Monthly Archives: September 2015

Officer suspended for refusing to shoot skunk

Mount Carmel Police Department Officer David Dean received a three day suspension earlier this month for refusing to shoot a skunk that had bitten a child, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Dean reportedly violated departmental policy when he gave his duty weapon to fire Chief Ryan Christian, who fired three shoots to kill the skunk.

…Animal control officer Eddie Seabolt received a walk-in complaint at the municipal animal shelter from a woman whose 6-year-old daughter had been bitten by a skunk at their residence on the 700th block of Hammond Avenue.

The child was reportedly taken to receive medical attention, and Seabolt responded to the residence where he located what was determined to be an injured baby skunk.

Mount Carmel prohibits its animal control officer from euthanizing animals. Dean responded to the residence. Christian also responded to the residence to assist.

“Officer Seabolt stated once Patrolman Dean arrived on the scene he told him he needed for him to kill the injured skunk because it had bitten a child and the head had to be sent off and be checked for rabies,” Robinette stated in his report. “(Seabolt) stated Patrolman Dean stated he couldn’t kill an animal and he refused to kill the animal, knowing it had bitten a child.”

Dean gave a written statement in which he described the baby skunk as being injured and appearing as if it had either been hit by a vehicle or attacked by another animal.

According to his own statement Dean told Seabolt, “It’s hard for me to shoot an animal unless it’s trying to eat me because it’s here for a purpose and really hard to shoot an animal when it’s injured.”

…Fortunately for the child, the skunk wasn’t rabid.

THP picked for national pilot program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Highway Patrol has been selected to be a lead agency in a national pilot program.

THP Colonel Tracy Trott says the agency has been selected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a partnering agency to conduct an occupant safety enforcement pilot program.

The THP has identified two counties where fatal crashes have increased due to lack of seatbelt use. They are Bedford and Hawkins counties.

The program kicks off in October and concludes Sept. 30, 2016. The THP will collect occupant protection data including seat belts, child restraint devices and motorcycle helmets from all participating agencies.

The information will be combined with the THP’s data and submitted monthly to NHTSA.

Year to date, 48 percent of all traffic fatalities in Tennessee were unrestrained motorists, compared with 54 percent in 2010.

Rogero coasts to new term as Knoxville mayor

Mayor Madeline Rogero and most other incumbent city officials easily won new terms in Knoxville’s city elections Tuesday, reports the News Sentinel.

The only City Council seat left to be decided pits small-business owner Pete Bonovich against incumbent Finbarr Saunders in November.

“This campaign was a lot easier this time around,” Rogero said on stage at The Standard following her victory. “I think because of the outstanding success of our first term.”

Rogero had 3,711 votes, according to unofficial returns, versus 46 for write-in candidate Jack Knoxville. (Note: All election results HERE.)

Both (council) candidates lamented the historically low turnout that continued Tuesday, with just 4,748 votes cast in a city with roughly 105,000 registered voters. Knox County Election Commissioner Cliff Rodgers said he was expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 voters. About 2,000 cast their ballots during early voting.

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TN Firearms Association plans to sue Knoxville

The Tennessee Firearms Association is preparing a lawsuit against the city of Knoxville for what its leaders contend was a violation of the state guns in parks
law during the Tennessee Valley Fair at Chilhowee Park, reports the News Sentinel.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said Chilhowee Park does not meet the legal definition of a city park, noting it is not managed by the city Parks and Recreation Department.

An email sent to TFA members over the weekend solicited donations for the lawsuit.

“Although it’s difficult to predict what the costs of this may be, TFA leadership presently estimates that even if the legal services are donated the costs of such an action (filing fees, depositions, etc.) could easily be in the range of $10,000 and substantially more if there is an appeal,” the message said.

The mayor is not ready to respond to the TFA claims, a city spokesman said.

“We typically can’t comment on pending litigation, and we likewise can’t comment on a potential lawsuit that hasn’t yet been filed,” spokesman Eric Vreeland said.

Knoxville attorney Andrew Fox said he would be representing the TFA. The lawsuit is still in the conceptual stage but will definitely be filed, he said.

