Ear to the Ground: Need a Friend

Need a Friend?

Knox County's next sheriff, Jimmy "J.J." Jones, and the sheriff'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 "urges audit of bonuses" in the department.

At a Commission meeting earlier in the week, mayoral spokesman Dwight Van de Vate charged that the sheriff's department routinely pays "overtime" at Christmas as a bonus to selected employees. In a follow-up story in Wednesday's edition, Owings was quoted extensively on how sheriff's department records ought to be audited by the county auditor.

Owings assured the sheriff'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 sheriff'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 "defense" 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 Day'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 week'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 day'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?