Ear to the Ground: Raise a Glass

Raise a Glass

An examination of purchasing card receipts reveals that County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's favorite wine is called "Stag's Leap," $97 a bottle at the Palm restaurant in Nashville.

Ragsdale and then-finance director John Werner split the $600 tab for the staff dinner, each putting half on his p-card, according to an examination of the receipts by citizen auditor Lewis Cosby. Ragsdale's receipt contains a notation to Chief of Staff Mike Arms to pay for his share out of the hospitality account, if it has enough money in it. If not, he says he will write a check for it.

Cosby says his investigation reveals the bill was paid by check from the hospitality fund—but that the designated fund was overdrawn at the time. The money was thus drawn from the general fund. The fund wound up in the black, but was overdrawn at various times depending on contributions, according to Cosby.

The hospitality account was the subject of a recent audit and the results will be investigated by a special prosecutor and County Commission has voted to hire an attorney to also investigate it.

New Regime

Don Daugherty, elected chair of the Knox County Democratic Party last year, resigned recently in frustration, saying his board would not back his initiatives. When he left office he cited his accomplishments, including $25,000 in the bank and a free-standing party headquarters in Fountain City.

Sylvia Woods, a longtime Democratic Party activist and labor leader who clashed repeatedly with Daugherty, has been elected to replace him. One of the first decisions under the new regime was to shut down the headquarters and move it back to a local union hall.

AG to Rule

A State Attorney General's opinion is being sought on how to fill the post of Criminal Court Clerk in the wake of Martha Phillips' death. State election commission officials have said the position should be on the November ballot with candidates picked by local political parties. Some County Commissioners feel, however, that the post should be filled by appointment of commission for the unexpired term. The term expires in 2010.

At issue is whether commission might lose its prerogative to appoint Sessions judges and clerks. Sessions Judge Bobby McGee is running for Criminal Court Judge. Should he win, commission will want a say in appointing his successor.

Commission appointed former state Rep. Jimmy Kyle Davis to a Sessions post last year.

Phillips' deputy, Joy McCrosky, is the interim clerk. The post is attractive to lots of local politicos. It isn't covered by term limits.

Show Me the Money

It appears that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has given away more money than one of his opponents has raised. Former Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett is running in the Democratic primary to face Republican Alexander.

Padgett reported $77,000 raised in the first quarter, but has refused to release his totals for the second quarter ending June 30—usually not a good sign. Quarterly reports will be available July 15. Meanwhile, Alexander's personal PAC has donated $177,000 to other Republican candidates.

Alexander has reported total fund-raising for re-election at $2.8 million.

Padgett, who has been stumping around the state in the Democratic primary, is running against Bob Tuke and Ken Eaton. Tuke is a former state party chair and Eaton is a successful car dealer in Nashville. Tuke has said he has raised $200,000 and Eaton says he will donate $250,000 to his own campaign.