Sunday, January 31, 2016

Monday last day to register to vote for presidential, Knox primaries

Time is running out to register for the 2016 presidential and Knox County primary elections.

Tennessee voters need to register by Monday, Feb. 1, if they want to participate.

“Every time that the national election comes along, everybody gets re-energized," League of Women Voters committee member Helen Tews said. "People want to be able to vote in November, and if they want to select which candidate for which party, both nationally and locally, they have to start voting in these primaries.”

A few key things to establish before voting:
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen. You must also be a Tennessee resident to vote in the state.
  • You must have a state or federally issued photo I.D.
Early voting starts Feb. 10.

“On election day, Mar. 1, the lines will be long," Tews said. "If you wait till that day, we expect a large turnout.”

If you have not registered yet, you can print out an application form on the Knox County election website.

If you don't remember if you've registered, you can check that, too.

It also shows polling locations and other information about upcoming elections.

The final day to register for the 2016 Knox County general election is July 5. Election Day is Aug. 4.

The last day to register to vote in the 2016 presidential general election is Oct. 11, and the election is on Nov. 8.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

'Stop The Violence: A Community Conversation' tonight on WBIR

Knoxville leaders and our community will gather at Fulton High School on Wednesday night to talk about ways to help at-risk kids, and take a stand against violence following the shooting death of Zaevion Dobson.

WBIR is partnering with WATE, WVLT and the Knoxville New Sentinel for a one-hour public forum called "Stop the Violence: A Community Conversation."

MORE: County dedicates Jan. 24 to Dobson

Anyone who can't make it can watch at home on any of the three networks, or at
The forum starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Join the conversation using #ZaevionDobson.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Call for Nominations: Poet Laureate for City of Knoxville by April 1

The Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville invites nominations for Poet Laureate for the City of Knoxville. Knoxville has a long and rich literary heritage. George Washington Harris’s Knoxville-based tales of Sut Lovingood were an influence on Mark Twain, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, wrote her first novel in Knoxville based on her experiences as an adolescent here. Pulitzer Prize winners James Agee and Cormac McCarthy both grew up in Knoxville, and the city figures prominently in their works. Poet Nikki Giovanni is a Knoxville native who attended Austin High School and has often written about her memories of the city.

The City of Knoxville Poet Laureate Program aims to extend and build on this heritage by recognizing and supporting citizen poets of exceptional talent and accomplishment.

The Poet Laureate shall serve a term of one year with an optional one-year renewal, beginning in the Summer of 2016, during which they shall serve as a public voice of Knoxville, creating city-specific works and participating in literary outreach and educational programs.

The Poet Laureate will receive an annual honorarium of $3,000; the award should be considered honorific. The City of Knoxville shall retain license to use, reproduce, and compile the work created for the City by the Poet Laureate in his/her official capacity, but the Poet shall retain all other rights to the work.

The deadline for nominations to be received is Friday, April 1, 2016.

Legal residents of the corporate limits of the city of Knoxville may nominate a poet for the Poet Laureate position. Poets may not self-nominate. Those submitting nominations must be at least 21 years old.

Nomination forms, conditions for eligibility, and instructions for submission of nominations may be obtained from the Arts & Culture Alliance's website at, or send an SASE to Liza Zenni, Arts & Culture Alliance, PO Box 2506, Knoxville, TN 37901.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Candidate: Property Assessor's Office under IRS criminal investigation

A two-time candidate for the Knox County property assessor’s position said the office is under federal investigation.

During a taping of Sunday political talk show "Inside Tennessee," candidate Andrew Graybeal told the panel that he’s met with current and former employees who informed him that they’ve met with an agent from the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division as recently as “two weeks ago.”

The office determines the value of all local and commercial property in Knox County.

“What I am hearing from the employees is . . . assessments, issues and campaign contributions will get you a lower assessment – that’s what has been said to me by employees, former and current,” said Graybeal, who also ran for the job in 2008.

Graybeal is one of three Republicans seeking the position in the March 1 primary. The winner will take over the office, since no Democrat qualified.

Phil Ballard, the current property assessor, is term-limited.

After the taping, WBIR 10News reached out to Ballard’s attorney, Don Bosch, regarding the accusations.

“We have been aware of the rumors and allegations for many years now and we look forward to the day that these rumors and allegations end,” Bosch said.

Jim Weaver, the current chief deputy in the office, also is seeking the position.

He said “those are rumors we’ve heard for six years,” but he said he had never met with investigators.

“I have no knowledge of this,” he said. “These are pretty serious accusations. I have not been talked to, I don’t know anyone who has been talked to."

