Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Write-in votes abound in election

Voters might not have turned out Tuesday night, but phony baloney write-in names were certainly plentiful.

Jax the Car? Mickey Mouse? Carboard Finbar?

You name it – from the funny, the serious, to the truly absurd – those few voters who did hit the ballot boxes had fun.

Or, maybe they just wanted to make a statement.

Some suggested Mickey Mouse for a Knoxville City Council seat, others felt Blue Kevin, Dude or My Right Foot would do the job.

Heck, one person thought putting WBIR’s Mike Donila down for mayor was a good idea.

Or not.

“Unopposed Unacceptable” made an appearance, and so, too, did “Someone that is Fair,” Malcom X, Abraham Lincoln and Bernie Sanders.

Then there was a pick for Knox County Communications Director Michael Grider – but under the guise “Slim Sexy Grider.” (Hey, the guy’s been on a cycling kick!)

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe garnered a few votes, as did Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond, and Clay Crownover, a local public relations specialist.

In addition, someone named “Good Luck Jason From Dan” appeared on the final tally, along with No
Vote, none, anybody, and anyone else.

THE WRITE-IN LIST – some 10 pages long – included 1,337 names.

None of these aforementioned names counted, of course, since they weren’t registered with the Knox County Election Board.

But, the write-in votes for “Jack Knoxville” (or a variation of that name) did, as Knoxville took the time to officially submit his name in the mayoral race. He received 46 votes, which was good for little more than 1 percent of the vote.

That means Madeline Rogero is still mayor.

In the meantime, the November run-off for the remaining City Council seats is just around the corner.
Expect the fun to continue then.

Knox Sheriff: Jail population hits all-time high; safety center needed

As the Knox County jail population reaches “an all-time high," jailers are left double-bunking inmates, and top officials are again pushing for a public safety center designed to house and treat the mentally ill who are arrested for nonviolent crimes.

The move, according to Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.”Jones, would ease overcrowding at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on Maloneyville Road, and stave off potential lawsuits.
But, he suggested, there’s another option that would work as well: Build a multi-million dollar jail pod.

“As the population grows, we run the risk of extensive and expensive litigation regarding jail conditions,” the sheriff wrote in a Dept. 15 letter to Knox County Commissioner Chairman Dave Wright. “We currently are so close to our rated capacity that our inmate objective classification systems is being compromised. Any classification failure could also expose the county to failure to protect litigation from the injured inmate.”

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Saunders, Bonovich move to November

Congratulations to incumbent City Councilman Finbarr Saunders and his opponent Paul Bonovich for making it into Rough II of elections in November.

Saunders easily won the top slot with 2,772 votes, about 64 percent of the total, in a four-way race. It was the second spot that got interesting. Bonovich defeated David Williams by just 45 votes.

For more, click RIGHT HERE.

Marble Alley opening date now Dec.

(Credit: City of Knoxville)
A new apartment complex going up in Downtown Knoxville is now scheduled to open in December.

The Marble Alley Lofts, a 248-unit upscale mid-rise apartment complex, was initially slated to open in October.

Knoxvilleofficials pinpoint the new development on Central and State Streets as a "much-needed connection between the activity and energy on Gay Street and Market Square and the surge of redevelopment in the Old City."

The five-story development will take up an entire city block, and city officials plan to make some upgrades to the streets. Things like new, wider sidewalks, tree plantings and landscaping, along with more parking and new street lighting will pop up along State Street, Central Street and Commerce Avenue.

City officials also plan to convert state street from a one-way to a two-way road to allow for smoother traffic flow.

More from the city RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Knoxville Primary elections today

There's an election today but almost no one knows or cares. Except for those fighting for the at large City Council seat C.

Anyhoo, sample ballot RIGHT SMACK HERE. Polls open until 8 p.m.

Also, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and some City Council members are hosting an election night party at The Standard on W. Jackson Street.

Mubarak gets 5 years in fraud case

Ray Mubarak, who authorities allege was a "ghost employee" of the Knox County Trustee's Office, was sentenced Monday to almost five years in prison in connection to unrelated federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy.

In addition, he received three years probation to follow his release. Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bonding companies owe state $141K

More than a dozen East Tennessee bail bonding agencies owe the state a total of almost $141,000 because their Knox County defendants failed to show up for court, records show.

Knoxville-based Unchained is on the hook for the most at $54,500, and AA Bonding, which has regional offices, owes $32,550, according to records provided by the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office.

In addition, the state is due $24,500 from the locally operated Southern Bail and another $10,150 from A and A.

Another 10 companies each were in debt to the state as of Sept. 15 for between $500 and $4,500.

Some bonding companies counter, however, that the figures do not tell the whole story.

Sean Sanford manages Sanford & Son, which dates to the 1930s. He said only a few companies owe much of the money. Sanford, who learned Friday the clerk's list showed him owing $2,000, said he quickly paid what he owed.

He also said one notice from the clerk's office was in error and that he owes nothing for the defendant.

The three companies identified as the top offenders either declined comment or could not be reached.

Rest of the story RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Four firms submit bids to review Knox Co. Schools transportation operation

Four companies are interested in evaluating Knox County Schools' transportation department, part of a multi-pronged approach to improve school bus safety.

Requests for proposals opened Tuesday afternoon by Knox County Purchasing Division officials show these firms expressing interest: Auxilio Services Inc. of Lansing, Mich.; Prismatic Services Inc. of Cornelius, N.C.; Pupil Transportation Safety Institute, of East Syracuse, N.Y.; and School Bus Consultants LLC of Edgewater, Md.

The school system will work with county purchasing to identify the best proposal, according to Knox County Schools spokeswoman Melissa Ogden.

The system also plants to install cameras in school buses. Earlier this month the county opened seven proposals from four companies to install the cameras. The plan is to put on each bus a camera aimed at the driver and one aimed at the passenger area.

The system will work with county purchasing to pick a vendor, to be followed by Knox County Board of Education approval, perhaps next month.

Other initiatives meant to improve safety: Drivers will face additional hours of training, and a "Safety Check Ride System" also will be put in place in which uniformed officers will regularly but randomly observe bus rides.

In addition, the school system plans to hire a customer service manager to help parents with school bus needs and questions.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Fourth city worker on paid leave

A fourth Knoxville Civic Auditorium & Coliseum employee has been placed on leave as part of an investigation by the Knoxville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit.

City leaders have said little about the probe, but confirmed that on Friday the mayor’s office placed Salina Garrett on paid administrative leave for 14 days.

Garret, a financial analyst with the Coliseum, makes about $50,000 annually.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Arnett says he's collected $180K

The Knox County Clerk’s Office has collected between $175,000 and $180,000 in outstanding taxes from local hotels and motels, Clerk Foster Arnett told local leaders Monday.

At issue was some $476,000 in occupancy taxes that businesses owed from the past two fiscal years. Arnett has come under fire in recent months as county officials say his office failed to go after the money and failed to notify them that the debt existed.

In mid-August, he told the county’s Audit Committee that he’d begun sending letters to hotel and motel tax scofflaws in an effort to go after the money.

The meeting followed an internal report that says at least a dozen of the businesses owe the county almost half a million dollars, and that four hotels alone could owe an additional $225,000 for period that weren’t included in the audit.

Full story RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rodgers: Early voting dismal so far

Cliff Rodgers

That’s how Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers described early voting a week after it started.

“It’s basically what we thought it would be – pitiful,” he said.

As it stands, just over 1,150 people had voted by mid-Wednesday with a week left in early voting for city races. Election Day is set for Sept. 29.

“You don’t have a heated mayor’s race driving it,” Rodgers said. “Other than the at-large Seat C – that’s the primary reason people are getting out to vote. It will matter to those candidates since some of them will be eliminated in this election.”

The mayor’s seat, a municipal judge post, and four City Council seats are up for re-election.

In an unrelated state race, the general election for the 14th District state House seat also is under way. Jason Zachary won the GOP primary race, and Zachary has no competition Sept. 29.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Allison Burchett waives right to be formally arraigned, hearing set

Allison Burchett
Allison Burchett waived her right to be formally arraigned in Knox County Criminal Court on 13 counts of identity theft, computer crimes and tampering with evidence.

A Nov. 17 status hearing has been set for Burchett, who did not appear in court Thursday.

Arraignments are held so that the court can read the formal charges against a defendant.

Seven of the charges she faces are felonies, including six identify theft charges, and one tampering with evidence charge, a Class C crime, which carries three to 15 years imprisonment. The other six charges - computer crimes - are misdemeanors.

Allison Burchett is the former wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. The two divorced in 2012.

During Thursday’s arraignment, Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword told Burchett’s attorney, David Eldridge, that he “is not a close personal friend of (Tim Burchett), but we are friends.”

