Should Individuals that plead guilty to crimes (potentially crimes of moral turpitude) be able to judge you?

Since May of 2013 when Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby plead guilty to a May 2012 arrest, the question has floated around if the crime that Ownby plead guilty to is a crime of moral turpitude. Why? Because as a County Commissioner he sits on the Knox County Beer Board. As every person that applies for a Knox County beer license, they must swear an oath whether they have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. Shouldn’t the person that sits in authority over an applicant be of the same status or better?

On May 12, 2015 I asked Knox County Law Director Richard “Bud” Armstrong via email in the only way I believe a citizen journalist (aka me) should ask a question. I knew it wasn’t a technical open records request, but believed that because the comments have been made by public and many elected officials, surely Armstrong had some time to consider this since May 2012 and/or 2013 and would be ready with an answer.

Dear Law Director Armstrong, 
Under the Tennessee Open Records Act, §10-7-503 et seq., I am requesting your definition of facts and opinion related to a Knox County elected official. 

According to the definition of moral turpitude locate here 

multiplied with the May 10, 2013 guilty plea of Commissioner Jeff Ownby’s indecent exposure arrest on May 24, 2012 here.

The question, is his guilty plea a crime of moral turpitude? Also, as a County Commissioner serving on the Beer Board is it proper for him to be deciding the fate of applicants for beer licenses and punishments when the very people are sworn before beer board hearings, if they have ever been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude? 

Some definitions of crimes involving moral turpitude that I have questions involving Ownby’s guilty plea include but not limited to:

Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality

  • Adultery (see INA 101** repealed by Public Law 97-116)
  • Gross indecency
  • Lewdness
  • Prostitution

Now, on May 14, 2015 Law Director Armstrong responded with the following response.

Dear Mr. Hornback,

 A legal opinion is not an open record kept within the normal course of business.  You may wish to contact a private attorney.


 Richard B. Armstrong, Jr.

Knox County Law Director

I replied back to Armstrong with a funny response, should Armstrong choose to reveal it, that’s fine.

So, the voters of the fourth district  in 2016 will decide because the elected ones that possess offices in the City County Building want to protect each other.


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1 Response

  1. Thomas says:

    I say ask him again without the “open records” notation. Since he is elected by the taxpayers of this county he should be able to provide an opinion.