Knox commissioners discuss auditor hire, Seven Islands details [The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.]
(Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 17--Knox County Commission is starting the process of hiring an auditor to replace Richard Walls, who retired after the Audit Committee recommended firing him.
On Monday, commission members said during their regular work session that they wanted to see the pool of candidates and have an objective party working to cull the field.
"To make it totally independent and make sure it's not part of the administration," said Brad Anders, commission chairman.
The county's auditor is responsible for reviewing departments and searching for areas of fraud or waste with public funds. Walls had been responsible for a number of investigations leading to results in Knox County, but Audit Committee members were not happy with his recent work, saying that it was too little.
After the Audit Committee recommended firing Walls, County Commission instead offered the longtime employee a retirement package worth more than $30,000 in severance and buyouts.
How to fill that position has been a hot topic among Knox County political office holders lately.
"I like the idea that we have some type of outside person," Commissioner Mike Hammond said, "so that the perception is not that it's some kind of inside baseball."
According to county hiring rules, the Human Resources Department will advertise for the position and cull the field of applicants to three. Those applicants then go to the county's Audit Committee for review.
The Audit Committee then will send its recommendation, or recommendations, to the commission.
"But we don't have to take any of them," Anders said.
County Commission will next consider the resolution to begin the job search in its Sept. 23 regular meeting in the City County Building.
In other business, the commission also discussed a resolution to hand over 390 acres of land in the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge to the state. The land is expected to become Tennessee's newest state park.
Commissioners and County Mayor Tim Burchett agreed that the park is a key addition to the area.
"East Tennessee has been woefully underfunded by the state," Burchett said. "This will allow them to play a little bit of catch-up."
The Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge has eight miles of trails on river bottom fields. The county received the land in 2001 from the Seven Islands Foundation, a nonprofit land conservancy.
Commissioner Mike Brown, whose district contains portions of the anticipated park, may have let some guarded information slip during his comments at the meeting.
"The details of this are going to be announced Friday at the Legacy Parks luncheon," he said. Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to announce the land transfer at the luncheon at the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge, hosted by the Legacy Parks Foundation.
Then Brown listed some of those details ahead of the governor.
"The state will buy an additional 30 acres there," Brown said, with a long-term plan for a bridge over to the island.
Burchett, saying Brown may have let the cat out of the bag, attempted to diffuse the early release of such information with a joke. Commissioners also joked about farcical possible improvements.
"And it will have a Transporter, for you Star Trek fans," Burchett said.
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