Sword noted that he signed the search warrant authorities used to obtain evidence against her.
Sword told Eldridge that if Allison Burchett felt he had a conflict presiding over her case that he would listen to arguments, but that he didn’t believe there was a conflict.

Eldridge said he would discuss the matter with Allison Burchett and get back with the court.

Commissioners Ed and Bob head West for Sept. 22 meeting with public

Knox County at-large commissioners Ed & Bob (Brantly and Thomas, respectively) are again taking the "Night Out" show on the road, this time to Middlebrook Pike at Cedar Bluff Road to the Horn of Plenty!

The ol' Horn is a locally owned Market and Restaurant in West Knox County that serves country cooking and offers local products. They also sell seasonal plants, soils and mulch.

The two will meet with the public from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 22

According to a release sent by Bob:
Ed and Bob feel that going out to the people eases the strain on those who, because of work, commitments, financial situation or the distance to the City-County Building, cannot attend regular commission meetings. All elected officials, media and public are welcome to attend. This is not a commission meeting. There is no agenda. There will be no votes taken. But Ed and Bob invite you to join them for some great country cooking and a little apple cobbler for desert!

Haynes remarks on Republican debate

Tennessee GOP chairman Ryan Haynes weighs in on the Republican debate:

"Once again, it was readily apparent Republicans have the energy and the enthusiasm for 2016 on our side. We showcased the most diverse field of presidential candidates in history--of either party.

Despite CNN's best efforts to turn our candidates against themselves, we were able to hear directly from these inspirational leaders from the fields of business, medicine, and public service who offer substantive solutions to the problems facing our nation.

The Republican Party has a conservative vision for our nation that will create opportunity for families, reinvigorate the American economy, and prioritize our commitment to freedom. President Obama's time in the White House has been terrible for our nation.

What's worse, Hillary Clinton would continue those policies. Thankfully, one of these Republican candidates will make sure she doesn't get that chance."

Three Coliseum employees on paid leave, pending investigation

Three Knoxville Civic Auditorium & Coliseum employees including the general manager are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Knoxville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit.

Civic Coliseum General Manager Dale Dunn, Assistant General Manager Robert Sandoval, and stage manager Tom Kelly were placed on leave earlier this week.

“It is still being conducted and (not yet) concluded, so we can’t give any details about what they’re looking at,” said Jesse Mayshark, the city’s communications director.

KPD’s Internal Affairs typically handles allegations of misconduct involving city employees, Mayshark said.

Records show that Dunn earns $105,940 annually; Sandoval makes $70,304; and Kelly makes $48,090.

“Until the investigation is concluded, there’s no determination as to who did what or if anyone did anything,” Mayshark said.

Estranged wife sues Bandit Lites owner, girlfriend Allison Burchett

Allison Burchett
The estranged wife of Bandit Lites CEO Michael Strickland is suing him, his girlfriend Allison Burchett, his company and a cellular sales retailer for conspiracy, identity theft, invasion of privacy and libel.

Jo Nicole Velasco Strickland is asking for a combined $1 million in Knox County Circuit Court. The action was filed Wednesday afternoon.

The lawsuit, in part, ties into the recent arrest of Burchett, the former wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who was charged earlier this month in Knox County Criminal Court with 13 counts of identity theft, computer crimes and tampering with evidence.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit besides Strickland and Burchett are Bandit Lites Inc. and several variations of Cellular Sales.

Bandit Lites is a defendant, the lawsuit states, because Michael Strickland and Burchett acted under the apparent authority of Bandit Lites in some of their alleged acts of wrongdoing. According to the lawsuit, Nicole Strickland was a Cellular Sales customer and the firm was negligent in allowing a third party to access her "personal and private information."

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Knoxville work crew inadvertently demolishes sold county house

Before/after 1611 E. Glenwood Ave.
Imagine you have agreed to sell your house. As you're about to close the deal, someone else comes to your property and tears the house to the ground.

That's exactly what happened in East Knoxville where Knox County sold an abandoned home at auction to a man from California. While the county and buyer proceeded with the purchase, the City of Knoxville was moving forward with plans to raze the blighted house.

"It was sold at public auction for $7,200. The day before we were doing a closing, we learned the city had inadvertently demolished the home. Obviously, when we went to close, the gentleman who had purchased the home was not interested in closing," said Hugh Holt, purchasing director for Knox County.

