Monday, April 30, 2007

April 30, 2007 "Make Room for the Senator" (John Ford)

Former Tennessee State Senator John Ford was convicted Friday of bribery in connection with the FBI's Tennessee Waltz investigation. An excellent series of articles that were published daily during the trial are here.

As he left the courtroom Friday, his daughter Kemba told everyone to "Make room for the Senator!"

Ford, the self-proclaimed "man who makes the deals," now travels to Nashville later this week to face charges of wire fraud in connection with his TennCare "consulting" contracts with Doral Dental and OmniCare.

Ford is looking at six felony counts accusing him of taking $800,000 in kickbacks from state TennCare contractors.

It has been mentioned in several news outlets that Ford could try to work out a deal at this point with prosecutors. He may offer not to appeal the recent Tennessee Waltz bribery conviction in return for the state agreeing to drop the wire fraud and TennCare charges.

Ford is a fighter, and Ford is cocky. So another very real possibility is that he may decide to go ahead and appeal the Memphis conviction and go ahead and fight the Nashville TennCare charges as well.

Only John Ford, the "man who makes the deals," knows whether he will attempt to make a deal on the next round of charges.

Friday, April 20, 2007

April 20, 2007 Miracle on 2nd North Street

A mini-miracle occurred at Hamblen County Commission yesterday.

The Commission voted to enact an ethics policy. No, that's not the miracle. A county ethics policy is required by the state of Tennessee as a result of the Tennessee Waltz arrests of state legislators in 2005.

The miracle is that the Commission voted to establish a 5-member Ethics Committee that will have two regular citizens on it.

I commend the commissioners who voted for an Ethics policy with a 5-member Ethics Committee that includes two non-government members. Voting yes: Baker, Bruce, Ford, Harville, Massey, Phillips, Sexton, Spoone, and Wampler. Voting no: Fullington, Lebel, Parker, and Swann. Absent: Collins.

In a blog post yesterday, I expressed concern that all members of the Ethics Committee would be government officials/employees. Such an "all-government" Ethics Committee was the first proposal presented to commissioners by county attorney Rusty Cantwell back in late 2006.

Last month, I gave a copy of a Shelby County ethics proposal to commissioners and pointed out that the proposed Shelby Ethics Committee has NO government officials and that the Knox County Ethics Committee has only two county commissioners on its 9-member committee.

At that time, I asked that the commission review the Shelby plan and consider modifying the Hamblen County Policy so that at least two members of the Hamblen County Ethics Committee would be citizens who are not government officials/employees.

Yesterday, Joe Swann jumped in and proposed that the county adopt an Ethics policy in which there be no Ethics Committee to which complaints could be made. Swann's proposal had the county attorney serving alone as the county's "ethics officer." This proposal failed.

[Having the county attorney serving as the ethics officer could present special ethical dilemmas for the attorney in terms of the attorney-client relationship. The commission appoints the county attorney. What happens if a citizen or a countywide officeholder brings ethical charges against a commissioner? Is there a professional ethical problem here with the attorney investigating his "client"? What if a commissioner filed a complaint against a commissioner? Is the attorney's investigation of his client ethical? Is the attorney-client relationship damaged? Which client does he serve? And these questions don't even touch on the tricky question that often faces government attorneys, "Who is the client?" The county attorney expressed some reluctance yesterday to assuming the position as ethics officer but agreed to serve if that was the wish of the commission.]

After Swann's proposal was defeated, Commissioner Phillips proposed that the county adopt an Ethics policy that provides for a five-member Ethics Committee that includes two county commissioners, one constitutional officer, and two at-large "regular" citizens. It passed easily. The 9-4 vote is shown above.

Including regular citizens on the Ethics Committee was a mini-miracle. A maxi-miracle would have been an Ethics Committee that had no government officials or employees! In this case, however, 2/5 of a loaf is better than none.

Thank you to the commissioners who recognized that including regular citizens on the Hamblen County Ethics Committee is an improvement over the "all-government" Ethics Committee that was first considered and is far better than placing the county attorney in the position of ethics officer.

