Knox County Commission votes ‘NO’ on McIntyre Contract
By Mike Steely
The Knox County Commission shot a cannon across the bow of the school board Monday afternoon, voting 9-2 against the Knox County Board of Education’s contract extention with Superintendent Jim McIntyre. So the vote by the commission, in effect, was a “no confidence” vote on Superintendent James McIntyre and the school board, which passed the extension of the contact until 2019 and gave McIntyre a raise. The non-binding commission vote was symbolic but was not useless in the eyes of the opponents to the contract that spoke to the commission last Monday.
The school board’s agreement guarantees McIntyre more than $1 million through 2019 if he is dismissed without cause by the next school board.
Commissioner Sam McKenzie asked why the contact was not on the consent agenda and Chairman Dave Wright said it was not because it did not pass unanimously in the previous week’s work session.
Commissioner Mike Brown said a “No” vote would simply inform the school board that the commission did not “approve of what they did.”
In a roll call vote, only Commissioners McKenzie and Amy Broyles voted to approve the contract.
The school board membership will change next year and the 5-4 support that the superintendent has had will apparently turn the other way. Opponents of the contract extension feel that five members of the school board gave McIntyre a large “golden parachute” if he is terminated by a new board. Opponents of the contract extension also believe it to be illegal based on a previous state court of appeals ruling.
The six-hour meeting also saw action on several other agenda items including an approval of an agreement between the Sheriff’s Department and Securus Technologies for a video visit program at the Knox County Jail.
Although several citizens spoke to permit person-to-person visitation, Chairman Wright said the commission “cannot influence the sheriff’s department on his visitation policies. That’s not the point of this contract.”
Opponents of the policy, which this year forbade person to person visitations for prisoners except with attorneys, said that illegal drugs in the jail didn’t come from visitors but from the staff, that the video-visits only dehumanizes people and that 70% of the inmates have not been tried for crimes yet.
The contract, which passed with only two “No” votes, continues the video-visit policy and generates some revenue for the Sheriff’s Department because families are charged to access the internet program. Free visitation is available at several kiosks at the jail but opponents say that system affords no privacy.
Rev. Harold Middlebrook told the commission that the county is moving away from rehabilitation and into profitmaking.
In other action the commission took no action on a request to voice support to change the state law regarding “Marriage Equality.” Several people spoke in favor of gay marriage and the supporters wore red during the public forum.
Mike Hammond, County Courts Clerk, told the commission that he found more than $2.6 million in undistributed funds that had accumulated over 40 to 50 years. He said the account has been closed and the found-money is being redistributed to the state and various departments.
Randy Nichols, Special Council for the Sheriff’s Office, told the meeting that “progress is going well” on a new Safety Center.
“We’re not quite ready yet for a money appropriation,” he said, adding that the request may be made in January or February.
Dr. Joe Carcello was honored by Chairman Wright and Commissioner Broyles for his service to the County Ethics Committee. Carcello resigned last month to take a position with the Security Exchange Commission. Carcello told the meeting that his replacement, David Shields, will be a good successor.