Merit Council Running Amok

The antics of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Merit System Council members – – – Gina Oster, Jim Jennings, and Jim Wright – – – continue to illustrate an unelected board run amuck.  Readers will remember last week’s announcement the merit council has finally set a hearing date to hear the complaint filed by Martha Dooley.  That complaint can be summarized pretty easily; Martha makes some $106,000 annually and until Tom Spangler became sheriff, she had a taxpayer-provided car.  She also had a gas card and the whole package was a pretty nice benefit considering she had no car payment, no insurance payment, no maintenance costs and got taxpayer-provided gasoline at the county’s gas pumps.  All of that was a pretty nice perk for someone who claims she’s been demoted to the status of a glorified clerk.  Dooley is not the doing of Spangler, but rather is a remnant of the Hutchison – “JJ” Jones – Lee Tramel regime.

Martha Dooley was a sometime employee of a local television station and became the sheriff’s spokesperson under then-Sheriff Tim Hutchison.

The problem with the merit council, which is a quasi-judicial body and supposed to hear complaints impartially (like a judge does) has become so infected with politics it should be in a quarantine unit at the CDC.  Jennings and Oster are political supporters of the Hutchison – Jones machine and opponents of incumbent Sheriff Tom Spangler.  The merit council was told by the Knox County Law Director’s office, the attorney for the council, the Dooley grievance was NOT the sort of complaint to warrant action by the council.  Jennings, Oster and Wright went ahead and did it as they seem to do when they want to ignore the advice of their own legal counsel.  Yet the case has been kicked down the road for quite nearly a year and with The Focus pointing this out right often.  The merit council has finally scheduled a hearing on the Dooley matter.  But the merit council cannot even follow its own rules and has been making a mockery of the Sunshine Law.  Their actions are as transparent as melted midnight.  With Jim Jennings arbitrarily simply issuing a statement the council would do this, that or the other thing, the body actually has to go back to correct its actions by actually having a motion and taking a vote as it is supposed to have done in the first place.  At the last meeting of the merit council, Gina Oster announced retired Judge Sharon Bell would be the hearing officer for the Dooley complaint.  Where did that come from?  It had never been discussed in any open meeting of the merit council previously.  When alternate merit council member John Marshall wondered and then asked about that, a notice was promptly issued by Paula Taylor, executive director of the merit council, that the council would meet in a special session to consider the appointment of a special hearing officer in the Dooley case.  Ironically, the matter is listed on the agenda as “Old Business” by the council when it had never, ever been discussed or heard publicly before.  It hardly takes a rocket science or mental wizard to know that what transpires outside the scrutiny of the public and the press has occurred elsewhere.  Now the council must come back and ratify what it had already decided to make it legal.

The merit council has yet once again gotten ahead of itself and the appointment of the hearing officer is truly “Old Business” indeed.


More on Redistricting

The Tennessee General Assembly starts its new session this week.  One of the first orders of business will be approval of the redistricting of their own districts as well as the new lines for Tennessee’s congressional districts.  The big question is what the legislature will do to the Fifth Congressional District, which is occupied by Democrat Jim Cooper.  The rumor persists that the legislature will divide Davidson County into three parts in order to squeeze out another congressional seat for a Republican.  The largest population growth in the state has occurred in Middle Tennessee.


A Fischbobber Announces for County Mayor

Bob Fischer is politely described as an activist, but perhaps a more accurate description would be “gadfly.” Fischer seems to post on local blogs and social media with the thought in mind everybody is entitled to his opinion, constantly and without end.  Calling Bob Fischer a masking advocate is a little bit like terming the late Osama Bin Laden a mere itinerant Islamic preacher.  Some readers will remember when the County Commissioner had to deal with the Knox County Board of Health which was spiraling out of control.  Fischer is the one who posted the following on Compass Knox’s private Facebook page: “all forms of protest now become justified. . . Once politicians vote to arbitrarily kill citizens, they must be stopped by whatever means necessary.”  Wow.

Commissioner Kyle Ward, a veteran who served in an elite special operations unit overseas, saw the post, took a screenshot, and forwarded it to the Knox County Sheriff’s office.  “Fischbobber,” which is his social media handle, really started bobbing then and exclaimed “there was no threat made nor intended” in his post.  Just the ravings of yet another political extremist, I reckon.

Now we have the news Bob Fischer is off and running for mayor against Glenn Jacobs.  Retired from UPS, Fischer says he doesn’t think his chance of election is very good; that’s putting it very mildly indeed. Ilhan Omar has a better chance of being elected to head the Mossad.  Local leftists like to try and demean and belittle Mayor Jacobs as the “wrestler.”  Jacobs was indeed a professional wrestler and a mighty successful one, too.  Keep in mind, these are the same Leftists who think Alyssa Milano speaks truth to power and what is she but another little-known actress making pronouncements about public policy?  These are the same people who think Little Brian Stetler, the homophobic Joy Reid, and the idiotic Don Lemon really are journalists.

Glenn Jacobs made a lot of money in the entertainment business and invested it wisely and well.  Jacobs and his wife operate a successful real estate and insurance business while the only thing Bob Fischer runs is his mouth, which may yet become an ad for the Energizer Bunny.  For those folks who actually know Glenn Jacobs, they realize he is a highly intelligent man with a genuine interest in people and the community.

Bob Fischer is precisely the kind of candidate Republicans want to see the Democrats nominate.  To the Republicans, Bob Fischer is worth a barrel-full of Daniel Herreras and a boxcar full of Erik Wiatrs.


The Honey Badger Strikes Again

The Knox County Board of Education’s Honey Badger has struck again.  Mike McMillan fussed with Jennifer Owen about whether or not to include opposing vouchers in the board’s priorities to the state legislative delegation.  Having been bitten by the cobra several times before, McMillan as persistent and indefatigable as the Honey Badger, fell over, got back up and, with four other members of the board, voted to remove the language opposing vouchers from the board’s priorities.

McMillan was also the only member of the Board who objected to the idea of paying the yet to be determined new superintendent a starting salary of $250,000.  Current Superintendent Bob Thomas made somewhere around $175,000, but his predecessor Jim McIntyre, made about $240,000 annually.  McMillan warned his colleagues they might very well hear from constituents, pointing out that Congressman Tim Burchett and Mayor Glenn Jacobs don’t make as much.

“Frankly, the pay of some superintendents has been far beyond what it should be,” Mike McMillan told The Focus.  “I keep hearing we must stay competitive.”

McMillan reminded The Focus how the supporters of McIntyre warned against criticizing the superintendent for fear another school system might lure him away with the promise of higher pay.  “As it turned out, there was no reason to worry,” McMillan said dryly.

“Evidently no other school system was breaking down the door to run off with Jim.”

As McMillan recalled, “I still have people stop me and ask if we pay the school superintendent more than the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Vice President of the United States.”