No Meet, Greet
Bill Lockett is the presumptive next Law Director; he won the Republican primary over incumbent John Owings and has no Democratic opposition in August. But e-mails were flying last week with the news Lockett was seen headed toward Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's office the day the p-card audit came out.
What could the new Law Director be doing talking with a potential adversary?
Lockett said it's a misunderstanding. He went to the finance office, also on the 6th Floor of the City County Building, in order to get the budget figures for the Law Director's office. He is preparing for eventually taking over the office.
He notes that in order to get to the finance office he had to pass the Law Director's office and perhaps someone there jumped to a conclusion.
The preliminary audit of the purchasing cards by Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and his staff notes that an employee at a FedEx Kinko's has indicated he created false invoices for Cynthia Finch. There were 12 invoices totaling $2,218 submitted by Finch.
The employee admitted preparing the invoices and asked auditors: "Am I in trouble?" He has since lawyered up and isn't talking.
If the invoices were true copies it isn't a problem, so why would it be necessary to manufacture fake ones showing over $2,000 in services? Courthouse sources say it wasn't about the costs or the invoices. It is speculated the original invoices were for FedEx services connected to Finch's sorority expenses. The audit asks whether the items were "made for legitimate and valid Knox County purposes."
The audit also questions whether the sorority reimbursed Finch $27,000 for expenses and asked whether the county also reimbursed her for the same amount. "County officials should determine if any expenses paid by Knox County were also paid by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Any duplicate expense reimbursements should be refunded to Knox County by Ms. Finch." Finch attended sorority conventions in other cities while allegedly on county business.
Shred It and Run
Former Sheriff Tim Hutchison got a purchasing card when the system was instituted by the county. Hutchison, who sparred with the media and the News Sentinel in particular during his long tenure, said he could imagine the newspaper sending someone over every month to review his p-card statement and go over every item. He said he immediately took the p-card and ran it through the shredder.
He said any time he needed to have a business lunch he paid for it himself.
Hutchison said perhaps reporters should have reviewed Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's statement every month; it would have been more entertaining.
On two different radio talk stations within the last week, Hutchison said people should quit talking about "the county did this and the county did that." He said it wasn't all the county and all departments; it was the mayor's office and his staff that mishandled p-cards.
Hutchison also admitted he is considering a race for mayor in 2010.
Can't We Get Along?
Under the heading "Rocky Top," The New Republic devoted four columns to the examination of the Lamar Alexander post-non-presidency in the Mar. 12 issue.
The article noted that Alexander has the beginning of a "presidential library" in his Senate office, with his plaid shirt in a glass case and a Tennessee map with his route during The Long Walk when he ran for governor. His office contains campaign mementoes like a chess set made by an Iowa supporter and a plaid couch. Alexander ran for president twice, in 1996 and in 2000.
The article says Alexander is also acting like a former president in trying to bring peace to a corner of the world—the U.S. Senate. As chair of the Republican Conference and third-ranking Republican in the Senate, Alexander is trying to reconcile factions and bring unity between conservative and moderate wings of the party. He held a mid-January retreat to promote unity. But Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn have their own agenda and are trying to pull Senate Republicans to the right.
The article ends with a question to a staffer of a conservative senator asking how Alexander's efforts are faring that was answered with "an incredulous laugh."
Alexander is running for re-election and is opposed by Democrats, among them is former Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett.