Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Shameful Stunts In Knox Co. Commission

Even watching at a distance, the deeply unethical and rather silly actions of the Knox County Commission last week to fill seats of those who were elected even though they were not allowed to run due to term limits were most obvious.

I was immediately reminded of the character Fielding Mellish in Woody Allen's political comedy "Bananas," as he argues in a trial:

This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham."

That's what it was all right.

While state law might allow sitting county commissioners to fill a vacant seat, the problems in Knox were far beyond simple vacancies. Plainly, the election ballot from last fall was so error-filled the election results should be nullified. To add insult to injury, the commissoners violated the laws of open debate, despite the meeting being broadcast to the public.

Kudos to the KNS for filing a lawsuit noting the violations.

And it is quite clear a new election is needed, and Mayor Ragsdale has rightly called for a new one, and he has much support for it from the public and from certain more sensible commissioners. Be certain other elected officials are eyeing this mess to see what it means to them and the message needs to be clear -- the events last week were bad government and will not be tolerated.

Too often, elected officials violate the rule of law and meet in private to discuss how to vote and what to vote on. Deals were made in this case to continue providing taxpayer dollars as income to some elected officials in return for votes. And the time to correct this mess is now, not in another year.

Counties, cities and the state of Tennessee in general need to realize Ethics isn't a catchphrase - it's one of the ways to prevent and punish corruption and deceit. Ethics has real meaning to the public and the public has little confidence in government after such shameful stunts.

A moment-by-moment roundup of the meeting was live-blogged via KnoxViews, which you can read here.

More on the mayor's call for a special election is here and the KNS lawsuit here.

UPDATE: Blogger Linda Noe, a former Hamblen County Commissioner, has also been steadily tracking this story. Detailed posts are here, and in the post dated Jan. 12th. There she wrote:

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Term limits help restrict the growth of power in the hands of public officials, and so help reduce the corruption that all too frequently accompanies the accumulation of political power.

The Tennessee Waltz is a perfect example of what happens to far too many longtime elected officials when they become too powerful and choose to sell their power and influence to the highest bidder."

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