More on the discussion that took place among commissioners later.

April 20, 2007 Growth Plan Changes: 4 approved-3 nixed

Four proposed changes to the Urban Growth boundary were approved yesterday. Three requested changes were rejected.

Receiving County Commission's blessing were:

The Lowland site
Vineyard Road
Cobble Lane
Sublett Road -Tidi-Waste (moving "out" of the Urban Growth Boundary)

Getting the ax were:

Carroll Road (Rick Trent Development)
Valley Home Road (Renner Farm)
Boat Launch Road (Solomon Farm)

More on what was said by various commissioners and members of the public later.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007 Hamblen Ethics Committee: Fox Guarding the Henhouse?

An ethics policy for Hamblen County will be a topic of discussion prior to today's meeting of the full Hamblen County Commission.

Originally, County Attorney Rusty Cantwell took a CTAS sample ethics policy, made revisions, and presented it to county commission. No action was taken on his proposal over the past several months.

Cantwell's proposal could have been a lot more stringent, but it was OK. The major problem, in my opinion, was that the 5-member ethics committee that was designed to provide oversight of ethical violations was composed primarily of county commissioners along with one countywide officer holder.

Does "fox guarding the henhouse" come to mind?

In March, I spoke to the Public Services Committee and noted that Knox County had an ethics committee which included several "non-government" members.

I also gave a copy of a Shelby County proposal to Chair Nancy Phillips to copy and provide to all commissioners. The Shelby County proposal includes an ethics committee composed entirely of "non-government" individuals.

Afterwards the Public Services Committee voted to revise the local ethics committee to include at least some members who were not government officials or government employees and to submit this to the full commission.

Then the wheels started working behind-the-scenes. The ethics proposal was not presented or voted upon at the March meeting of the full commission. Instead, it was decided to have CTAS representative Rick Hall come and address commission about ethics right before today's commission meeting.

Having Mr. Hall appear now (after 5-6 months of looking at this) is a delaying tactic.
Somehow, we will end up with a "government ethics committee" made up entirely of "government officials" or at least a majority of "government officials."

Independent citizen oversight or input? Not needed and not wanted in Hamblen County.

Fox guarding the henhouse? Probably.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

April 7, 2007 Local Backbone Transplants Fail

Backbone transplant surgeries that were expected to give courage to those who make anonymous comments on this blog were a colossal failure. See my post of April 1.

It had been hoped that with new backbones in place, the local chickens would quit their anonymous clucking and would instead proudly put their name to their "well-reasoned" (ROFL) comments.

Apparently, skilled teams of local backbone transplant surgeons were unable to insert a backbone into the empty cavity where "anonymous" spines should have been.

Anonymous comments continue to arrive in the noe4accountability blog comment inbox from certain businesses and individuals in Hamblen County.

And these anonymous comments, such as "you miserable lying b----", continue to sit in the noe4accountability blog comment inbox eagerly waiting to be posted after their proud authors step up to claim them.

Like the cowardly lion in the Land of Oz, these anonymous weaklings need to ask the Wizard for courage so they can proudly claim their anonymous offspring!

And it wouldn't hurt to ask the Wizard for a brain, too!

Anonymous Individuals and Anonymous Users of Local Business Computers, I have an offer for you that I hope you can't and won't refuse.

Take some initiative, get some courage, use your brain, and prove that any of my June 22, 2006, factual statements about the handling of county finances are not true.

The charges and allegations are contained in a June 22, 2006, address to county commission. The full statement is posted on my blog in 4 separate entries here, here, here, and here.

It's time for you to do something besides rant and rave. So quit lurking and hiding.

Step up and prove that any of my June 22 factual allegations are false.

And if you come out of your political/personal closet and identify yourself and prove that any of my June 22 allegations are false---I'll publish your name and your proof right here!


Sunday, April 01, 2007

April 1, 2007 Surprises Everywhere!

Big things are happening...

