Thursday, July 2, 2015

Knox Co. Clerk's Office to perform marriages only at downtown office

This apparently has some folks up in arms. I don't really think it's a big deal, but whatever.

Here ya go:

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage, a number of county clerks across Tennessee have opted to stop performing marriages altogether.

That's not the case in Knox County, said Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. But couples – gay or straight – will now have to make an appointment, and only his downtown Main Street office will perform a marriage.

Arnett said he put the change in place because he expects more people to get married.

"It's not a big deal," he said. "It's going to help everybody."

For years, the Clerk's Office performed marriages in its various satellite offices, but Arnett said they're "slammed," so he opted to change the policy.

"Marriages are going to go up, in part, because there are Clerk's Offices that won't perform same-sex marriages, so to better serve the public, we will require everyone to call in and make a reservation to get married," Arnett said.

He added that couples can still pick up marriage applications at any satellite office.

"If you look at Davidson County in Nashville, they (perform marriages) one day a week at one location," he said. "All we're doing is trying to streamline our efforts. It will help us so we can plan. This is for everybody – not just same-sex couples."

The downtown clerk's office is located at the Old Courthouse, 300 Main St. It's opened from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Only two GOP qualified to run for state House seat vacated by Haynes

Carson, left, Zachary, right
A Knox County Board school board member and long-time nurse, and a Knoxville business owner are the only two candidates who will vie for the open state House seat recently vacated by Ryan Haynes.

Both candidates are Republican and no Democrats qualified by Thursday's noon deadline.

That means, barring a major upset by a write-in candidate in the fall, the overall election will be more than likely determined during the Aug. 12 primary.

(The special general election will be Sept. 29, coinciding with the city of Knoxville primary.)

Haynes resigned from the West Knox County 14th District state Rep. seat in late May to serve as the state GOP chairman.

Here's a snapshot of the candidates:

Karen Carson: A pediatric nurse for 35 years, who works at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, she has served on the Knox County Board of Education since 2004. Her website says Carson has been recognized as the Tennessee parent Teacher Association's "Outstanding School Board Representative of the Year" three times. She and her family are members of Concord United Methodist Church. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the YMCA of East Tennessee. She and her husband have been married for 30 years and have three children.

Jason Zachary: Owns Americomm, a small telecommunications firm founded by his family two decades ago. He serves as a deacon at the Farragut Initiative at First Baptist Concord, according to his website. He also serves on the board of International Sports Consulting, and has worked with the Center for Christian Statesmanship on Capitol Hill since last summer. He has been married to his wife for 16 years and has one child. Zachary, drummed up a lot of support from the tea party last year in an unsuccessful campaign to unseat long-time U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr.

Knox Co. BOE approves budget, MOU

By a 6-3 vote, Knox County school board members agreed Wednesday to approve a pact with county government that features funding for 2 percent raises for teachers and construction of two middle schools.

Members Lynne Fugate, Tracie Sanger and Gloria Deathridge voted in the minority.

The board met Wednesday night in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.

"I am very pleased with the Knox County Board of Education's approval of the Memorandum of Understanding between Knox County and the school system," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said in a statement. "This agreement will help to ensure increased fiscal responsibility while also providing for much-needed teacher raises and two new middle schools, all without the need for a tax increase."

"I'm excited that the board approved this compromise," Superintendent Jim told WBIR after the vote. "I think it's ultimately going to be good for our children, good for our teachers and good for our community."
The vote didn't come without discussion of concerns, even among board members who ultimately voted "yes."

Rest of the story RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A look at Anderson's AJB swipe card

Sam Anderson
WBIR obtained data showing the use of Sam Anderson's swipe card for entering the Andrew Johnson Building, where the KCS Central Office is located and where system officials say Anderson was based in his part-time position.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre noted that "as his title suggests, Sam Anderson was primarily an adviser to me regarding our efforts and strategies to ensure student success in our high needs schools... Mr. Anderson spent a good deal of time in schools, and met individually with me every other week to discuss his observations and recommendations."

