Knox County Audit Committee meetings under review [The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.]
(Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 23--Perception, as the phrase goes, is often reality, and those close to the Knox County Audit Committee have said they are feeling public scrutiny over a series of summer meetings they held before their recommendation to fire auditor Richard Walls.
"Unfortunately that seems to be the case," Commissioner Amy Broyles said Friday.
She is a member of the audit committee and sat in on publicly called gatherings with the chairman Joseph Carcello in late June and early July. Some members of the public, and even the state's open meetings attorney have questioned the perceived lack of openness of the meetings.
In those meetings Carcello discussed the job performance of Walls before the committee voted to recommend his termination in a July 9 meeting.
Knox County Commission did not act on that recommendation, but is expected to offer Walls a retirement package Monday.
The perception that those meetings Carcello held could be outside of open meeting rules is still at issue for some.
"That is the perception," Knox County Law Director Richard "Bud" Armstrong said, "and, once again, it is perception."
Armstrong said he is reviewing the notes from those meetings, and has spoken with Carcello. His investigation was prompted in part by a letter from Elisha Hodge, Tennessee's open records counsel. She wrote a letter about the process and meetings held by Carcello.
"I cannot say for certain ... (but) it appears that a violation of the Open Meetings Act may have occurred," Hodge wrote. "Despite the fact that the notice was published for all of the meetings, the content of the notice seemingly fails to include the issues to be discussed at the meetings or an accurate description of the subject and the action to be taken."
The audit committee functions as an advisory panel to Commission and therefore is subject to open meetings rules that govern public bodies, informally called sunshine law.
Armstrong told the News Sentinel on Friday that his investigation is ongoing and that he will release an opinion after the audit committee meets again in September.
He said that he expects Carcello to detail the minutes of prior committee meetings then, including those he held with committee members before July 9 regarding Walls' employment.
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