Mayor David Purkey called me and apologized graciously and profusely for his many fits of anger while I was on county commission! He said that he had been overly frustrated by my demands for accountability and fiscal responsibility and that he was relieved that I didn't run again because now he and his staff can say and do anything and no one really asks any questions.

Along with his apology he admitted that all the allegations in my June 22, 2006, statement to County Commission were true and that he had been spending taxpayer dollars without commission approval, had created false documents, had manipulated the 2001 audit, had put his (ineligible) friend on the county's insurance plan, and on and on and on.

Mayor Purkey added that he was now going into financial rehab. And taking lots of anger management courses on the side!

Open Meetings Violation Sparks Lawsuit! The Citizen-Tribune, after running several recent editorials and articles about the Open Meetings laws in Tennessee, is suing the Morristown City Council and City Administrator Jim Crumley for Open Meetings violations.

The paper reported back on March 6 that city councilmen had voted "publicly" to authorize Crumley to bid $250,000 for the Lowland sewer treatment plant at the old Enka site. The paper then reported that council had later voted "privately"-- outside of an official announced called meeting-- to authorize Crumley to bid up to $350,000 for the Lowland sewer treatment plant at the old Enka site.

Finally, the paper reported that a "majority" of the council had voted again "privately"--- outside of an official announced called meeting--- to authorize various bids above $350,000 for the sewer plant.

The newspaper, deciding that actions speak louder than editorials, is taking a stand in support of the state's Open Meetings laws. The Tribune is going to court to challenge the taking of "votes" outside of an announced meeting.

More Great Open Records News! The Hamblen County School Board has decided that it no longer has anything to hide about the construction management arrangement in the previous $35 million dollar elementary and middle school building program.

In the spirit of openness, the Board is going to release the letter that its attorney Scott Reams wrote to former SB Chairman Ernie Horner about the school board's deal back then to pay construction managers to build schools and then to pay them even more to supervise themselves as they build. In a press release, the Board said that it regretted having spent $40,000 on lawyers to keep the simple little letter secret for so long.

Dr. Lynch to Open Chain of International Schools. Dr. Dale Lynch has resigned his position as Superintendent of Hamblen County Schools and has announced plans to open a chain of International Schools throughout the southeast to encourage the continued influx of illegal immigrants into the area.

Jefferson Federal, Garcia Labor, the Niswonger Foundation, Morristown City Council, and the Hamblen County Commission provided money for Dr. Lynch to start up the first International School in Hamblen County. These same groups are partnering with Dr. Lynch in his plans to franchise the International School concept. Unfortunately, the head of Garcia Labor, Maximino Garcia, was recently convicted of harboring illegal aliens. Prison officials say that Garcia is unavailable for comment at this time but that Garcia has promised to wire money to help Dr. Lynch.

Fantastic medical news! All the spineless individuals who have sent in anonymous comments to this blog over the past several months have had backbone replacement surgery. They will be sending in all future comments with their real names so that I can post their name/comments.

FLASH! Another apology! Hamblen County Commission Chairman Stancil Ford has apologized to Gwen Holden.

A few months ago, Ford, in response to a question from Holden, told her emphatically that Mayor Purkey had not sent a false $120,000 matching funds document to the state at the start of the Russellville sewer grant work.

Then Ford began to wonder if what he had said in defense of Purkey was true. Ford asked to see the $120,000 matching funds document that is in the sewer grant file in Mayor Purkey's office.

Ford discovered that Purkey did send this false document/resolution to the state and had even included a letter with the false document falsely assuring state officials that the $120,000 spending resolution had passed unanimously at a county commission meeting.

Being a gentleman, Ford graciously apologized to Holden. Ford added that money is not the issue now because the money has already been spent. However, Ford proclaimed that he will not be a party in protecting officials who have created false documents, who have made false statements to state officials, and who have failed to bring spending resolutions to the commission for approval as required by law.

Ford will ask Mayor Purkey to issue a public apology at the April commission meeting. Better hope that Mayor Purkey has graduated from those anger management classes before asking for that apology, Chairman Ford!