The house at 1611 E. Glenwood Avenue was demolished on August 6. The abandoned property came into the county's possession by default after years of delinquent property taxes.

David Brace, director of public works for the City of Knoxville, said the home had been on a list for demolition for some time. The city demolishes around 60 to 70 blighted structures every year.

"We will demolish a home when it is a health or safety issue to a neighborhood or a community," said Brace. "If you live next door to one of these [houses], they're horrible. People break into them, steal the copper out of them, drugs, prostitution, and so on. So they're a real serious issue. That house had been blighted for a long time. It had been a problem for the community for many years."

Holt said without the house on the property, similar parcels have sold for around $1,000. While that's a considerable drop relative to an auctioned price of $7,200, it is still only a few thousand dollars in the grand scheme of things. The greater concern is ensuring a similar demolition mix-up does not occur in the future.

For more, click RIGHT HERE.

PBA to pick new leader in October

Local leaders are expected to go in-house when they fill the soon-to-be vacant executive director post for the Knoxville-Knox County Public Building Authority, but that won't be until October.

The PBA board on Tuesday was initially set to vote on whether to hire Jayne Burritt, the office's current director of property management, to succeed longtime director Dale Smith, who is stepping down Jan. 1.

However, officials said they wanted to give the public the chance to weigh in, so they opted to hold off until the board's next meeting, which isn't until Oct. 1.

"We'll make the offer then," said PBA Chairman Winston Frazier.

The recommendation to appoint Burritt initially came from Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett late last month, although the board makes the final decision.

Burritt joined the PBA in early 2008 and helps oversee security and maintenance for about 1.5 million square feet of facilities, including parking garages, World’s Fair Park and the City County Building. She is over roughly 100 employees and a $12 million budget.

Officials are expected to offer Burritt $150,000 in annual salary to take over the position.

E-911 Board picks $40K consultant

The Knox County E-911 Board on Tuesday agreed to pay a consultant almost $40,000 to determine the best direction to take its emergency radio system.

The move comes after months of debate that started when a selection committee picked Harris Communications and then the board refused to award the company a $9 million contract.

Instead, a number of members suggested the county should stick with Motorola Solutions, which has served the E-911 Center for more than 25 years.

Then members started talking about joining a state-operated system, so in April they sought out a consultant to determine if that was the right course. The problem? The company officials picked wanted additional work and roughly $225,000 more than the center was ready to provide.

So, back to the drawing board, and on Tuesday a new consultant – Blue Wing Inc. out of Pennsylvania – was picked out of eight companies that submitted proposals.

The 911-Board will pay Blue Wing $39,725. The firm has roughly 30 days to come up with its recommendation for the board, which meets again Oct. 21.

“In reading (Blue Wing’s) proposal, it seems like they’re doing exactly what it is that we need,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, a board member.

Local leaders continue pushing for East Knox County business park

Officials wrapped up a tour with public BBQ
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett hosted a public bus tour for the public and city leaders to gain insight into a business park plan for East Knox County.

The Knox County Development Corporation bought property north of Interstate 40 at the Midway Road exit in 2006 with the intent of turning it into a business park. But that plan was voted down a few years ago by county leaders.

Burchett is now actively leading the campaign for the project by saying he wants to work with neighbors in the Midway Road area as well as the Development Corp., the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Knox County Commission to grow jobs in the area.

"Something is going to happen to this property," Burchett said. "I'm a firm believer, though, in you see a train coming down the track, it's best to steer it rather than let it run you over, and this is an opportunity for this community to steer that train."

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

More qualify for March elections

Marleen Davis
First, here's an updated list (as of Monday) to see who has picked up a qualifying petition to run for county/school office. Right HERE.

Second, as expected Jim Weaver, who is currently property assessor Phil Ballard's right hand man is in, as is former assessor John Whitehead (who gave Ballard a heck of a run last time around) and Andrew Graybeal.

If all three actually run, Graybeal presents a wild card. A Weaver v. Whitehead race would be interesting because Weaver is essentially running as Ballard 2.0 but without the overall name recognition. Whitehead - like him or not - is well known.

Third, Law Director Bud Armstrong has some competition. This is a guy who beat an incumbent and has a strong base support. Nathan Rowell will have his work cut out for him.

Fourth, I got a release from a Democrat (not a lot of them in this neck of the woods willing to run) who is interested in the 4th District Commission seat, currently held by Republican Jeff Ownby, who has his own work cut out for him in the March primary.