John Whitehead, who served as property assessor from 2000-08 and also is seeking the job, said he has not talked to investigators nor was he aware of a possible federal probe.

The Property Assessor’s Office, which has 45 employees, is responsible for appraising residential and commercial property in Knox County.

Tune in to WBIR 10News at 9:30 a.m. Sunday for more on the election.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Davis to host campaign kick off

Marleen Davis, the Democrat running for the 4th District Knox County Commission seat, will kick off her campaign Jan. 26 with a meet and greet at Holly's Gourmet Market.

The event runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Hollys will cater the event, which also will include a cash bar with wine from Toddy's and beer from Alliance.

According to a release:
"This is Marleen's first attempt at running for public office. As a mother, architect, and career educator, she understands the importance of our neighborhoods, schools, commercial districts, and parks in creating a great quality of life, all contributing to a greater economic well-being of our county."
Davis will face the winner of the March Republican Primary. Those candidates include incumbent Jeff Ownby, Hugh Nystrom and Janet Testerman.

As always, send me your campaign info for publication consideration.

Ashe added to Open Government board

Victor Ashe
Well, this could be interesting. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has added former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe to its board of directors.

Victor, a columnist for The Shopper, has been feuding recently with current Mayor Madeline Rogero. In fact, it's gotten to the point where she's making any of his record requests go through the attorney's office, something she's not requiring for other members of the media (Rogero has stated that she doesn't consider Ashe a member of the media).

In addition to Ashe, the following also were added to the board:
TCOG, according to its website, is a non-partisan organization founded in 2003 whose mission rests on the belief that citizen access to government information, through public records and public meetings, is crucial in allowing informed participation in a democratic society, and is an essential component in government accountability.

“These board members reflect a diversity of background and experiences, but each has a rich history in Tennessee and share a common viewpoint that transparency in government in our state is essential,” said TCOG Board President Doug Pierce said in a released statement. “TCOG’s educational programs have been growing, and we hope to continue to improve understanding of the rights of citizens to know what their government is doing, and to promote a culture of openness in government at all levels.”

You can read more about the appointments RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

BOE to pay superintendent to quit

The Knox County Board of Education approved Tuesday night terms for Superintendent Jim McIntyre's planned resignation in July.

McIntyre announced earlier this month he would resign effective July 8.

The board meeting at Knox County Schools headquarters in the Andrew Johnson Building downtown drew a crowd. Board member Amber Rountree said she took umbrage with the notion - which she's heard - that "certain" board members wanted McIntyre to leave.

Before board members voted to agree to terms, member Gloria Deathridge, a McIntyre supporter said: "A few people want this. You're getting what you want."

Board member Terry Hill offered and then later withdrew a proposed amendment to push back McIntyre's severance delivery date.

RELATED: Superintendent McIntyre to step down

The Board of Education would pay McIntyre, schools chief since 2008, a buyout equivalent to one year's salary.

He is set to receive that pay out – $227,256, minus normal employment required deductions – in  a lump sum by Feb. 15, 2016.

In addition, the deal allows McIntyre and his immediate family to purchase COBRA coverage for himself and his family for 18 months after he leaves this summer.

The arrangement, however, won't be official until board members approve it.

The board meeting, called specifically to address McIntyre's departure, started at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

McIntyre's current contract started Jan. 1 of this year and extends until the end of 2019: a 4-year deal.

Three minor issues revealed in annual Knox County audit but good overall

Knox County once again received a clean bill of health from its auditors, but the firm that conducted the annual financial review said officials still have room to improve.

The county’s external auditor, Pugh & Company, noted three significant deficiencies. But, for the first time in a long time, no material weaknesses while reviewing the county’s budget for fiscal year 2015, which concluded last June 30, according to a preliminary draft of a report.

The county’s Audit Committee will talk more about the findings during its meeting Tuesday.

Overall, county financial statements - in addressing an entire organization that includes the county general government, the school system, and the fee offices - have once again received an “unqualified opinion,” the best ranking possible.

The county has earned the ranking each year for more than a decade, and received the "Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting" from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for almost 20 years.

Auditors, however, noted the following, which they listed as significant deficiencies:
  • Six school and county invoices that amounted to $1 million should have been paid through the FY 2015 budget, but were instead paid with revenues from the current budget.
  • The Criminal Court Clerk’s Office was dinged after auditors discovered that the department reviews daily receipts on a monthly basis rather than each day.
  • Auditors also found accounting errors in the school system’s nutrition department that led to financial overstatements of $622,000.
Officials have since put controls in place to fix the problems.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

City to launch complaint phone line

The City of Knoxville will launch a new inspections hotline to handle complaints on Saturdays, beginning Jan. 23.