Fox said the mayor was playing word games when she arbitrarily created her own definition of which areas are parks. It really doesn’t matter whether Chilhowee Park is a park or whether it’s managed by the Parks and Recreation Department, he said.

Judge rules against Hooker’s assisted suicide lawsuit

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A former Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is terminally ill cannot die by assisted suicide, a judge ruled Tuesday, saying doctors engaging in such a practice are committing “criminal conduct.”

John Jay Hooker, 84, has terminal cancer and has doctors who have expressed a willingness to prescribe him a lethal dosage of painkillers.

State law allows a person to refuse end-of-life care, but aid-in-dying or assisted suicide is illegal in Tennessee. Doctors in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana can prescribe life-ending drugs, and California lawmakers passed legislation earlier this month that would allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.

In Tennessee, doctors sought protection from prosecution if Hooker was administered the drugs.

Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled against the plaintiffs. She said they “do not have standing to bring this action.”

“The aid-in-dying prescription involves a script for a lethal dose of medication to cause quick death, not to provide palliative care to relieve physical pain and discomfort, as is allowed,” McCoy said. “If the physicians intend to provide lethal drugs to end their patients’ lives, they engage in criminal conduct.”

Hooker’s attorney, Hal Hardin, did not immediately return a call. But he has argued that a person has a fundamental right to die with a doctor’s help under the Tennessee Constitution.

Hardin has said state law is contradictory and unconstitutionally vague, but McCoy disagreed.

“The assisted-suicide statute is constitutional, is not void for vagueness and does not violate any of the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights under the Tennessee or U.S. Constitutions,” she ruled.

Hooker, who has fought for civil and constitutional rights for 60 years, told the AP in a phone interview that he plans to appeal the ruling.

“For decades I have been challenging judges who won’t honor the constitution,” he said. “And I’m going to continue, until the day I die.”

Museum housing art owned by museum board member

The Tennessee State Museum houses nearly 200 works of art owned by a member of the State Museum Commission, which oversees the museum, reports WTVF.

The arrangement has raised concerns from another commission member about whether taxpayers are paying to store privately owned art — despite limited space and staff at the museum.

Commissioner Walter Knestrick is a longtime collector of the works of Tennessee artist Red Grooms. Many of the Grooms paintings that he owns are located at the Tennessee State Museum.

“Taxpayers should not pay for the storage for paintings which are privately held and no date for a final donation has been determined,” Commissioner Victor Ashe told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

But the longtime executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, passionately defended the arrangement.

Riggins-Ezzell disputed criticism from Ashe, but was occasionally told to watch her comments by the museum’s media relations person who sat in on the interview.

“There’s no bad use of public money,” Riggins-Ezzell insisted. “There’s no bad use of manipulating a system to help an old rich man.”

…Victor Ashe told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, “Taxpayers should not pay for the staff time to select and package privately owned items out of state.”

Riggins-Ezzell responded, “I certainly have great respect for the concerns Mr. Ashe may have. We simply are seldom on the same page.”

…Riggins-Ezell said the museum is fortunate that Knestrick loaned the art to the museum and is now in talks to gift them.

“What a gift this is for the citizens of Tennessee. Who would want for the citizens of Tennessee not to have this in perpetuity?”” Riggins-Ezzell asked.

But currently there is no written agreement between Knestrick and the state for him to donate the paintings.

Until that time, Ashe said, its wrong they are stored, insured and displayed at museum expense.

Riggins-Ezzell said the paintings don’t cost the state more to insure because it has a blanket policy.

She said Knestrick and the Tennessee Attorney General are working on an official agreement to donate the works of art.

Hooker seeks speedy ruling on ‘right to die with dignity’

John Jay Hooker, suffering from terminal cancer, is asking a Nashville judge to speed up a ruling on his “right to die with dignity” lawsuit challenging a state law that prohibits physicians from providing lethal drugs to the terminally ill, reports WTVF. He also got the Davidson County grand jury to issue a statement supporting his call for the Legislature to change the law.

