I've noticed some debate lately regarding Knox County Commission Jeff Ownby's court hearing Friday and whether the judge should have or could have ordered him to write a letter, enter it into minutes of the next board meeting and turn it over to the media.
Some folks say the judge exceeded his bounds, some think it's plain mean. Whatever. The fact is Ownby had the option of not asking for judicial diversion. He could have walked away with a $500 fine. For some reason he feels judicial diversion will make everyone forget what happened. It won't.
The judge noted Friday that because Ownby sought judicial diversion, then he could impose a number of requirements. That letter was one of them. It was up to Jeff then to follow through. Or not to.
Now, on to this whole censure thing that the commission will discuss. Quite frankly, it's nothing more than a public reprimand, a symbolic expression with little practical value. Still, it creates headlines and the commission would be remiss if it didn't talk about it. That said, there will be some folks – possibly some on the commission although I don't know for sure – who will call for his resignation. I don't think he will.
The board last censured a fellow member in July 2009 when members publicly rebuked then-board member Greg “Lumpy” Lambert for his “disruptive behavior” at two meetings of the Task Force on Ridge, Slope and Hillside Development that took place weeks prior.
In June that same year, the commission also censured then-county Law Director Bill Lockett and asked for his resignation because of what members deemed “repugnant behavior.” Lockett, who would eventually resigned, later pleaded guilty to taking clients' payments that were intended for his former law firm, Kennerly, Montgomery & Finley.
Additionally, the board censured former county Mayor Mike Ragsdale in May 2008 in connection to questionable purchasing-card charges he and his top aides made.