Here ya go:
Marleen Kay Davis has announced that she will enter the 2016 Democratic Primary seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the District Four seat on the Knox County Commission. 

Davis is known in Knoxville primarily for her work related to downtown issues and development.  She is currently a member of the Downtown Knoxville Design and Review Board as well as a board member of the East Tennessee Community Design Center. She had previously been a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Theater Foundation and a Co-chair of the Downtown Knoxville Task Force from “Nine Counties, One Vision. ” She is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Davis states, “As a career educator and as an architect, I understand the importance of our neighborhoods, schools, commercial districts, and parks in creating a great quality of life, which also improves the economic well-being of the county. “ 

Davis is currently the ASCA Distinguished Professor in the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Tennessee. She formerly served as dean of the college from 1994 – 2003.  At the time she was named dean, she was the fourth woman ever appointed dean in a college of architecture. This past spring, she received the college’s Patrick Lawson Teaching Award, as determined by student organizations.

Davis also states, “I look forward to learning more about constituents’ views on these issues, and I look forward to finding common ground in preserving and advancing the quality of life in Knox County.”
As always, send me your political stuff for publication consideration.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tony Norman plans run for BOE seat

Tony Norman
Today was the first day to pick up qualifying petitions to run in the March 1 Knox County primary. RIGHT SMACK HERE to see who has so far. The deadline is noon Dec. 10.

Now, so far former County Commissioner Tony Norman has not picked up one. But, he told me the other day that he fully intends to run for the 3rd District seat currently held by BOE Chairman Doug Harris. (Doug has said he doesn't plan to seek re-election.)

This does not bode well for current Superintendent Jim McIntyre nor the current KCS administration.

Here's the deal:

Four of the current nine BOE seats are up next year. Currently, the board voting block is, on average, 5-4 with a pro-administration majority. The seats that are up are currently held by Harris, Karen Carson, Mike McMillan and Tracie Sanger.

Of those four, McMillan is the only one not in the so-called pro-administration voting bloc. He's also the only one pretty much guaranteed to win re-election.

That means the folks who don't approve of the administration's current direction need only one seat to gain the majority.

In the meantime, Carson has said she doesn't plan to run, so if she doesn't change her mind, expect a dogfight between new candidates for that seat. Expect a dogfight for Sanger's seat. Someone will take her on. That's pretty much a given.

And Doug's seat? Well, Tony Norman is a pretty popular guy in that district. And he's not a McIntyre supporter. Someone will more than likely run against him, but I don't see them winning. Of course, we're still a little more than five months away from Election Day.

Still, this is going to be a long five months for McIntyre whose name along will become a campaign issue.

And, it could be even longer. There's also a general election in August.

Judge tosses Hornback libel suit

A judge has dismissed the libel lawsuit filed by former Knox County GOP chair Ruthie Kuhlman against local political blogger Brian Hornback, also a former local Republican Party chair who owns and writes for “Shock and Awe.”

Kuhlman initially sued Hornback in October 2013 for $100,000, accusing the long-time blogger and former Knox County school board member of posting six false statements attributed to her and that he did so out of malice.

For example, she said that Hornback, on his blog, suggested that Kuhlman – whom he never actually named – verbally attacked a Young Republican Club leader; said that he resign from the club; and said he was blackballed “by the money in the party”.

She also said that Hornback asserted that she stated: “If we are to ever achieve elected superintendent status that we have to vote out Rep. Harry Brooks and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey.”

The two state leaders support electing a superintendent, rather than voting in one, something that is a hot issue among many local Republicans.

RULING: Link to summary judgement

Kulhman’s attorney, Herbert S. Moncier, asked for a retraction and public apology from the blogger, but Hornback refused.

Hornback then secured sworn affidavits from a number of his sources who said they heard Kuhlman make the statements.

In the end, Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who presided over the case after a number of local judges recused themselves, said Kuhlman failed to establish malice – a key component needed to win a libel case.

Malice, he noted, connotes more than personal ill will or desire to injure, but rather “it is limited to statements made with knowledge that they are false or with reckless disregard to their truth.”

Kerry said that part of Kuhlman’s argument focused on attempting “to portray Mr. Hornback’s habit of publishing false statements,” and “that she believes (Hornback) belongs to a political breakfast club that dislikes her.”