When activated later this week, the hotline – 865-755-2531 – will be a complaint-driven service to address concerns about issues such as possible zoning violations, non-permitted construction, abandoned vehicles and dirty lots.

Between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, a City inspector will answer calls and visit sites of concern. The hotline is a pilot program that City officials hope will help close a gap. Until now, citizen concerns about non-permitted construction work or other code violations occurring on weekends could not be reported until Monday morning, by which time the violation may have ceased.

“There have been times when a City resident has wanted to talk about remedying a code violation occurring on a Saturday but our inspectors were off the clock,” said Peter Ahrens, the City’s Director of Plans Review and Inspections. “We hope this new Saturday inspections hotline will close the gap and ensure that residential and commercial construction projects are executed through proper permitting to ensure basic safety standards are met.”

Property owners unsure about commercial construction permitting can call 311 during weekday business hours to speak with Plans Review and Inspections office staff. Business owners also can contact Patricia Robledo, the City’s Business Liaison in the Office of Business Support, at 865-215-3155.

For residential construction projects, citizens can check a list of items that require permitting by visiting or by calling 311 during regular business hours.

League of Women Voters to host three candidate forums in coming weeks

The League of Women Voters will hold three candidate forums within the three weeks remaining before early voting begins on Feb. 10. Only those candidates in the eight contested primary races have been invited to participate.

County Commission candidates in Districts 1, 2, 4, and 6 will take part in a forum on Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m. at the Emporium, 100 S. Gay St, Knoxville, 37902. The event is co-sponsored with the Arts and Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Board of Education: Candidates in Districts 2 and 5 will participate in a forum on February 2, 6:30 p.m. at Pellissippi State Community College, 1610 E. Magnolia, Ave., Knoxville, 37917.

Law Director and Property Assessor The Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law, 601 W. Summit Hill Dr., Knoxville, 37902 will host the forum for candidates of these offices on February 4, 6:30 p.m. with Matt Shafer Powell, WUOT Radio Director of News Content, as moderator.

Go to ( for updates.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

BOE candidate files complaint with IRS over nonprofit 'political' email

(UPDATE: Tullock responds to the complaint)

Knox County school board candidate Jennifer Owen has filed a “Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form” with the Internal Revenue Service regarding an email sent by Laurens Tullock, President of the Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville, according to a news release.

MORE: The email in question

As a non-profit organization it is a violation of Internal Revenue Service regulations to endorse political candidates, Owens states. She noted that on Jan. 5, Tullock sent an email that endorsed three candidates (including her opponent),that she says violates these regulations because it was sent through Cornerstone's email service and contained Mr. Tullock’s official Cornerstone signature information.

Additionally, Tullock sent this email to the Chairman of the Knox County Board of Education, Doug Harris and to Jamie Woodson, President of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) where Tullock serves on the Steering Committee with Dr. James McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools, according to the release.

Owen feels the email requesting support and donations is a violation of IRS rules regarding political involvement.

If all recipients complied with the request to fund one or more of these candidates, the amount involved in these three political races could be between $45,000 and $270,000, she says.

After Tullock was called out by The Shopper's Betty Bean, he apparently responded on Knoxviews, a local political blog. You can read his response RIGHT HERE.

MORE: Bean's column

In her release, Owen says: 
"Despite his admission to endorsing these candidates and the admission that it was somehow also posted on West High School PTSO's Facebook page (another non-profit, Mr. Tullock's defense of the email falls flat. He says that he may endorse candidates as an individual and that the email sent from Cornerstone's account was an error. However, his very formal, business signature, including his assistant’s contact information, is not the kind of thing one uses when sending personal emails."

East Tennessee lawmakers gather for journalism legislative luncheon

A dozen state lawmakers shared their top priorities Saturday at the annual East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Legislative Luncheon.

Moderated by WBIR 10News anchor John Becker and held at Bearden Banquet Hall in West Knoxville, the panel discussion focused on matters the Legislature will address this session.

Topics included a possible gas tax increase, whether counties should be given the option to elect their school superintendent and whether people licensed to carry a gun should be allowed to bring their firearm onto school property.

Freshman Republican representative Jason Zachary, of Knoxville, is proposing a bill focusing on grandparents' rights. He said a constituent of his raised the issue.

