THE HUNTER REPORT

Accountability

 

Public Officials - Code of Conduct

 

Lumpy & Friends ...

 

By: Pat Hunter

 

Do you recall hearing about an incident involving Knox County commissioner Greg �Lumpy� Lambert; Lumpy walked into the audience and confronted a resident over a zoning matter? Knox Commissioners did not look the other way on Lumpy's uncivil behavior. The Knox County Governmental committee followed up with a recommendation to the full commission that Knox County Commission will not �tolerate any action or behavior that intimidates, insults or threatens a citizen while exercising their right to appear before the commission.� 

 

Knox County Commission took a stand against aggressive and uncivil behavior at public

meetings while the practice of berating other board members, citizens and press continues in Loudon County. Too often, uncivil behavior is not reported in the newspaper so many people do not know how some public officials conduct themselves in public meetings.

 

Public officials have an obligation and responsibility to be prepared to discuss public issues, be attentive and listen courteously to all public discussions and focus on the business at hand.

 

Here are a few examples of how public officials conduct themselves at public meetings in Loudon County; do you approve?

 

 

 

School Board Chair lashes out

 

 

School Director Wayne Honeycutt (l) School Board Chair Tate (r)

 

Former BOE Chair Tate loses temper and vents at press

At the Aug. 3, 2009 Commission meeting, Mayor Arp voiced his displeasure because the school board had not approved the proposed budget. He commented something about "...I know there's alot of people would like total chaos because that's what they thrive on but I don't thrive on chaos��

Three days later at a school board workshop, the meeting became so heated over funding issues, the discussion turned ugly. Board members discussed whether to give pay raises to personnel or funding the proposed school building plan. At one point, the Chair was asked about his priorities. Chair Leroy Tate pounded his fist on the table. Tate seemed to favor pay increases over spending money on the school building plan, build kids a fancy Taj Mahal. Another school board member Bill Marcus helped fan the fire by asking board member Van Shaver if he told reporter Mary Hinds with the News Herald what to write.

Chair Tate then took aim at another school board member (Van Shaver) and reporters from the News Herald and Knoxville News Sentinel who he mistakenly called the Knoxville Journal. His behavior was bothersome.

Public officials, school board members, faculty and staff serve as role models to students, parents and community. No one expects school board members to agree on every issue or even to march in lockstep. However it's not asking too much for public officials to act in a  professional, respectful, courteous, and civil manner, to each other, public or press.

Would this behavior be tolerated or condoned from a student in a classroom?

So far, I have heard no public apology from the Chair about his public outburst.

 Was this the chaos that Mayor Arp hinted at when he spoke at Commission's Dec. 3rd meeting?

 

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County Mayor bullies

when he can't answer simple question

 

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Mayor Doyle Arp speaks in a demeaning tone to a citizen while Commission Chair Bledsoe & commissioners say nothing.

 Mayor at workshop meeting -

The conference room was packed with county employees, a County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) consultant with UT and citizens. During the public comment period of the Aug. 20, 2007 commission workshop meeting, a person (myself) asked when  the county books closed for the fiscal year? The accounting period for county government ends June 30th and here it was nearly the end of August. Mayor Doyle Arp didn't seem to like the question, which was asked.

 

He mentioned that the county building had been without air conditioning for 2-days (Friday & Monday) as he sat and pointed in his long-sleeved shirt. About the same time period, I recall hearing parents complaining how children at one school went without air conditioning for several weeks. It seems that the maintenance department was very busy working on the mayor's various projects!

 

Doyle Arp is the budget chair and chief executive officer and by statute, the county mayor is the accounting officer and general agent of the county. Shouldn't the mayor be able to answer a simple financial question in a straight forward manner without being aggressive or uncivil to a taxpayer?

 

At the same workshop meeting, a county employee expressed concern that a proposed increase to the employee health insurance would cancel out her 1 percent pay raise when other county employees were given a 3 percent raise. The employee also pointed out how commissioners had voted to give themselves a 10 percent pay raise based on the mayor's yearly salary. The mayor interrupted her and spoke to her in a rude manner and said something about, not to wash your laundry in public. 

 

The mayor is not the Commission Chair; Commission Chair Roy Bledsoe did not say one word and neither did anyone else on commission.  

 

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Solid Waste Commissioner berates citizen

 

Robert Harrison, Loudon City solid waste commissioner

Harrison's voice - he advocates bringing TVA coal fly ash to Loudon County &  he tells a citizen "She doesn't count" - Streaming Video

 

At the July 14, 2009 Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission (LCSWDC),  Chair Steve Field invited the public to share their views and ask questions about the TVA coal fly ash. The press had reported that the Loudon County landfill, which is operated by Santek Environmental, was one of four Class 1 landfills, which was originally scheduled to receive some test runs of TVA coal fly ash.

 

Sarah Dailey, Matlock Bend resident asked if local industry was bringing coal fly ash to the county landfill. The VP of Marketing with Santek, replied that the landfill brought in wood ash not coal fly ash. She was corrected by a solid waste commissioner who said that two industries, Viskase and Tate & Lyle, disposed coal fly ash and Kimberly Clark disposed wood ash at the Matlock Bend landfill.  

 

Through a series of questions aired by a citizen, the public learned that the solid waste commission was not aware that Santek had submitted a request for Proposal (RFP) to bring in TVA coal fly ash to the county landfill without the solid waste commission's knowledge or prior approval. The contract between the solid waste commission and Santek gave Santek the discretion to market a certain amount of waste without first consulting with the solid waste commission.

 

Robert Harrison, Loudon City resident and appointee to the solid waste commission took exception to comments and questions about the landfill contract. Robert Harrison didn't preside over the meeting but he decided to take a citizen to task as she spoke. He favored bringing in coal fly ash to the landfill. As the speaker finished her comments and returned to her seat, Harrison said, "...She doesn't count." His comments were met with disapproval and boo's by the public. To his credit, Chair Steve Field informed Harrison that the solid waste commission was taking comments from the public and that he did not agree with Harrison's comments.

 

It seems that some officials don't like the word accountability. Whatever happened to public officials adhering to a code of conduct and behaving in a civil manner at public meetings? Public discussions about important community issues turn into public officials making personal comments that are not germane to the business at hand, interrupting other speakers or interfering with the orderly conduct of meetings.

 

Knox County Commission took a stand against abusive and aggressive behavior; will Loudon County Commission follow their lead and speak out against unacceptable conduct at public meetings? 

 

 

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08-24-09