“Much of this evidence is inadmissible such as (Kuhlman’s) beliefs about being disliked or that (Hornback) harbors ill will,” Kerry wrote in his judgment. “(Kuhlman) cannot rest upon supposition, but must state with clarity factual issues that establish actual malice.” (Kuhlman) has failed to carry this burden . . . .”

Blackwood also said Kuhlman is responsible for court costs. Hornback, though, is responsible for his own attorney costs.

Kuhlman can still appeal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Workshops, tour set to discuss East Knox Co. Midway business park

The Knox County Development Corporation is recycling an old proposal – one that officials say will turn empty East Knox County fields into jobs.

To do that, though, local leaders say they’ll need public buy-in.

That starts with two public meetings to talk about what residents would like built there, and one public bus tour of the already operational West Knox County business parks, so residents can see just how they might look.

The two workshops are set from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 17 and Oct. 8 at Carter Elementary School.

“(This) is to get down to talking about the concept of a business park,” said Todd Napier, the president and CEO of the Development Corporation of Knox County. “What will be palatable, what would not be, what would someone want to see, what would that look like, what type of uses would be acceptable versus unacceptable, what kind of public amenities would people want.”
Napier said he want residents to tell the corporation “what is about business parks that get people concerned, (and) what is it about business parks that excites them.”

The bus tour, hosted by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, is set for 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 15, and concludes in East Knox County with a barbecue meal for the public. The event will include Knox County Commissioners. At this point, officials say there are probably 30 or so open seats on the bus for the public. To book a seat, call 865-215-HELP.

“The Development Corporation’s property at Midway Road has the potential to be a significant economic development asset for East Knox County,” the mayor said. “There are many steps to get to a developed, useful site, but they all begin with seeking public input. The bus tour and cook-out will begin that process. I want to hear the concerns of the community around Midway Road and then work with The Development Corporation, the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Knox County Commission to address those concerns so we can grow jobs in our region.”

For more, RIGHT HERE.

10 years later: Return to Bay St. Louis; a look at what's happened

We wrapped up a week-long series on the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and recover of Bay St. Louis. As you might recall, WBIR 10 News and East Tennessee donated a ton of time, money and volunteers efforts to help the small coastal Mississippi town.

The storm absolutely devastated the city.

We sent two reporters and two photographers down several weeks ago to talk with the residents and local leaders to hear their stories. It's a pretty amazing piece of work. Check it out RIGHT HERE.

Local mom objects to 'controversial' book on KCS summer reading list

A controversial book is generating buzz among some Knox County Schools parents.

The book is called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Published in 2010, this New York Times bestseller details the true story of a poor black woman who had a sample of her cells taken for research in 1951 without her knowledge or consent, while she was in the hospital with cervical cancer. Those cells have led to major medical breakthroughs, and for decades Lacks' family had no idea.

The book addresses issues of medical ethics and race inequality. It also contains themes of infidelity and violence, and some local parents say it's unsuitable for teens.

Jackie Sims' 15-year-old son is a sophomore at Knox County Schools' L&N STEM Academy. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a book on his summer reading list, and Sims said it didn't come with any parental warning or permission form.

Sims' son brought the book to his mother recently, when passages he read made him uncomfortable.

"I was shocked that there was so much graphic information in the book," Sims said.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

KCSO to donate seized baby formula

Seized baby formula
The Knox County Sheriff's Office will be donating over 200 cans of baby formula to a local charity today at 10 a.m.

The formula was left over from a June 2015 baby formula raid will be donated to the Fish Hospitality Pantries, located at 122 West Scott Avenue. 

The baby formula being donated includes 210 cans that were donated by Kroger ORC Division and the manufacturers during an illegal baby formula investigation led by the Knox County Sheriff's Office in June 2015.

The KCSO raided Wee Care and Rugrats on Chapman Highway and Penney's on Broadway, and arrested five people for selling stolen baby formula. The cans being donated to the FISH Hospitality Pantry were not used during the investigation, and both Kroger and the manufacturer asked that the KCSO donate them to a local charity of its choosing.

All of the formula seized during the search warrant execution of the three businesses is being held as evidence for the pending court cases.

FISH Hospitality Pantries is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that operates four pantries in East, South, Northwest, and West Knoxville. The organization currently provides food to more than 11,000 needy families each month.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mayor's former wife charged with multiple felonies, computer crimes

Allison Burchett, the so-called former first lady of Knox County, has been charged with 13 counts of identity theft, computer crimes and tampering with evidence.