"His daughter had a baby out of wedlock, and now both parents are out of the picture," Zachary explained, "so when it goes before a court and both parents are out of the picture, one set of grandparents typically gets custody, but because of a loophole in the statute, the other set of grandparents simply don't have any rights."

He said his bill would close that loophole, allowing "the judge to be able to look at both grandparents equally, and he provides custodial rights to one set of grandparents but then he can award visitation rights to the other set of grandparents."

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

You also can read more coverage of the event HERE.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Proposals: Two new middle schools come in $6 million under budget

Proposals to build two Knox County middle schools are more than $6 million under the proposed budget.

The Knox County Purchasing Department has picked Rouse Construction to develop a new school in the Gibbs community and Denark Construction to develop one in the Hardin Valley area.

Both firms are Knoxville-based.

The Gibbs school, according to the proposed contract, cannot exceed $23.63 million. The Hardin Valley one cannot exceed $34.8 million, according to its contract.

The county and school system initially set a $64.5 million budget for the schools. Officials negotiated that price down to $58.4 million with the developers, meaning the total costs came in at $6.1 million under budget.


Monday, January 11, 2016

McIntyre to get salary, benefits, vacation under proposed buyout

Jim McIntyre
Details on the contract buyout for Knox County Schools superintendent Jim McIntyre are now public.

McIntyre announced a week ago his plans to resign, effective July 8.

Along with news of McIntyre's impending resignation came word the Knox County Board of Education will pay McIntyre a buyout equivalent to one year's salary.

He will receive that pay out - $227,256, minus normal employment required deductions – in a lump sum by Feb. 15, 2016.

You can find the proposal RIGHT SMACK HERE.

In addition, the deal allows McIntyre and his immediate family to receive health insurance coverage for 18 months following his resignation.

Further, he will also receive compensation for any unused vacation days.

According to KCS public affairs specialist Abbey Harris, McIntyre started the 2015-16 school year with 60.5 days of vacation, which include rollover days from the previous year.

So far this school year he has used 16.5 of those.

The daily payout rate for each of McIntyre’s unused vacation days is $891.20. That means if McIntyre takes no more vacation by his last day on July 8, McIntyre will receive $39,212.80 for those remaining days.

The deal won't be official until the KCBOE approves it. Members have scheduled a special meeting on Tues., Jan. 19 specifically to address this matter.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Meeting set to discuss future of Civic Auditorium and Coliseum

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, City staff and consultants from Conventions, Sports and Leisure International will discuss the recently completed feasibility study for the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum at a Jan. 14 public meeting at 6 p.m. in the Civic Auditorium located at 500 Howard Baker Jr. Ave., according to a news release.

You can find the study RIGHT SMACK HERE.

The study considers three alternatives: retaining the current structures with minimal upgrades; renovating and redeveloping the complex; and completely replacing the complex.

Cost estimates for various options within those alternatives range from $26 million to $279.5 million. The study also estimates the direct and indirect economic benefits of each of the scenarios.

For anyone unable to attend the public meeting, comments can be submitted via email to

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Search for new superintendent could take more than a year, officials say

Jim McIntyre
The Knox County Board of Education has rarely had to conduct a search to replace a superintendent.

It did so when members hired Jim McIntyre in 2008, and when members selected Charles Lindsey in 1999.

Allen Morgan was elected superintendent in 1992 and then transitioned to be the appointed superintendent in 1996 when election for that job ceased.

Now board members will once again start the search process. And, if history is any indication of the amount of time it takes to find a new school leader, officials might be waiting a good while.

When Morgan resigned in September 1998 to take a job in the private sector, his replacement – Lindsey – didn’t come on board until July the following year – about 10 months later.

After the school board ousted Lindsey in February 2007, officials had to wait almost 17 months – until July 2008 – for Jim McIntyre to start his first day on the job.

"We took our time, we didn't rush into it, and we asked for help from the community and input from the community," said Indya Kincannon, who served on the school board when members hired McIntyre. "I'm sure this board will consider all those same elements, because it is a really important decision.”

Mike Cohen, a former KCS spokesman who was involved in a similar superintendent search in the late 1990s, agreed.

"They need to do some sort of outreach to every Knox County school employee: teacher, principals, custodians, cafeteria workers,” said Cohen, who now runs his own public relations firm. “They all need to be touched and asked for input . . . . You also need to reach out to the business community, through the Chamber of Commerce or some other organization because we produce a workforce that businesses in this town depend on."


The school board will hold a special called meeting Jan. 19 to talk about a proposal floated on Monday by McIntyre that entails paying him a year’s salary to step down in early July.