“We filed a motion today that respectfully says ‘let’s get on with it,’ because whatever she decides is going to be appealed,” said Hooker. “If she decides in my favor it’ll go up the other side and will be appealed and we’ll appeal and what we need is the next best answer to ‘yes’ is ‘no’ so that we can take it on up to the next level.”

Meanwhile, A Davidson County Grand Jury also heard from the longtime lawyer, political activist and civil rights leader because he claims that Legislators abused their powers when they passed the law prohibiting people to take their own lives.

The Jury issued a statement on Friday showing their support for Hooker’s fight to get the state’s law amended to give patients an end of life option.

Hooker planned to send a copy of that Grand Jury statement to all members of the legislature because he said the fight is not over.

“I’ve been fighting for civil rights and fighting against the judges’ way of electionv and I’ve been sticking my nose in the public business for a long, long time,” said Hooker. “This gives me a special thrill because so many people so deeply relate to it.”

John Jay Hooker has been taking experimental medicines that make it difficult for him to walk, and make him itch, but are helping him retain the ability to get around, at least for the time being.

TDOT blows up a bridge

Here’s the email from the Tennessee Department of Transportation sent along to media with a link to the video:

Near Smithville in DeKalb County, spans from the 1948 truss bridge on U.S. 70 over the Caney Fork River and Sligo Road were taken down today. TDOT is nearing completion of a $39 million project to replace the truss bridge with a new welded steel plate girder bridge. The new bridge was open to traffic in early August 2015. Demolition of the old bridge is an important phase in the project. The project is slated for total completion in June 2016, but it is very likely that it will be completed ahead of schedule.

If you keep watching after the first video, there are more afterwards.

Fleischmann, Luttrell head Huckabee’s TN campaign

News release from Mike Huckabee campaign
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Former Arkansas Governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee announced his Tennessee leadership team today, which includes U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. The Washington Post reported that Huckabee is building a “southern firewall”.

“Governor Huckabee has been a steadfast fiscal and social conservative and has the proven executive leadership our country desperately needs. The people of Tennessee share his values. I am honored to be on his team and look forward to helping him to victory in Tennessee,” said Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, Huckabee for President Tennessee State Chair.

“I personally know Mike Huckabee’s character as he successfully led the State of Arkansas as Governor for 10 years. He is a man of high principles and fiscal integrity which are key ingredients needed to lead our nation and restore America to greatness,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Huckabee for President Tennessee Co-Chair.
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TN politicians fretting about VW troubles

Excerpts from a Times-Free Press story:

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said VW needs to get to the bottom of the scandal.

“You know they’re talking about fines. I think they need to be talking about people going to jail if they did this,” McCormick said. “It’s a huge fraud by a huge company that has plenty of attorneys to vet this kind of thing. There’s no excuse for it.”

McCormick said plant workers have asked him, “‘Do you think this is going to affect us? Or are they going to close the plant, that kind of thing. I can’t imagine they would close the plant after making that big investment. It wouldn’t shock me if they didn’t slow down their expansion plans though.'”

Meanwhile, Haslam said he has two concerns.

“No. 1, we have an investment in the original plant and then the expansion. Second, we obviously have a vested interest in their success; I mean, in them selling cars. And so we’re urging them to get everything out in front of everybody as quickly as possible so existing customers can understand what the solution is going to be and [so] that Volkswagen can have a clear path forward.”

Tennessee government provided an estimated $358.2 million of the original $577.4 million in incentives that drew Volkswagen to build its Passat in Chattanooga. Local governments provided the remaining $219.2 million.

And this year Tennessee, Chattanooga and Hamilton County governments committed to more than $260 million in incentives for a new line of SUV production.

“Obviously there’s a lot of questions out there in the consumers’ mind. I think that’s why it’s really important for Volkswagen to come out quickly and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to [do to] address our existing customers and here’s why we can assure potential customers that they’re going to get the vehicle they think they’re buying,'” Haslam said.

Watson said there are worries of a domino effect on jobs related to the plant and its suppliers.

“That’s all of our concerns,” the Senate speaker pro tempore said.