Monday, February 18, 2008

Violation of Open Meetings Law

UPDATE: School Board Chairwoman Karen Carson early in tonight's School Board workshop referred to School Board Member Thomas Deakins as Mr. Deakus. When Deakins corrected her spelling his name D-E-A-K-I-N-S. The Board Chair laughed and said "Mayor Ford kept referring to Thomas as Deakus the other night." The Board Chair's actions is a sure fire way to bite the hand that she is hoping will feed the school district with 15 free acres for a new Southwest Elementary School site. Sources close to Mayor Ford reveal that he didn't find humor in the Board Chair's mockery of him, tonight.

The Shopper newspaper article was brought up during tonight's School Board Forum by Board Member Cindy Buttry concerned about the appearance of an architectural contract for the new Southwest Elementary School have been let without following the County Charter's RFP requirements. (If you will recall in this years capital plan presented by the Knox County Mayor and approved by the Knox County Commission. Architectural design fees were placed in this years budget for Carter Elementary, Adrian Burnett Elementary, New Hopewell Elementary, the New Southwest Elementary and Belle Morris renovations. The proposed site by Alderman Rossell is for the New Southwest Elementary School.)

Board member Thomas Deakins revealed some interesting information during board forum tonight. "The Town has been working on this for sometime." Deakins also said "Alderman Rosseel has talked with the town administrators about this land and this proposal." He also said. "The renderings are just what it would look like for the family that currently owns the land." In response to the Shopper article authored by Sandra Clark, Deakins said. "What you read in the paper and what actually happened may be different." Deakins concluded with "The Town of Farragut will now have an open process."

At least three thoughts.

1) Why would the school system utilize its resources (in this case a pro-bono request) of an architect for the benefit of an indiviual family and for the sole benefit of a completely different governmental entity? When the request was made by a board member(s) to the Superintendent and a Senior level administrator of the School system for the permission to seek a pro-bono drawing. At that point the board member(s) were acting in their official capacity as board members on behalf of the School system for a Town of Farragut Alderman(s)?

2) If the "town" has been working on this for sometime why were the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor and members of the Farragut MPC totally shocked? Does the "town administrator" not talk to the town's Mayor or Vice-Mayor about his efforts on behalf of an Alderman?

3) If in Mr. Deakins words, "the Town of Farragut will now have an open process." Is that an indictment that the actions of Alderman Rosseel and others were not open? That now that the spotlight of the moon from a late night Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting is shining rather brightly on Alderman Rosseel, the Town Administrator and the Town of Farragut? Remember, (from Sandra Clark's article) members of the Farragut community were so outraged in watching one of their aldermen acting with such a total disregard for the public process that they marched on Town Hall in their house shoes and pajamas.

Original Post February 17, 2008 9:09 p.m.: In tomorrow's West Side Shopper News is a cover story that details a recent Town of Farragut Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting that potentially implicates four officials that serve on two different elected bodies as violating Tennessee's Open Meetings Law.

How did Karen Carson and Thomas Deakins of the Knox County School Board know of this discussion, in order to attend with a school system architect drawings when the Mayor, Vice-Mayor and members of the Farragut MPC did not know about it prior to Tom Rosseel's motion. It is reported that County Commissioner's Mike Hammond and Craig Leuthold are in suppport of the motion of Tom Rosseel when the Mayor, Vice-Mayor and members of the Farragut MPC were not aware of it until Rosseel made the motion.

Leuthold and Hammond are under a Chancellor's order not to violate the Open Meetings law. Will Herb Moncier now include them in an ouster suit?

While this blog has been critical of the publications of the Shopper News, this story has the potential of shaking two members of the Knox County Commission, two members of the Knox County School Board and the Town of Farragut like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Good job, Sandra.

The two best quotes of the evening came from Mayor Eddy Ford “This comes as a complete surprise to me,” and Vice-Mayor Mike Haynes who said “Those of us who have followed the sunshine law have not discussed this.”

More details as they develop.

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