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Deakins named to ethics panel


Knox County Schools Ethics Committee has a new member.

Thomas Deakins, Farragut’s Sixth District School Board representative, was named to KCS Ethics Committee Wednesday, Feb. 4.

Deakins, a former member of Knox County Ethics Committee, will bring experience to the committee along with his own views on ethical conduct.

“I believe in ethics and I think public officials need to be held accountable,” Deakins said.

“We need to be held accountable for what we do with taxpayers’ dollars, but also, the thing about being an elected official is, your public life is open and people look at that. And that is fine. That is what you get when you run for these offices. The things you do in your private life will be exposed. And some of those things, sometimes people question whether or not they are ethical,” he added.


The committee, which has been in existence less than two months, was formed in response to recent legislation allowing School Boards to write their own ethics policy.

“We felt it was better for us, if we were going to form our own ethics policy, to form our own committee to oversee that policy and allow citizens, or anyone that had a complaint, to bring that to the body. And then the ethics committee would investigate that complaint, or at least look at it, to determine if it was credible,” Deakins said.

KCS ethics policy mirrors that of the Tennessee School Board Association, which can be found at www.tsba .net/

“It defines the role of a board member. It defines what you should be accountable for and just basically says you should not take gifts that would influence your vote … things that are normal, things people should know. But for some reason we need to have an ethics policy … we need to have those guidelines,” Deakins said.

The committee is made up of two School Board members and one employee from the school system. The committee has not yet named a chairman and is in the process of determining the process for filing complaints.

“We are working through that procedure right now. One of the things we are looking at is whether that complaint would have to be sworn by a notary. Because it is very easy to say that you think there is an ethics violation and file a complaint. But we are saying if you really think that; please go through the proper process to bring forward that complaint. We won’t take a complaints from somebody who just sends an e-mail and they are anonymous because in this day and age we just have too much of that,” Deakins said.

If the committee follows the mold of Knox County Ethics Committee, Deakins said, the chair would receive the complaints and share the information with the committee. From there the committee would decide if the complaint warrants further investigation. All meetings are subject to the open meetings law.

“We can do one of three things. First, we can investigate it and determine that the complaint does not need to be moved on or investigated further. Second, we can ask for an investigation to be opened and looked at by the county law director. And the third thing is, if we think that there is something really there that looks deeper, we would go to the district attorney,” Deakins said.

Deakins also has asked that a representative from the county law director’s office be present at each meeting of the Ethics Committee.

“I have asked for that to make sure we are following the proper procedure and state law because you do not want to go out of bounds when you start looking at these things,” he added.

 

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