The swipe card data shows when someone used their card, issued by the Public Building Authority, and it's one way of accounting for someone's whereabouts at work.

A swipe card is needed for some but not all entrances to the A.J. Building. Card usage does not necessarily account for all times someone enters the building.

Anderson was hired March 12, 2013, and resigned June 22, 2015.

Of the 43 weeks he was employed by KCS in 2013, there were 26 weeks in which Anderson had either one day in which he used his swipe card or no swipe card use at all. He was hired March 12 and did not use his swipe card for more than five weeks, until April 18, 2013. (He got the card on March 13.)

Anderson was employed by KCS for all 52 weeks of 2014. Of those, there were 24 weeks in which he swiped either one day or no days at all, data shows.

In 2015, Anderson was employed by KCS for 24 full weeks. Fifteen of those had either no swipe from Anderson's card or only one day with swipe card use.

During more than half of the weeks of Anderson's total employment - 54.6 percent - Anderson had only one day's worth of swipe activity or no swipe activity on his card.

The above figures do not account for school holidays and breaks and weeks off due to inclement weather, such as the two weeks of school canceled due to ice storms in February 2015.

In response, McIntyre wrote: "Mr. Anderson's work was based in the Andrew Johnson Building, but as an adviser to me regarding our high needs schools, Mr. Anderson was expected to spend much of his time in schools and in the community. Attempting to draw any conclusions about an employee's work habits based on a proximity card that is not required for entry into the Andrew Johnson Building would be rather irresponsible. Sam Anderson served the Knox County Schools commendably until his resignation last week."

McIntyre previously has aid Anderson "met individually with me every other week to discuss his observations and recommendations."

McIntyre did not specify where those meetings took place.

The BOE's regular meeting is Wednesday. Members of the community group SPEAK will rally outside the City County Building, on Main Street, ahead of the meeting, starting at 3:30 p.m., to show support for the district's teachers.

To read more, click RIGHT HERE.

Knoxville police lieutenant dies suddenly due to medical issues

Condolences to KPD and the Hembree family. Sent last evening:

This afternoon at approximately 4:00 p.m., the wife of Knoxville Police Department Lt. Robert Hembree arrived at their residence where she discovered her husband suffering from some type of medical problem.

Rural Metro Ambulance responded to the residence and transported Lt. Hembree to Physicians Regional Medical Center where he died just minutes after arriving. It is unknown at this time what caused Lt. Hembree’s death. An autopsy will be performed tomorrow to determine the cause of death.

Lt. Hembree, 42, has served with the Knoxville Police Department since January 1997. Lt. Hembree is the West District C Squad supervisor. Lt. Hembree is survived by his wife of 7 years, two sisters, and his parents who are missionaries and are currently in Romania. There are no children.

Chief David Rausch said, “We are shocked and extremely saddened by the sudden loss of Lt. Hembree. Lt. Hembree was an excellent public servant not only as an officer, but also as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves where he served 8 years. This is a tremendous loss for the department as well as the City of Knoxville. Each and every member of the KPD family offers our thoughts and heartfelt prayers to his wife and family.”

Arrangements will be announced as soon as they have been finalized.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Knox Schools didn't advertise $42K, part-time job before hiring Anderson

This should not be a surprise: The school system handed over a $42,000-a-year, part-time job to a buddy. I mean, well, heck, we pay employees $30K in folding paper to sit at home for years and do nothing.

$42K???? What's the average full-time teacher salary? $45K??

Eh, whatever.

Here ya go.

Knox County Schools did not advertise the position nor did officials interview anyone in 2013 before handing a $42,000-a-year part-time job over to Sam Anderson – a longtime community activist who resigned from the position this week in light of his connections to a federal tax fraud scheme.

School officials said Thursday it is not common to hire without advertising open jobs, but it's also not necessary to post a position if the administration "feels that a candidate possesses the skills and experience to perform the duties associated with the job description," KCS spokeswoman Melissa Ogden told WBIR 10News.

