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letters to the editor


Markli sheds sunshine

I was very disappointed by the “OURVIEW: SUNSHINE” article published in the Oct. 1 edition of farragutpress.

Contrary to the assertion of your article, anyone who reads the e-mails surrounding this matter will quickly see that the question of an additional appointment to the Economic Development Committee was neither “campaigned nor settled outside the public forum.”

The only e-mail concerning this appointment came from me and contained nothing that had not been openly discussed on camera in the prior meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The applicant’s qualifications were discussed in that Sept. 10 meeting and all agreed that he would be a true asset to the board but, as a point of order, he could not be appointed at that time because his application could not be found and his name did not appear on the agenda. I brought his name up in that meeting because I had personal knowledge that he had submitted an application and the board merely deferred his appointment until an application could be resubmitted, which was promptly done.

His application was submitted by staff on the agenda for the Sept. 24 meeting along with a letter from Town Administrator Gary Palmer recommending his appointment, and he was approved there by unanimous vote.


Further, the mayor and two aldermen responded to my e-mail by reprimanding me regarding the Sunshine law. There was no other communication between us on the matter. So to assert that the matter was “campaigned and settled outside the public forum” is categorically false. The ’press’s article unfairly discredits a fine mayor and Board who are trying to do well by the Town.

If anyone should be criticized in this matter it would be I alone and I take full responsibility for my letter.  



Sincerely,

Alderman Bob Markli 





Different conclusion

It is said people can read the same information and come to different conclusions.

In the item called “ourview: sunshine” in farragutpress Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009, you indicate that you have a problem with how the issue of an appointment to the Economic Development Review Committee was handled by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen in Farragut. Your last sentence states, “It’s not a request; it is the law.”

Based on your editorial, I went to Town Hall and filled out the appropriate paperwork to obtain the same e-mails that you obtained. The e-mails are attached.

After our review of the e-mails it appears to us that one of the new aldermen wrote an e-mail to the Mayor and other Aldermen requesting that a certain person be appointed as a committee member. Almost immediately three of the members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen sent an e-mail in response that this was a violation or potential violation of the sunshine law. The alderman that sent the first e-mail of request immediately agreed with the interpretation of the law by the other BOMA members. The matter appears to have no further discussion until the next open meeting.

Fourteen of us reviewed the data and believe that this issue being compared to the recent Knox County Chancery Court ruling is unfair to our elected officials. Our names are below and we are all Farragut residents and voters. This appears to be an honest mistake by one member of the BOMA. We need to show some appreciation to the individuals that chose to run for office in Farragut and celebrate the fact that we are fortunate to live here. No city taxes, good service from the employees, great parks, plenty of activities, a wonderful museum and many other things that could not be so positive without people willing to spend the countless unpaid hours they do to make our life better.



Gary Schmitz

Ted Scotes

Cathy Herod

Bill Blair

Fran Ryan

Steve Hildebrand

Clark Julius

Frank Galick

Ed Whiting

Terry Finnell

Rick Herod

Cornell Ward

Hal Johnson

Frank DiRenzo





Nixon addresses

editorial

In your Oct. 1, 2009 paper, I read the opinion article “Ourview: Sunshine” referring to the process by which I was appointed to the Farragut Economic Development Committee. I wish to comment as follows:

1. Turkey Creek Land Partners and Farragut Land Partners, which I represent, have built attractive and productive developments within the town of Farragut since 1995. Our retail stores produce a significant portion of the town of Farragut’s sales tax revenue. I have personally held numerous meetings and communications with Town staff, various aldermen, Mayor [Eddy] Ford previously and now Mayor [Ralph] McGill, and most Planning Commission members over the past 14 years. At no time have I violated the Sunshine Law. I know “it’s the law” not a request. I agree with the law and faithfully follow it.

2. I had no knowledge of any emails being sent on behalf of my candidacy for the Economic Development Committee. I did not request or solicit any communications be sent. I did not seek this appointment from anyone at anytime.

