Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Commish rejects superintendent's contract, but it doesn't matter

Jim McIntyre
Knox County commissioners voted at their regular Monday meeting to reject the contract of Knox County Schools superintendent Jim McIntyre.

That vote, however, was only symbolic.

Nine of 11 Knox County commissioners voted not to approve the contract. Commissioners Sam

McKenzie and Amy Broyles voted to approve it.

"We're kind of making the rules up as we go along, unfortunately," McKenzie said after the vote.

In fact, the item never should've come to a vote, McKenzie said.

A long-standing agreement -- called a consent decree -- between Knox County Commission and the

Board of Education says commissioners can't tell the school board how to spend its appropriated money.

School board members voted last month to approve McIntyre's contract, so all the commission legally could do was pass it.

"That vote just came up two for, nine against. What does that mean? It means absolutely nothing," McKenzie said. "I think we are - in spirit - disregarding the consent decree, and I don't think this last process was correct."

The "no" vote Monday, therefore, was symbolic.

The move came after county law director Bud Armstrong last week declared the contract unenforceable.

RELATED: Law Director: Superintendent's contract 'unenforceable' 

State law limits superintendents' contracts to four years, and Armstrong said this new contract effectively adds two years to McIntyre's existing four-year contract.

RELATED: Sanger blasts Armstrong over contract notation; law director counters

Armstrong cited a 2001 opinion from the Tennessee attorney general on a nearly identical case. In it, the AG's office said, a school board may not extend beyond four years the term of its contract with the director of schools. To do so, the opinion says, ties the hands of future board members.

The law does, however, allow school boards to renew a superintendent's four-year contract. The opinion then goes on to differentiate between extending and renewing.

"Black’s Law Dictionary defines renewal as '(T)he re-creation of a legal relationship or the replacement of an old contract with a new contract, as opposed to a mere extension of a previous relationship or contract,'" the opinion says.

Read that full opinion HERE.

For now, McIntyre's board-approved, commission-rejected contract is set to go into effect the first of the new year.

McIntyre was at Monday's meeting but declined to comment on the results of the vote.

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