Publisher’s Positions

By Steve Hunley

Kincannon and Transparency … Not So Much

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon is not having a fun time in court, especially as she kicks off her reelection bid this month.  Few voters have paid attention to the fact Knoxville has a new Chief of Police, much less followed a lawsuit filed by the Knoxville News-Sentinel regarding the City’s refusal to release public records relating to the hire.  The case revolves around the lack of transparency surrounding the new hire on the heels of the departure of former Chief Eve Thomas.

There’s been an admission in a court case that ought to play a big role in the coming city elections next year.  The City of Knoxville has admitted it hired a search firm to find the next police chief specifically to tiptoe around public records laws.  That admission was made in Knox County’s Chancery Court where the city’s attorney was being closely questioned by Chancellor John Weaver.

The News-Sentinel immediately pounced on the declaration and printed it.  The daily newspaper has sued the City of Knoxville in an open records case in the Chancery Court as previously stated.  As it happens, Kincannon, who promised complete and utter transparency as a candidate, evidently had her fingers crossed behind her back when she made the pledge.  Or perhaps it was just the usual Kincannon promise.  Kincannon placed a resolution on the city council’s agenda to hire the Police Executive Research Forum to find its candidates for chief.  The council, which almost never questions, much less debates, any proposal Kincannon offers, routinely approved paying the search firm $43,000 to find Knoxville a new police chief.

It sure sounded good.  The Police Executive Research Forum promised everything with all the trimmings, which included “a needs assessment, community engagement, advertising and recruiting for the position, candidate screening, and ultimately, a list of the best candidates for the job.”  It also accomplished something else the City administration wanted, which was to keep taxpayers in the dark as to just precisely who the candidates to become Knoxville’s next chief of police were.

Now lest you think it is the conservative old Focus battering Indya Kincannon yet again, let me quote directly from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which any impartial observer would have to acknowledge is sitting on the left of the spectrum.  “By paying a firm to handle the hiring, Mayor Indya Kincannon and her team thought they could bypass Tennessee’s open records laws and keep taxpayers in the dark.”  Readers probably ought to grab their phones and take a picture of that.  It will be one of the very few times you’ll ever see the News-Sentinel ever complain about anything relating to the taxpayers.

When one peels back the Sentinel patting itself on the back, the daily newspaper does finally get to the meat of the story, which is the effort by Kincannon and her administration to be anything but forthcoming.

John Weaver is the senior chancellor of Knox County’s Chancery Court and is widely respected by just about everybody.  Weaver’s persistent questioning gave the city’s attorney, Chris McCarty, not even a fig leaf for cover.

Considering the sensitivity of the city government about police issues, one would think the Kincannon administration’s lack of transparency will become an issue, not only for Kincannon herself, but also for the city council members who approved it.  A policy of rubber-stamping an incompetent executive frequently puts a legislator at risk in elections, too.


Kyle Ward Running for Chairman of the Knox County Republican Party

Kyle Ward has announced he is running for chairman of the Knox County Republican Party.  This announcement comes on the heels of Daniel Herrera’s declaration he won’t seek a second term in the post.

Ward has the kind of background that should help to make him an effective chair for local Republicans.  Kyle Ward went into the military where he became a special forces officer.  A small businessman who operates several highly successful businesses, Ward and his wife Katie are expecting the arrival of their first child any day now.

Kyle Ward has also demonstrated a determined ability to overcome the odds.  Ward was not given much chance to win election to the Knox County Commission when he announced two years ago.  Ward upset the favorite in the primary, winning decisively.  Kyle Ward went on to win the general election and has impressed local observers as one of the more thoughtful and productive members of the Knox County Commission.

Kyle Ward has been able to get things done through quiet conciliation and an ability to shepherd ordinances through the commission.  The youngest member of the Knox County Commission, Ward has stunned many hardened local observers of politics by doing the unexpected.  While infuriating the left by reconstituting the Knox County Board of Health, Kyle Ward was also the sponsor to make Juneteenth a holiday in our county.  It was Ward who did the heavy lifting as chairman of the commission’s redistricting committee.  An oftentimes contentious process, Ward’s leadership on the issue saw it sail through the commission without controversy or conflict.

Kyle Ward has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to think outside the box and is young and savvy enough to understand the importance of social media in today’s world.  Ward will almost certainly be the choice of local Republicans to serve as chairman.

Some have been under the impression that the leadership of the party is the party when the truth is the membership is the party.  Nobody understands that better than Kyle Ward and nobody can do a better job in a demanding and frequently frustrating position. Ward will be a formidable candidate and would be an excellent choice of local Republicans to choose to serve as chairman.

Ward has the ability to put all the pieces together to revitalize Knox County’s Republican Party and give the local Democrats even more competition.