Wednesday AM Trial Notes
9:35 Tim Greene takes the stand, testifies that the only contact he had with commissioners was with Mr. Pinkston and Mr. Clark. He also said that he knew the sons of another commissioner, Mr Alshie(sp?). On cross, Mr. Hollow asked if he was running for election, and determined that his campaign chairman was the same Mr. Alshie(sp?). Mr. Moncier elicited testimony that Mr. Greene would not want to remain in the seat if the appointment process was found to be in violation of the law. There was a noticeable pause when he answered that question.
9:45 Commissioner Huddleston takes the stand. States he had conversations with Commissioner Smith and Ballard about his appointment but that he didn't go to any public meetings. On cross, Mr.Moncier asked if he was running for election, and if he was collecting money. Moncier also got the same statement from Huddleston about not serving if the appointment process was found to be in violation of the law. Mr. Moncier also asked if Commissioner Huddleston was aware that there was an Appellate court case asking for a special election in Knox County. Commissioner Huddleston said no.
9:50 Former Commissioner Guthe takes the stand. Asked what he did to prepare for the appointment process. He states that after the decision, he met with Commissioner Griess and together, they decided that a special election would be the best way to fill the term limited seats. They consulted with County Chief Law Director John Owings who told them that an election was not allowed by law,that the seats must be filled by appointment. Guthe said he investigated further, asking the State Senators if a special election were possible, and was told that if they got a super majority of commissioners to sign on, the senators could make an appeal to the legislature. Costs were discussed, as well as the oncoming Presidential primary. After discussion on the 26th, it was clear that there weren't even 10 commissioners in favor of a special election. He says he suggested to Chairman Moore the January 31st date.
Commissioner Guthe said that before, during and after meetings, there are conversations and "opportunities for commissioners to say 'Who do you want to nominate?' "
"I never disclosed who my choice is going to be."
"I will support whoever you [the term limited commissioner] nominate and I hope you'll do the same for me."
"Commissioner Schmid came by and he began laying out his scheme for filling our seats."
Commissioner Guthe stated that he did not go along with the plan,and he also said that he kept his silence on who he would nominate. He said he got a phone call from Greg Lambert to support George Stookesbury for County Clerk and informing him that Lambert was going to nominate Sharon Cawood. He got a call from Mike Hammond and Billy Tindell and told them both he would support their choices in their districts and hoped they would support his. Guthe heard from Schmid that Lee Tramel had the inside track to the seat Mr. Guthe was vacating. Mr. Guthe then said that he decided if the silent commissioners were working behind the scenes to place their candidate in his seat, he was going to make them work for it.
Mr. Guthe said that during the recesses, he just sat in his seat during two of them. During one, he left the building. "I needed to get some distance between me and what was going on inside."
He said Commissioner Schmid pointed out to him that Diane Jordan had changed her vote. He asked her why, and then said he didn't remember her answer.
Guthe was asked about the motion he made after he saw Chucky Bolus take his seat on the Commission. He said it was all about having another chance to get his candidate in. Again, he said he wanted to make whoever won the seat work for it.
10:28 On cross, Mr. Hollow emphasized Mr. Guthe's efforts for a special election, and then detailed the debate over an 'open' appointment process. Guthe said he was against a public hearing process, mainly because it provided commissioners political cover for their appointments, and it panders to special interests. "It would have been an exercise in futility, wouldn't it?" "Yes" Mr. Hollow then asked about the Jan 31st meeting, and whether the rules in place effectively removed all public input and oversight into the process. Mr. Guthe was a little evasive, but essentially agreed. When asked directly if the votes were lined up before the meeting, he was evasive, but then Mr. Hollow took him through each district seat up for appointment, and Mr. Guthe agreed that the choices of the outgoing commissioners were known ahead of time, and that he was going to respect the wishes of the outgoing commissioners.
Mr.Guthe testified that he abstained from voting because "[I]t was understood that one candidate would get ten votes."
Mr. Hollow "And that candidate was Mr. Tramel."
Mr. Guthe "Yes."
Mr. Hollow "And that those people worked somehow,someway, somewhere other than at the meeting to make that come about?"
Mr. Guthe "I'm sure of it."
10:50 Ten minute recess.
11:03 Mr. Moncier begins his cross. He begins by eliciting Mr. Guthe's knowledge of the good ole boys (my term) network in Knox County. Reviews an email between Guthe and Griess, in which Guthe wrote that "Scotty says that whatever Ragsdale's plan is, he wants to do the opposite."
Mr. Guthe said yes that he, Commissioner Griess, and Scott Moore were deliberating about how the process would take place. Moncier tries to get Guthe to admit that he was trading votes. Guthe would not make that admission, stating that his support for other commissioner's candidates was based on respect for the commissioner, not on an attempt to trade votes. Mr. Guthe seems to be trying very hard not to be as antagonistic towards the commissioners as Larry Smith was. He's working at not drawing conclusions about commissioners' actions. Is he trying to be fair, or to maintain his political connections?
Moncier then proceeds to question Mr. Guthe about the lawsuit to declare the Knox County Charter invalid. Mr. Guthe said he wasn't trying to maintain his seat, only to clarify the law regarding the charter. Previously in testimony, he called the day that the ruling on his suit came out as "Black Friday." Mr. Moncier is blasting away at Guthe for the lawsuit.
Redirect: Ms. Stackhouse revisits the idea of the special election, specifically a letter from the State Commissioner of Elections that stated that a special election was not authorized. Mr. Moncier asks if the State Commissioner of Elections is the same person who ruled that the term limited commissioners could remain on the ballot. Mr. Guthe says yes. Mr. Hollow points out that the letter doesn't say that a special isn't allowed, only that it can't be called by the County Election Commission.
11:47 Break for lunch till 1:00PM
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