Commissioner Lambert Takes Some Lumps
On Monday, the jury in the trial pitting Knoxville News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy and nine Knox County citizens against the Knox County Commission watched the public access tape of the January 31st Commission meeting that is at the center of the lawsuit. The record showed commissioners recessing several times when the appointment process didn't go smoothly,and spending a considerable amount of time discussing...something. The January 31st meeting moved quickly to it's conclusion, although on the recording, Commissioner Schmid referred to the process as "duplicitous and underhanded...insult to the people of the 4th district...selective swearing in...is stinking up the room."
However, the real fireworks of the day in court didn't take place until after the showing was finished and the jury dismissed.
At issue was a motion by the plaintiff for some kind of relief against Commissioner Greg Lambert for failing to turn over his phone records as subpoenaed earlier in the run up to trial. Lambert was not in the courtroom at the time,but his counsel, Deputy Law Director Mary Anne Stackhouse, said that he notified the plaintiff that he didn't have the phone records in question, and it was too late to get them now, since Cricket, his phone carrier,does not maintain phone records past 6 months. She also argued that if the plaintiff's wanted the phone records, they should have issued another subpoena to Cricket, instead of to Lambert. Richard Hollow, the lawyer for the plaintiffs countered her arguments, saying that Commissioner Lambert had a responsibility to provide those records,or to notify the plaintiffs if he was unable to do so.
Mr. Hollow went on to document to the judge just why the phone records were so important. According to him, Commissioner Lambert admitted in deposition to actions that violate the Sunshine Law, including conversations over the phone. Mr. Hollow wants the records to determine exactly who Lambert was talking to in order to find out who else violated the provisions of the act.
Chancellor Fansler was unsympathetic to Ms. Stackhouse's defense of Lambert. He pointed out that the other Commissioners had turned in their phone records, and questioned why Lambert was the only one who did not. He gave Lambert until 9AM today to present a written statement before ruling on Mr. Hollow's request for a summary judgment against Lambert, finding him guilty of violating the Sunshine Act.
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