By Steve Hunley

Safe Space? Really!

Last week the Knoxville edition of USA Today published an article trying to make a cause out of the arrest of David Hayes.  Hayes was arrested by deputies from the Knox County Sheriff’s office outside a meeting at the City & County Building where Knoxville officials were discussing the selection of a new police chief to replace Eve Thomas, who is retiring.  There has been a distinct effort on behalf of the Knoxville News Sentinel to make Hayes out to be a victim.  Erin Gill, chief policy director in the administration of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, made the utterly asinine statement she (and presumably all other city officials) had believed the meeting was a “safe space” where people could come and give their views.  In other words, Ms. Gill is saying a “safe space” is one without any law enforcement officers present.  Not only that, but a “safe space” is one where apparently any person with outstanding arrest warrants might go to comment on the hiring of a new police chief for the City of Knoxville without fear of being arrested.  Anyone with an ounce of common sense has to be astonished by the reaction of city officials.  For your information Ms. Gill, a “safe space” is ONE FREE OF CRIMINALS, not police officers or Sheriff’s deputies.  I might as well add “victims” are those preyed upon by criminals; “victims” are not the criminals themselves.

David Hayes has run for the Knoxville City Council in the last two election cycles as candidate for the radical Left “City Council Movement.”  Hayes has regularly called for the population of prisons to be released.  If David Hayes had his way, every rapist, pedophile and murderer would be let back into our society.  I wonder if Erin Gill thinks that would constitute a safe space for Knoxvillians?  David Hayes has loudly and repeatedly called for defunding the police.  In light of those facts, what sort of Chief of Police do you suppose he would like to see appointed?  The very idea that public officials would say there is some kind of zone where those with outstanding warrants are free to come and go as they please without fear of arrest is sheer lunacy.  The notion that somehow the Knox County Sheriff’s Department is akin to the Gestapo for arresting David Hayes on outstanding warrants is simply absurd.  Citizens ought to note the Knoxville Police Department was either not allowed or afraid to arrest David Hayes on those outstanding warrants, which says a great deal about the situation inside the City of Knoxville presently.  Yet evidently it was a KPD officer who tipped off the sheriff’s department Hayes would be present at the meeting.

The Sentinel can call David Hayes an “activist” but it is more accurate to refer to him as a political gadfly and perpetual protester.  Hayes was allegedly spitting on officers as they tried to arrest him and just so you know, there is quite a bit of talk inside Democratic Party circles that David Hayes remains unvaccinated.  The Sentinel reported, without a single shred of evidence to support the claim, Hayes’s claim that he was punched in the face by one of the sheriff’s deputies.  Evidently, the Sentinel and its reporters, like their cohorts in the national news media, have no compunction in reporting as fact untruths so long as it moves along the desired narrative.  In the meantime, Hayes is on social media begging for donations for his “legal, organizing and personal expenses.”

As might be expected, the local Democratic Party apparatus remained largely silent, preferring to say nothing.  Well, saying nothing oftentimes is a statement of its own.  I am not surprised Matt Shears, chair of the Knox County Democrat Party, has chosen the politically correct choice of sitting in the corner and remaining silent.  It is confirmation of one of two things, or perhaps both: Democrats either support people like David Hayes and wish to wage a war upon law enforcement officers or they are so profoundly afraid of the woke Left they do not wish to risk being cancelled.

The fact former Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones would use the arrest of David Hayes to throw mud at incumbent Tom Spangler is astonishing and a new low.  I find it difficult to believe any law enforcement professional would find fault with arresting Hayes.  The notion that the Knox County Sheriff’s Office arrested David Hayes in a way to “humiliate” him is laughable.  If David Hayes’s own behavior hasn’t humiliated him, nothing will or would.

The notion is that by keeping law enforcement away from public meetings, it is therefore safe.  Now think about that and what it implies.  Is it really any wonder folks don’t want to go into law enforcement as a profession?  That kind of language is counterproductive to recruiting folks to work in law enforcement.  Aside from that, it’s just plain stupid.

Knox Countians should give thanks for an honest top law enforcement officer who will do his duty and serve the people and justice above woke politics.  Ms. Gill and the Kincannon administration evidently believe that anyone can walk in off the streets with an arrest warrant for inciting riots, etc. and be immune to arrest and the law.  That is a violation of the oaths you took to receive the big salaries the taxpayers are paying you.  Whether it’s David Hayes or former county commissioners Ivan Harmon and Scott Moore, Tom Spangler has kept his oath of office and his faith with the people who elected him.


Marshall Challenges Oster and Jennings

Some readers may be tiring of the commentary about the Knox County Merit System Council, but it is important for citizens to know when a public body has failed in its responsibilities. On Thursday, January 6, it hit the fan when alternate member John Marshall challenged Chair Gina Oster.  Marshall asked to speak under a point of personal privilege, which ordinarily would have brought him instant recognition.  Oster tried to ignore Marshall saying, in essence as he was an alternate member, he should sit there and keep his mouth shut.  John Marshall had no intention of keeping quiet and Myers Morton of the Knox County Law Director’s office informed Oster that Marshall did indeed have the right to speak publicly.  That was the crux of Marshall’s remarks: candidly admitting the merit council had been called into special session to cure the defect of the council members not properly following the rules and complying with the Sunshine Law.  At issue was appointing retired Judge Sharon Bell to serve as a hearing office in the Martha Dooley case.  Dooley, who is paid about $106,000 annually, is demanding her taxpayer-funded car and gas card back, which had been taken away by Sheriff Tom Spangler.  The merit council has been advised by its own legal counsel that it doesn’t even have the right to have a hearing on the Martha Dooley matter because it is not the kind of grievance heard by that board.  Marshall, a retired businessman, did some sharp questioning which was clearly upsetting to Oster.

John Marshall pressed the point the merit council was not following the rules and raised the issue of decisions being made outside the view of the press and the public.  Gina Oster and Jim Jennings seemed flustered and angry, especially when legal counsel Myers Morton upheld every point Marshall made.

What exactly is the need for a hearing officer in the Dooley case, especially considering the merit council hasn’t used one that I know of in the past?  Quite likely because Gina Oster isn’t competent enough to preside over the hearing.  Recent events and failures to comply with rules and procedures would tend to support that theory.

After the meeting ended, Gina Oster snarled at Marshall that she knew where he was “coming from” and accused him of having said he was against her bid for a seat on the Knox County Commission.  Marshall shot back that Oster must have been told that by Oster’s “Democratic campaign manager.”  Oster’s campaign to succeed Commissioner Randy Smith is being run by Erik Wiatr, who managed the failed city council ticket in the recent Knoxville election.  Wiatr had also managed Oster’s failed bid for the GOP nomination against state Representative Eddie Mannis.  John Marshall had forthrightly told the county commissioners when he was appointed to serve on the merit council he would not seek public office while serving as a member of the quasi-judicial body.  Oster, unlike Marshall, refused to make that pledge and has been an multiple candidate throughout her term.  Evidently, Gina Oster doesn’t understand her role on the merit council as she likes to portray herself as an advocate for the men and women of the sheriff’s department.  Marshall points out the members are to hear each individual case upon its merits (as the name implies) without favoring either the sheriff or any particular employee. But then again, John Marshall isn’t running for any office.

Watch the meeting for yourself and make up your own mind; you can watch it here: