Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 30, 2012 Ex-Knox Judge Baumgartner Fights Federal Charges

Ex-Judge Richard Baumgartner's attorneys are arguing that federal charges against Baumgartner are flawed because Baumgartner did not lie to federal authorities.

In a hearing on August 27, U.S. attorneys claimed that Baumgartner was part of a drug distribution conspiracy and lied to protect it.

The News-Sentinel stories are here and here.

For more posts, click on blog label "Judge Richard Baumgartner" on the right.

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012 Carl Murphy Speaks To City Council on the Tilman GOINS-Don MILLER race

Carl Murphy spoke to City Council at its August 7 meeting about Tilman Goins'  recent victory over State Rep. Don Miller.

Murphy went to Nashville this past spring with Councilman Gene Brooks to ask local Rep. Don Miller to allow a local referendum on proposed changes to the MUC Private Act involving the appointment process for MUC Commissioners.

I went to Nashville a couple of times as well. I also called several times to ask both Don and Sen. Steve Southerland and other legislators to let the people vote on the proposed changes to the MUC appointment process.

That's all we asked---let the people vote! I explained to Steve, Don, and other legislators that the MUC appointment process then in place had been adopted BY THE PEOPLE in a 2001 referendum election along with a set of MUC changes and, therefore, any change to the appointment process should be placed on the ballot for a vote BY THE PEOPLE in 2012. 

As Carl notes, Don refused to let the people vote. Several other legislators privately (and some publicly) encouraged Don to let the people vote. Don refused every request to let the people vote.

Shortly after Don and Steve pushed their new MUC appointment process through the state legislature, Tilman Goins came forward to challenge Don.  And on August 2, 2012, Don lost his seat in the State House of Representatives after one term. Click here.

Don had the money and the political machine behind him.

Goins joined the race to stand up for the people and the principle that a local law passed by the people should not be overturned by one, two, or 132 legislators in Nashville or by five Morristown City Councilmembers.

Goins brought out several other issues and endured vicious attacks by Don and his followers.

Don ran ads about Goins' two "government checks" without ever explaining that one of those "government checks" was a small Veterans Administration (VA) check for a service-connected disability related to Goins  years of military service in the Marine Corps  and the US Army.

[The other government check is, of course, Goins' salary as an elected county commissioner which is just like Don's "government check" as a state representative--only much smaller]

The attack on Goins' VA disability pension was gutter campaigning at its worst. Miller's implcation  that a VA service-connected disability pension is like a free-loading "government check"
was an affront to all who have served in the US Armed Forces.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August 25, 2012 Council Approves Creation of Airport Commission--Bivens Votes "Yes" Despite Promise To Vote No Made at Bedside of the Late Councilman Claude Jinks.

On August 21, the Morristown City Council voted 4-2 to create an Airport Commission to make decisions regarding the Morristown Airport. Paul LeBel, Bob Garrett, and Kay Senter have pushed hard for this.

In initial discussions, Chris Bivens repeatedly asked "why can't the city operate the airport?" In more recent discussions, Bivens remained somewhat quiet while LeBel, Garrett, and Senter continued the push for an Airport Commission.

The surprise in the vote was Councilman Chris Bivens voting "yes" after he admitted to his fellow councilmembers and to the public that he had promised the late Councilman Claude Jinks that he (Bivens) would not vote for a commission or airport authority.

Councilman Bivens explains that he is at peace with his "yes" vote--despite his hospital bedside promise to Jinks to oppose an airport commission.

August 25, 2012 Pikeville Mayor Resigns

Greg Johnson, Mayor of Pikeville, Tennessee, has resigned in the wake of a Comptroller's report.

See my previous post on the Comptroller's investigation that led to the resignation.

Friday, August 24, 2012

August 24, 2012 County Sends Donations To Helen Ross McNabb and Morristown Hospital Hospital Foundations Back to Budget Committee

The Hamblen County Commission yesterday unanimously voted to allocate  $75,000 to the Sheriff's Department and volunteer fire departments for communications equipment upgrades that need to be completed by December 31.

The money will come from an endowment fund established years ago with "excess interest" from a bond issue for Morristown-Hamblen Hospital ---years before the hospital was purchased by current owner Covenant Health.

In a related vote, the commission decided to review appropriations from the endowment fund to the Helen Ross McNabb Foundation and to the Morristown-Hamblen Hospital Foundation at a September 10th special called meeting of the Budget Committee.

Approval of $100,000 to Helen Ross McNabb Foundation and $125,000 to the Morristown-Hamblen Hospital Foundation passed through the Budget Committee earlier this month. Both appropriations were scheduled for a vote yesterday. Instead, these items were put back in the Budget Committee without comment.

It takes a 2/3 vote to approve an expenditure out of the endowment fund. Commissioner Nancy Phillips was absent. Her absence was apparently the reason for deferring the vote.

August 24, 2012 State Sen. Summerville Sends Inappropriate Email and Loses Chairmanship of Senate Subcommittee

There is a lot of head shaking going on in Nashville and across Tennessee as State Sen. Jim Summerville's email to a fellow legislator hits the fan.

Summerville's emailed comments to Rep. Barbara Cooper with an invitation that the email be shared resulted in Summerville's removal as chairman of the State Senate's Subcommittee on Higher Education.

Click on this link for the story in the Tennessean:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20, 2012 John Ford, Infamous Tennessee Waltzer, Comes Home To Memphis

After serving just over four years for his conviction in the Tennessee Waltz scandal, former State Senator John Ford has come home to Memphis.

Like many federal inmates, he was released to a halfway house about six months before the end of his sentence.

The Commercial Appeal has the story here with background on the Tennessee Waltz scandal that brought down many of the high and mighty in the Tennessee legislature.

For blog posts, click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 18, 2012 Feds Respond To former Knox Judge Richard Baumgartner's Motion To Dismiss Charges

He presided over many high profile criminal trials in Knox County, including the trials of the defendants in the torture/murder/rape of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.

He resigned in disgrace and received judicial diversion on public misconduct charges when he became the accused. Click here.

Then the feds stepped in with charges.

Attorneys for former Knox Judge Richard Baumgartner filed a motion to dismiss the federal charges. See previous post and link here.

Now the U.S. attorneys have replied. Knox N-S story here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 16, 2012 Hamblen ex-deputy Dexter Morris To Be Resentenced

The convictions of ex-Hamblen deputy Dexter Morris were recently upheld by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the case was sent back to federal district court for re-sentencing.

Morris received a 15-year sentence for depriving two women of their constitutional rights through sexual abuse during traffic stops in 2005.

Morris wanted a lighter sentence while prosecutors argued that Morris should have faced a more severe sentencing range.

For more background, the Knoxville News-Sentinel report is here:

August 16, 2012 Whitesburg City-County Sewer Contract Goes Through County Finance Committee

On Monday, the Hamblen County Finance Committee approved a city-county contract on the proposed extension of the city sewer to 20+ customers in Whitesburg.

The contract provides that the county will build sewer lines and provide sewer taps and pumps for low-income grant-eligible individuals through grant funds and county matching funds. At the end of construction, almost everything will be transferred to city ownership and operation.  [The pumps for each house will apparently be owned by and the responsibility of the customer.]

Despite the City sewer being in a financial mess and under a multi-year commissioner's order, the City is discounting its "outside" tap fee from $5000 to $2500 by contract. By contract, the County is guaranteeing the use of county funds to pay the City a minimum sewer fee if the number of customers hooked up drops below 9.

Questions about the county guaranteeing payment of minimum sewer fees to the city were asked of Mayor Brittain but not specifically answered. City Finance Director Larry Clark was present and discussed financial aspects of the sewer extension.

Part I (Brittain explains the history of the CDBG grant, the budget, the original gravity design, the change to a pump design, and the county guarantee to pay sewer fees if fewer than nine customers pay their sewer bill.  Brittain: Russellville-Whitesburg Utility District can cut off water to Rv-Wb water customers who don't pay Morristown's sewer bill but the utility district has not done so in the past. Everybody in the grant area understands the total costs. Commissioner Howard Shipley mentions that sewer crossed a constituent's property and he was able to hook up free of charge but with huge and ever-increasing city sewer rates that individual doesn't recommend that anyone hook up.)

Part II (Costs. Pumps. Original Budget $485,000. 75%-25% match. Total now is $426,000.  Brittain: You could pass a resolution encouraging Rv-Wb Utility District to cut off water to those Wb grant customers who don't pay the City's sewer fee. Brittain: I appoint Rv-Wb Board. I can appoint only those who agree to cut off the water if the sewer bill is not paid. Commissioner Larry Carter: If they don't pay it, is it legal for us to pay the bill? Brittain: There is...a statute...I was looking at it this morning...(but) I don't know if it addresses the guarantee. It addresses cities and counties working together. City Finance Director Larry Clark: Nine customers required to cover city costs/depreciation.)

Part III (Discussion of shale soil and Whitesburg School sewer connection.  County Commissioner/ City Councilman Paul LeBel: "I see no benefit to the City... in taking these people in." More on the "county guarantee." City Finance Director Larry Clark: Outside sewer tap fee is $5000. Depreciation. "It's not right for other ratepayers to subsidize what is being added on to the system." Contract passes with guarantee that county will pay minimum sewer bill if customers drop below nine.  A resolution proposed by Paul LeBel also passes and encourages Rv-Wb Utility District to cut off water to Rv-Wb customers who don't pay their Morristown sewer bill.)        

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10, 2012 Pikeville (TN) Mayor Charged with Public Misconduct

Was everybody asleep at the wheel while the "third-term Mayor and sitting County Commissioner" was using city funds for his personal benefit and wasting tax dollars and submitting claims to the City for reimbursement of $130,000 in insurance premiums that he never paid?

Here is the Comptroller's brief summary of the findings:
Comptroller Justin Wilson states:

"Elected officials are put in positions of public trust and they should
act accordingly at all times," said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson.
"Unrestrained abuses of power undermine public confidence in local
leaders and create an atmosphere of distrust of government
that can take years to erase."

Here is the Comptroller's Investigative Report:

Thursday, August 09, 2012

August 9, 2012 Knox Judge Baumgartner Fighting Federal Charges

He was given judicial diversion in state court. Click here. Then the feds stepped in.

Now ex-Judge Richard Baumgartner is fighting federal charges and fighting to keep his pension.

During his tenure as a Judge, Baumgartner presided over some of the most high-profile criminal trials in Knox County, including the series of trials for the defendants in the Christian-Newsom rape, torture, and murder trials.

The News-Sentinel has the most recent update and online documents here:

Monday, August 06, 2012

August 6, 2012 MUC: No Round-up Money for Cameras to Televise City Council Meetings But Up To $51,000 for Helen Ross McNabb Lighting and Up To $10,000 for Boys/Girls Club Interior Lighting

At its July meeting, Morristown Utilities Commission (MUC) donated "up to $51,000" of round-up funds to Helen Ross McNabb (HRM) Center for lighting at the planned HRM building:

Then MUC donated "up to $10,000" of round-up funds to the Boys and Girls Club for an indoor energy-efficient lighting upgrade where there is apparently a TVA grant already in place to assist with a project that is estimated to cost $17,000:
After allotting $61,000 of round-up money to HRM and Boys/Girls Club, MUC took up a request from Morristown Mayor Danny Thomas for donation of round-up funds to the City of Morristown for the purchase of cameras to tape council meetings. The tapes would then be broadcast on MUC and Charter Cable government/education channels in the same way that the county has been televising its meetings for nearly 10 years.  After some very interesting discussion and comments, this request was denied:

Friday, August 03, 2012

August 3, 2012 Tilman GOINS Defeats Don MILLER

March 13, 2012: Rep. Don Miller sponsored a bill in the state legislature to change the Morristown Utilities Commission (MUC) appointment procedure that had been approved and put in place in 2001 by a vote of the people.

During discussion of his bill, Don was asked if he would let the people of Morristown vote on his change to what the people had already approved. Don said "No."

August 2, 2012: The PEOPLE finally had their referendum.

Tilman GOINS defeated Don Miller.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

August 1, 2012 Don Miller Has The Courage to Stand Up to Unions, Special Interests, and even Linda Noe

The above is a 17-second clip from State Representative Don Miller's opening statement at a public debate at Walters State on June 18, 2012.

I was not at the debate but was told by others who were there that my name made it into Miller's  opening comments as he bragged about his "courage" to do his "duty" and his "courage" in standing up to Linda Noe.

Well, the only thing that I ever asked Don to do was to let the people of Morristown vote on Don's bill to change the Morristown Utilities Commission (MUC) appointment process from the appointment process that the people had already voted for as part of the 2001 MUC referendum election to what Don had decided in 2012 would be best.

If Don thinks that refusing my request and those of many others to let the people vote on his MUC bill somehow shows  "courage," that's funny and pathetic at the same time.

Don didn't stand up against me. He stood up against the people of Morristown. He made a mockery of the 2001 referendum.

Turning your back on the people and overturning an appointment process that was put in front of the people and overwhelmingly approved BY THE VOTERS in an election as part of a series of MUC reforms is not my definition of "courage."

Turning your back on the people and refusing to let the people vote is cowardly and shows complete and utter contempt for the people.