Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Knox Co. Commission Guilty In Sunshine Law Case

It only took a few hours today for the jurors to return with a guilty verdict for the Knox County Commission, who were accused of violating the state's laws regarding open meetings. The verdict was read out at about 1:30 this afternoon. More details will follow, and updates are frequent at the Knoxville News Sentinel, which brought this lawsuit forward:

The jury ruled that Knox County commissioners violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act in setting in secret a specially called Jan. 31 meeting to replace 12 term-limited officeholders.

The jury also opined the commission did nothing to rectify that violation.

Jurors determined that commissioners decided in secret who would win all 12 of the term-limited seats left vacant after a Jan. 12 state Supreme Court ruling.

In the run-up to the meeting at which those appointments were officially made the jury concluded that two appointees, Charles Bolus and Lee Tramel, won their seats not at the public portion of the Jan. 31 meeting but instead in the hallway during recesses.

Finally, the jury officially branded Bolus a liar. Bolus had testified that there was no plan for him to be sworn in early but instead he opted to do so on his own.

Jurors disagreed.

The Knox County Law Department had sought to convince jurors that even if violations of the law were made the Jan. 31 meeting fixed the problem.

Jurors rejected that argument.

It is now up to Chancellor Daryl R. Fansler to decide what penalties to level. The law imposes no criminal sanctions or financial penalties. Instead, Fansler could issue an injunction against commission and order the panel to make the appointments again."

Even watching these events unfold at a distance, that meeting was clearly rife with illegal acts and the appointment process was government at it's worst. I am not one bit surprised the jurors went for the guilty verdict.

Will Knox County appeal?

My advice is to follow the jury's decision, fix the mess ASAP and learn from their blatant errors.

NOTE: Updates and bloggers' reactions are compiled by Michael Silence.

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