3. I sent a timely application to The Town of Farragut indicating my desire to serve on this Committee. Someone at Town Hall will have to answer where and when that application became lost. I filled out a replacement application recently when my earlier application could not be located.

4. The comparison made in your article to the recent Knox County Court ruling is far off base. The Knox County actions by Knox County Commissioners were clearly designed to circumvent the Sunshine Law, were intentional, and resulted in an outcome that was overturned in court. The recent action by Farragut alderman recounted in your opinion article clearly was not done intentionally. After consulting with a prominent attorney, I do not believe the e-mails in question broke the Sunshine Law.

5. To Mayor McGill: Please do not let this opinion article side track you from continuing to propose innovative ideas that help the town of Farragut. The Economic Development Committee is a good idea. Thank you for proposing it. Keep your “eye on the ball” not on farragutpress opinion articles.



Sincerely,

Jim Nixon



McGill response

The Farragut Press provides a great service to the town of Farragut and the surrounding areas, no question. Their reporting of news of the Town is excellent because it is always fair, balanced, and accurate. I have praised the paper for this excellence in many circles. I’m here today, though, not to praise them but to rebut their editorial in last week’s issue. The editorial, “Ourview:Sunshine,” was NOT fair, balanced and accurate, and by omission of a significant part of the “story” they have misrepresented the details of this incident and done a disservice to their readers.

The issue at question was the appointment of Jim Nixon to the Economic Development Committee at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) meeting of Sept. 24. We made appointments of 13 people to that committee on Sept. 10, but while we had expected to see an application from Mr. Nixon, there was not one that could be found, and we could not appoint him that night. We agreed at that time that if we received an application from him we could appoint him at the next BOMA meeting. We did receive an application from him and did appoint him to the committee meeting at the BOMA meeting on Sept. 24.

Shortly before the Sept. 24 meeting, though, one alderman sent an e-mail to the rest of the BOMA advocating the appointment of Jim Nixon. This violated the Open Meetings Act (Sunshine Law) because advocating is part of the process of deliberation on any given issue and ALL deliberations of the BOMA must take place in an advertised, open public meeting. Was the e-mail a violation? Absolutely. Should the alderman have known that it was a violation? Absolutely. Did he know? I don’t know. I have very little contact with the aldermen except in the venue of public meetings. I do have a notion that he did not know it was illegal, but that certainly does not change the fact that it was a violation. Of course, I can’t control what anyone sends to me in an e-mail. But, I can control what I send.

What happened next was totally omitted from discussion in the editorial, and I have to wonder why. I immediately sent an e-mail back to the alderman pointing out that his e-mail was probably a violation of the Sunshine Law and should not have been sent. Shortly after, another alderman sent an e-mail echoing that it was a violation. And, another alderman followed pointing out that it should be brought up in the meeting. My question to the farragutpress is, what would you have had us do that we did not do in response to the illegal e-mail?

I am also troubled by the choice of words by the writer of the editorial. “An e-mail campaign was conducted within the Board.” In my mind, one errant e-mail does not constitute an “e-mail campaign.” “Simply, Town business was being discussed behind closed doors.” “It is clear that the matter was campaigned and settled outside the public forum.” These phrases would lead most people to think that there are wholesale violations of the Sunshine Law happening in the Town.

If the author of the editorial has specific knowledge of discussions between BOMA members outside the public forum other than the one e-mail, he should bring charges against us. If he does not have such knowledge, then he should apologize for suggesting such, and he needs to think about the words he chooses for such editorials in the future.

Going forward we are going to assure that there is never a repeat of this incident with new strict rules and more training for the BOMA and others of the Town’s boards.

All that has been discussed here is a matter of public record. You don’t have to take our word for it. If any readers of the farragutpress would like to see all of the same e-mails, I will gladly provide them.



Ralph McGill, Mayor

Farragut

 

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