In the past few weeks I've received a number of emails from folks asking about county Law Director Joe Jarret’s mediation “business.” (Note that the word business is in quotes.) In fact, someone even complained to the audit committee’s tattletale line last year about it, claiming that Jarret was operating a business out of the law department.
Anyhoo, I figure this is something folks want to know about. Sooooo, click right smack here for the link that’s going around. Or look at the fancy screen shot picture I took. Yeah, I’m learning. Somewhat.
Now, I figure if you’re running a business, then you’re making some coin. Right? Not so fast. Right there on the page and in bold it says Jarret precludes private mediations. That means he’s not collecting the coin that some people figure he is. Now, that was just me figuring this on my own.
So, I asked Jarret.
Here’s his response:
Mike, I have not conducted a mediation session since becoming employed by Knox County. Prior to working for Knox County, I did pro bono mediations for our sessions court judges. I have never conducted mediation for profit in Tennessee. Last year, someone also accused me of running a mediation business out of my office along with employing the Mayor's wife as a "ghost employee." I have no idea where this is coming from. I can only assume that by representing myself as a certified mediator, people presume I have a side line. I don't.Hmmmm. Sounds to me like he’s not running a private business. But, what do I know?
Did staff drop 30 percent under Jarret?
Ok, there’s another one going around. Figure I’ll clarify this one, too, since I was asked by another reader. Also, Jarret’s opponent, Richard “Bud” Armstrong, mentioned it to me.
During an interview I asked Bud why – when he was on the County Commission – he voted for Jarret to take over the law department.
(As you might recall Bill Lockett had resigned in disgrace after hornswaggling about $60k in folding paper from the law firm he worked for before local voters – in another moment of brilliance – decided to put him in office.)
Armstrong said he did so because "at that time the County Commission was dealing with real turmoil and Joe was the obvious pick for consistency, continuity and stability."
"We do that and look at where it ends up. We lost two chief deputies, two staff attorneys and an investigator," said Armstrong. "There's been a 30 percent turnover in the office. I'm real disappointed."
Jarret disagreed and said "Mr. Armstrong's assertion is false."
He said the office lost two chief deputies – one relocated to Texas for personal reasons a few weeks after he was hired and the other left "when it became obvious we had divergent views on how to run the office." Jarret said he hired both of them.
Staff attorney Marty McCampbell left with "a glowing recommendation" to become chief legal counsel for Lincoln Memorial University. He added that his investigator became chief investigator with the school system which included more responsibilities and better pay.
"I likewise encourage her to pursue her career goal," Jarret said. "Only an inexperienced manager would not realize that turnover is inevitable and that you never hold good people back."
Regardless, Armstrong said, the law director should focus more on running the actual department and he doesn't believe Jarret does that. He also said he would strengthen the office staff through training and would not let anyone go.
"The law director's job is to direct the staff because the law director is going to be there no more than eight years (because of term limits) and some of the staff will be there for 25 years or more," Armstrong said.