"Mr. Anderson possessed a set of skills, experiences and relationships which made him uniquely qualified for the position," Ogden said.

She said his hiring was not a political reward for his vote years ago that led to the hiring of Superintendent Jim McIntyre.

"That is not true," she said.

In April 2008, Anderson voted not only to approve McIntyre's contract, but he championed a four-year, $222,800 annual deal, rather than a three-year proposal that some other board members suggested at the time. The vote to hire McIntyre was close – 5-4 – and Anderson was considered crucial to its passage.

Anderson, who served more than 20 years on the school board before opting not to seek re-election in 2010, was hired in March 2013 to replace Montina Jones. She was a full-time adviser of high needs schools. Jones made $103,810 in base salary and "supplements."

Anderson worked 18.5 hours per week on average, Ogden said, and earned a base salary of $31,240, but made a total of almost $42,060 with supplements. Supplements can include a number of items, like travel pay or extra pay for coaching athletics.

He did not receive benefits for the job.

Anderson stepped down from the position Tuesday because of his role as an "unindicted co-conspirator" to state Rep. Joe Armstrong, who was indicted last week in an alleged tobacco tax fraud scheme.

Anderson did not return a call seeking comment.

Ogden said the position will not be filled.

For the rest, RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

With opponent out, Mayor Rogero to cruise to re-election victory

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, baring an unlikely and almost impossible write-in push, will easily win re-election to a second and final term.

William "Buck" Cochran, a self-employed writer who ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2011, withdrew from the mayoral race Thursday morning.

That means Rogero needs 50 percent plus 1 vote in the Sept. 29 primary to automatically win a second four-year term as the city's mayor, as she will be exempt from the November general election, according to the city charter.

In addition, municipal Judge John Rosson, who also faces no opposition, will more than likely cruise to victory in September and not appear on the November ballot.

However, the charter does not include language for Knoxville City Council members – like George Wallace who is unopposed in his own re-election bid – to skip the general elections even if no one qualifies against them.

Cochran was not considered a serious candidate in the non-partisan mayoral race, but his withdrawal now all but assures Rogero's victory in a couple of months.

Thursday at noon was the deadline to withdraw from the city races.

Carly Baskette also withdrew from the "Seat B" City Council at-large seat, so that leaves incumbent Marshall Stair and perennial candidate Pete Drew in that race. But, those two will automatically go on to the general election, since the top two vote-getters in the city primaries automatically move on.

It appears now that the only drama in the city races will be for "Seat C" currently held by Finbarr Saunders who faces David Williams, Kelly Absher and Paul Bonovich.

KCS Board of Ed exploring ways to hold bus drivers more accountable

Knox County School Board members are looking into ways to make bus drivers more accountable.

"This is one time where I think a student reporting something that they have a concern about needs to be heard immediately and dealt with," Karen Carson said. "I would love to see us explore starting a program where a student can take a picture of a driver using a cell phone - a bus driver using a cell phone, have a hotline that they can send it to and that the school system could respond immediately."

Board member Patti Bounds agrees the district needs, "to empower the children, the feeling that they can talk about these things in a safe way with their parents," she said. "For the parents, too-- probably one of the best things to do would, not necessarily a hotline, but a way to report these things to the proper authorities so that they can be addressed and handled."

Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre, Knox County sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch met on Monday, to discuss possible enhanced safety guidelines when it comes to school bus drivers. McIntyre said details of that plan should be available in August, closer to the start of the school year.

Knox County DA Allen: Working to make texting while driving a felony

Charme Allen
Knox County's top prosecutor wants to make it a felony for anyone - school bus drivers included - to text while driving.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch also said he, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones and Superintendent James McIntyre met on Monday to see how law enforcement can help with school bus safety.

"Some of those could mean contract changes, some of those could mean changes in the way we assist them with assuring safety on our school buses," he said.