McIntyre, citing a poisonous political environment agreed to resign, so that the new school board, which will take office on Sept. 1, can appoint his successor.

As it stands, the current board is expected to approve the severance plan - at least $227,000. The board at some point will then select an interim superintendent to take over on July 11 – the Monday following McIntyre’s last day on the job.

That person is expected to oversee the day-to-day operations of the school system until early September when the new board takes over, and begins steps to conduct a national search, likely with the aid of a search firm.

Once a firm is picked, it will hold public meetings, put together an application process and then narrow down candidates.

The board will then begin interviewing the finalists – probably three to five people. Board members also might travel to where the candidates work to interview peers.

In the end, it will more than likely take at least a year from the day McIntyre leaves until the day his permanent successor takes over, officials anticipate.

“It’s not a quick process,” said Cohen, who served as the KCS communications director for five years.


Morgan, a superintendent for six years, retired from the school system in early September 1998. The school board at the time hired a consultant and conducted a public poll to help find his replacement.

The board eventually selected Lindsey, who came from South Carolina where he was the director for the Dorchester School District 2 near Charleston. He started July 1, 1999.

The hiring process for McIntyre was more complicated, and the public more involved.

Here’s a snapshot at what that looked like:
  • Feb. 2007: The school board buys out Lindsey’s contract. He earned $160,300 annually, which included money for investment and a monthly car allowance. Under the agreement, the board kept him on as a consultant and paid him until his contract ended in July 2008.
  • March 2007: Then-Deputy Superintendent Roy Mullins named to serve as interim superintendent.
  • August 2007: Three organizations submitted bids to help the school board find a new superintendent.
  • Oct. 2007: The school board agreed to pay to pay Iowa-based Ray and Associates more than $30,000 to conduct the search.
  • Early Nov. 2007: The search firm suggested paying the next superintendent up to $90,000 more than Lindsey, saying that was comparable to what other school directors in similar sized school districts earn.
  • Mid-Nov. 2007: The firm held two community meetings, seeking input on what residents wanted in a new superintendent. The school board was not invited.
  • Feb. 2008: The search firm closed the application period after receiving some 40 applications. The firm whittled the list down to 12 names and turned them over to the school board.
  • Early March 2008: The school board selected five finalists from the list of 12 candidates. The board conducted interviews and further cut the list to three.
  • Early March 2008: The finalists met with the Knoxville Chamber and Great Schools Partnership.
  • Mid-March 2008: Four school board members flew to Boston, Mass. to meet with educators and business leaders to further vet McIntyre.
  • Late-March 2008: The school board in a 5-4 vote picked McIntyre over Bob Thomas, the school system’s assistant superintendent.
  • July 2008: McIntyre starts work.
"At the time, I thought it was very helpful to have an outside search firm because they were objective and could also help us do a national search and have a large pool of candidates,” Kincannon said.

She added: "It was a long process, but it's worth taking your time to get it right."

Monday, January 4, 2016

Superintendent McIntyre resigning

Jim McIntyre
A little more than a month after agreeing to a two-year contract extension and pay raise, Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has agreed to step down in July in exchange for a one-year severance - something board members are expected to approve.

“The current political environment has become increasingly dysfunctional,” said McIntyre, who was hired in the spring of 2008. “At times overtly antagonistic, and seemingly untenable. At recent months the focus of the conversation has all too often become about me, or the school board or other elected officials, rather than around the effective education of our children.”

WATCH: Full video of McIntyre's press conference

The school board in the coming weeks will talk about the proposed buyout, which would amount to at least his $227,000 annual salary.

Once approved, McIntyre said his last day would be July 8. He said that he doesn't plan to leave Knox County and wants his children to graduate here.

"It has truly been a great honor and privilege for me to serve as the leader of this school system for eight years," McIntyre said.

ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW: Jim McIntyre speaks with 10News after news conference

The school board will more than likely conduct a national search to find his replacement. The board also will appoint an interim superintendent if one is not hired before McIntyre leaves.

“There is a new school board essentially coming in on Sept. 1. There will be several new members,” McIntyre said. “The new school board deserves to choose the leader that they want to have in place.”

As superintendent, McIntyre oversees a $438 million budget, 90 schools and a 7,500-person workforce that includes almost 5,000 teachers.

“I think it’s the toughest job in any county,” said school board Chairman Doug Harris said. “The respect that I’ve got for this man, it exceeds anything that I can describe.”
School board Vice Chairwoman Tracie Sanger agreed.

"I'm sad to see him go and I think he's done great work for the district, and in the long run, I think it'll be a great loss for our students."