Seven of the charges are felonies, including six identify theft charges, and one tampering with evidence charge, a Class C crime, which carries three to 15 years imprisonment. The other six charges - computer crimes - are misdemeanors.

Her arrest is tied to a May raid by the FBI Cyber Crimes Task Force and the Knoxville Police Department at Bandit Lites corporate headquarters on Sycamore Drive and it's Captains Way home, which is owned by company CEO Michael Strickland.

Presentment: Allison Burchett's charges

At the time, Strickland was living with Burchett at the house. Strickland will not be charged, according to police.

Burchett, 33, is the former wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Rest of the story RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Harris, Sanger to lead Knox Co. BOE

Doug Harris
Congratulations to Doug Harris and Tracie Sanger, the new chairman and vice chairwoman, respectively, of the Knox County Board of Education.

The two were voted in last night during the board meeting. Harris, who served as vice chair the past year, replaces Mike McMillan.

The seats are good for a year.

Harris, after the unanimous vote, said he would serve with "humility," according to Lydia's Twitter account (My Kid My School), and is looking forward to being just one of nine members (except he'll be in charge).

He also noted that he is willing to work with all board members even when they disagree.

Both Doug and Tracie are up for re-election next year. Doug has previously stated that he will not run again. Tracie does from what I understand.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wright to serve as commish chair

Dave Wright
The Knox County Commission appointed Commissioner Dave Wright to lead the 11-member board. Commissioner Bob Thomas will serve as vice chairman.

The vote took place Tuesday during the board’s annual reorganization.

Wright, who represents East Knox County and is up for re-election next year, succeeds Brad Anders, who held the seat two years.He was previously the vice chairman.

“I’d like the commission to have a seamless transition from Brad to me,” Wright said.

The new chairman added that he “has no set agenda,” other than “wanting to take good care of the county’s business.”

Wright said he won’t seek the chairmanship next September when the spot comes open again.
Bob Thomas

The positions generally are symbolic, although the chairman runs the commission meetings and sets the monthly agenda. He or she also oversees the board's three-member staff, determines how the board's public meetings will be handled, and often serves as liaison between the public and the board.

The chair by default also serves on a number of boards, including the Great Schools Partnership and usually the pension board.

Commissioners can hold the seat twice during a term.

The vice chair carries out the chair's duties when he or she is not available and helps run board meetings.

Wright, a longtime Corryton resident, was appointed to the commission in February 2008 and won the 2010 race for the 8th District. He’s a University of Tennessee graduate who earned a degree in management. He also served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He later worked for AT&T.

Thomas, an at-large commissioner, was elected to his seat last year. He’s a well-known community figure. At one point during his 30-year career in media, he had the highest-rated midday radio show in America for 16 years, according to his official board bio.

Lunch with Mayor set for Thursday

Looks like the "Lunch with da Mayor" gigs have returned.

The public is invtied to hang and complain with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Thursday at Sam & Andy's Restaurant in Fountain City (located at 2613 West Adair and has been locally-owned and operated since 1946).

The event - you're paying for your own, buddy, cause the mayor ain't buying it for you - will feature a  lunch special of grilled pork tenderloin and two sides for $7.99. Obviously, you can eat what you want.

The entire menu is available online RIGHT SMACK HERE.

The restaurant accepts cash, credit and debit cards.

Alcohol on tap for non-UT events? Officials to discuss the issue

State lawmakers are expected to push the University of Tennessee into tapping what many believe could be new revenue – by serving beer and wine at big concerts and other non-school related events.

Officials say the university’s ongoing stance against selling alcohol at Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena is hurting the school’s bottom line, and that early estimates suggest UT is missing out on at least $500,000 a year in sales.

State Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, said he plans to meet with UT President Joe DiPietro and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek in the coming weeks to discuss the matter further.

He said top school officials have “talked a lot about the business model at UT being broken,” which means they “can’t continue to implement steep tuition increases.”

Daniel said he’ll ask school officials to “look at all sources of revenue,” including “efficient use of their facilities.”

“Selling beer and wine at non-university events is just part of maximizing the revenue and lightening the load on Tennessee taxpayers,” he said. “We hope the university would take the action on their own. It’s part of the overall picture whether the university is maximizing their facilities.”

The Tennessee General Assembly again in January.

School leaders, however, said they should reach a decision before then.

Cheek said officials began talking about the matter during a retreat last winter, but said the decision ultimately will be up to the university’s Board of Trustees.

Full story RIGHT HERE.