Ear to the Ground
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Knox Countyâ’s next sheriff, Jimmy â“J.J.â” Jones, and the sheriffâ’s department senior staff were incensed last week by a headline on a lead story in the News Sentinel in which Law Director John Owings â“urges audit of bonusesâ” in the department.
At a Commission meeting earlier in the week, mayoral spokesman Dwight Van de Vate charged that the sheriffâ’s department routinely pays â“overtimeâ” at Christmas as a bonus to selected employees. In a follow-up story in Wednesdayâ’s edition, Owings was quoted extensively on how sheriffâ’s department records ought to be audited by the county auditor.
Owings assured the sheriffâ’s department he was misquoted. He merely suggested that if Commission wanted to have the books audited, then the county auditor ought to do it. The sheriffâ’s department was not convinced, the News Sentinel stands by its story, and Owings is going into a primary election with the Republican political machine mad as hell at him.
Owings was not expected to get much support from County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and his allies because they have viewed him as in league with Chair Scott Moore and Owings handled the â“defenseâ” of Commission in the Sunshine lawsuit.
So Owings has managed to alienate both factions within the Republican Party prior to a Republican primary election. He is being opposed by Republican Bill Lockett.
Long Dayâ’s Journey
Good-government groups and the media have urged night meetings for the Knox County Commission because daytime meetings are inconvenient for the public to attend. Responding to such sentiment, the Commission began last weekâ’s meeting at 5 p.m. They finished after midnight after an exhausting session that left the media scrambling to get news reports onto the 11 p.m. television news and into the next dayâ’s edition of the News Sentinel.
Meeting once a month, the Commission has a long agenda and meetings routinely last longer than its City Council counterpart. Afternoon meetings usually give the media time to prepared full reports on what happened. It also allows staff, lawyers, lobbyists, and citizens appearing before Commission to do so during working hours.
We just wonder: Do lawyer/lobbyists get double-time for after-hours sessions?
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