Term limits are coming! The Hamblen County Commission and the Morristown City Council are planning to enact term limits for all elected officials setting a maximum of two 4-year terms for any elected office. The rumor is that there will be a term-limit exception for Commissioner Guy Collins and City Councilman Doc Rooney.

More news about news! The Citizen-Tribune from now on will demand documentation about county financial information that it is given and will make corrections about the most flagrant false financial information that it has been given in the past.

This new policy of verification comes after the Tribune realized that its reporters had been "used" and had been given false financial information in the past---false information that was then reported to the public in front-page "news" articles.

One of the first actions in implementing the new policy will have the Tribune printing a front-page retraction of a front-page article that it ran in April 2002 as incumbent county officials used the Tribune to put out false financial information to influence the 2002 elections.

In the article set for retraction, C-T reporter Robert Moore reported that county spending was under control and that county officials say that the 2001 county audit showed that a total of only $14.8 million had been spent out of the General Government Fund, the Garbage Fund, the Highway Fund, and the General Debt Fund.

Moore apparently was not offered and did not ask to see the 2001 audit to check on the accuracy of the 2001 spending data that he was given was reporting.

After several years of this and other "news" articles containing incorrect county financial data, the paper has now decided that it does not want its front page to be used for self-serving government press releases that contain false financial or other data.

The paper and reporter Moore now have a copy of the 2001 audit and have found out that $16.8 million was spent out of the four funds mentioned above---NOT the $14.8 million in 2001 spending that Moore said officials told him was the correct audit amount.

Change in Committee Meeting Times! The Hamblen County Commission has decided that its committee meetings on the 2nd Monday of each month should be held at the same time (5:00 PM) that its regular commission meetings are held. Formerly, committee meetings were held at 10:30, 11:30, 12:00, or 1:00 when working people couldn't make it.


The County Commission has decided to tape and televise its committee meetings. The Commission wants to provide a way for those who are unable to attend committee meetings to see what is going on in the same way that the public can see tapes of the full commission meetings.

The Morristown City Council is no longer afraid of televising its meetings. City Council has decided that it will tape and televise council meetings and work sessions on the Charter and MUS FiberNet government/education channels.

Surprise! HCBOE also wants to televise its meetings! In a sudden move, the Hamblen Board of Education has decided that it, too, will tape and televise its meetings. The Board is offering a new civics course for students, and now realizes that televising School Board meetings promotes countywide civics education and keeps the taxpayers informed.

More great School Board/County Commission news for taxpayers! At their April meetings, the School Board and the County Commission will report that there will be no tax hike next year. The School Board will fund improvements to East and West High by using the roughly $4 million in BEP funding that the schools already get for capital outlay and debt service. This $4 million will take care of all financing for the high school improvements.

News to Die(t) for: Hamblen County Commissioners, City Councilmen, and the School Board are on a new trust diet. One heaping serving of honesty, two scoops of openness, and a generous topping of accountability.

And the best news of all! The Hamblen County Commission has decided to pass THE strongest ethics law in the State of Tennessee.

The Commission has decided that conflicts of interest are an absolute disgrace and should be eliminated. Therefore, any commissioner with a personal or family conflict of interest on a matter will not be allowed to vote on a matter. Commissioners have realized that it's a joke to make silly and useless announcements admitting that they have a conflict but adding that their personal or family interest doesn't really have any effect on their vote.

In keeping with its policy to eliminate conflicts of interest, the Commission has also decided that its new Ethics Committee will have NO public officials, government employees, or relatives of either on it.

In addition, the new Ethics Committee will be authorized to actually investigate credible complaints from the public regarding ethical violations by public officials and public employees and may recommend public censure for ethical lapses or referral to state authorities for specific legal violations.

The Commission has decided that the public is tired of "fox guarding the henhouse" politics and ethics.

Late-breaking special report on April 1. Pigs are currently flying in circles over the Courthouse dome, the City Center steeple, and the Board of Education building.