Friday the newly created Merit System Board of Directors for Sheriff’s Employees met to organize. I was unable to attend due to work commitments. However, I trust my sources and the meeting is recorded by the Knoxville Community Media, so if I find that something needs to be corrected, I will do so.
A nomination was made for John Valliant to be Chairman. Member John Marshall moved to postpone election of officers until January, which leaves Jim Wright, Jr. as Chair until then. Marshall’s rationale was that the ordinance says to elect officers in January of each year. That is fine except that the ordinance also states they Board of Directors must have a Vice Chair and no Vice Chair exist from November 18 until Chairman Wright calls a meeting in January. Apparently Myers Morton of the Knox County Law Department concurred with Marshall’s recommendation, but was silent on being out of compliance with the ordinance about having a Vice Chair. You remember Morton from the March 2022 “you can not sue the king” fame, here.
I am told a few Knox County Commissioners were present to watch the meeting, Kim Fraizer of the at Large Seat 11 seat, Gina Oster of the Third District seat and the occupant of the at Large Seat 10 seat. I am also told that Seat 10 remained on his phone most of the time. Additionally, I am told Jesse Mayshark of the Compass was there. However, the weekly Focus publication was not present. I guess like me, they were working.
Sheriff Tom Spangler spoke to the Board and stated that he desires that the Merit System exist. He also repeated his request to hire 18 year olds, fresh out of high school to be Corrections Officer, supervising pods of inmates. As I recall from my service on the Knox County Jail Inspection Committee, pod of inmates is between 36 – 50 or so inmates. The Sheriff supposedly said his intent is enticing the high school graduates with a $39,000 salary. He is said to have stated he would have done that. As I recall, based on the Sheriff’s resume, he enlisted into the Air Force after high school.
At last Monday’s Knox County Commission Work Session, at Large Seat 11 Commissioner Frazier asked the Sheriff and Allison Rogers, the Knox County Sheriff’s Finance Director to talk about the increasing issue of overtime spent and budgeted. Last fiscal year, the overtime budget was $300,000 but they spent $967,000. This current fiscal year the overtime budget is $500,000 but is projected to spend $1,400,000. The Sheriff was quick to say the money is coming from existing vacancies, he has not asked for and is not now asking for additional dollars to fund the overtime.
The Sheriff reported the department is 88 Correctional Officers short and a total of 196 vacancies. They are short one third of the needed Correctional Officers.