District Attorney General Charme Allen and Rausch spoke Wednesday with 10News in the aftermath of the release of the investigative file into a fatal Dec. 2, 2014, bus crash in which two Knox County students and a teacher's aide were killed.

Full exclusive RIGHT HERE.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Superintendent recommends against balanced school calendar for now

I'd say I was surprised, but I don't think he had the votes.

Citing costs, Knox County Schools Superintendent James McIntyre is recommending against the system going to a so-called balanced calendar that extends the period during which students attend school.

"While the balanced calendar could potentially be beneficial, we have many other important educational priorities to attend to in the next few years, including teacher compensation and personalized learning," McIntyre said in a draft letter dated June 25 circulated to Knox County school board members.

"Therefore, at this time, I do not recommend that the Knox County Schools move to a balanced calendar."

The school system released the draft Tuesday. Knox County has been weighing the merits of going to the calendar, which would include extending attendance into more traditional summer days while also expanding time off at other times of the year for students.

Rest of the story RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Commish rejects Broad grant deal

This will be unpopular, not that, that's ever stopped me, but this is what's called cutting off the nose to spite the face.

The Knox County Commission last night opted not to retroactively approve a grant with the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.

That means, the county will more than likely have to ante up $30,000 in folding paper to the center.

Lot of people are cheering this one; they think it's some kind of victory against Superintendent Jim McIntyre, who pretty much admitted he mishandled the whole shebang when he signed it.

It's not.

He's not on the hook for that cash.

You are.

I got news for ya: This isn't "the school board's money" or "the county's money." This is taxpayers' money all coming from the same pot. 

Full story RIGHT HERE.

I'll leave you with some words by Commissioner Sam McKenzie:
"The water's over the dam - or will be in a month - so these funds are pretty much spent. I mean, she's gotten a salary, so I guess I'm trying to understand why we would vote no. I mean, I'm fine with never bringing another Broad fellow here. I'm fine with that, and I'm betting the school board's going to be fine with that, but I think if we're going to be fiscally responsible, we're basically turning down $30,000, and our taxpayers-- the money's been spent, so we're going to have to take out, at this point, $30,000 out of a potential teacher's assistant or potential, I don't know, across-the-street hire or, you know, toilet paper or something. That money has to come from somewhere to pay this money because it's pretty much been spent. This, to me, is just the clean-up, you know. If folks want to make a point, I think there are better places to make a point than us paying $30,000."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Attorneys with Knox County Clerk, PBA argue over courthouse mold lawsuit

Old Courthouse
A legal battle to decide whether Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. can sue the Public Building Authority because it has allegedly failed to remove "toxic mold spores" from the Old Courthouse could come down to semantics.

Case law, according to the PBA, says Arnett can't file a lawsuit in his capacity as a public official without demonstrating that the spores have actually "impeded" his official duties as clerk. PBA attorney Morris Kizer said paperwork that Arnett filed with the courts notes that the mold merely "interfered" with his job.

Arnett, Kizer said, also currently and successfully continues to operate out of five other satellite offices, and has a crew of employees currently working out of the Old Courthouse in downtown that he claims is riddled with mold.

"Mr. Arnett is performing his statutory duties in other areas of the county and nothing about alleged mold is keeping him from doing those duties," Kizer told Judge William Ailor in Circuit Court on Monday. "I can walk over to the courthouse right now and get a car tag . . . but if for some reason that location is not available, there are (five) other locations in the county. So, while Mr. Arnett says this has been an interference, truly it is not an impediment."

Arnett's attorney, Darren Berg, said his client "needs to be at the courthouse to do his job."

"The PBA has failed to remediate the mold problem – just swept it under the rug and hopes it goes away."

He also accused Kizer of mincing words.

"I see no difference between the terms 'interfere' and 'impeded,'" he said. "I think if you look in the thesaurus you'd see the same thing."

But, the bottom line, Berg said, is that "there's toxic mold in a suite of offices that interferes with (Arnett's) duties."

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.