Constitutional Conservative Citizen and Attorney Steve Weiner Schools Buuck

At the Knox County Work Session on Tuesday June 21, 2022 Commissioner John Schoonmaker asked Commissioner Larsen Jay and Knox County Law Director David Buuck to respond to a letter they received about an ordinance change Jay brought to Commission. Jay quickly deferred to Buuck. The letter is this one I published.

What I did not know, watching the live stream and could not see from the vantage point of the Knoxville Community Media cameras was that the author of the letter Steve Weiner was sitting on the third row. Buuck spoke as if the author was an anonymous letter to the editor published in a weekly newspaper. Buuck ignoring Weiner was right in front of him. It makes sense now why when the camera is on Jay it appears that he has his body turned away from the audience. Weiner received more than 43.5% of the vote against Jay in the May 3, 2022 Republican Primary, more than 11,000 individual voters chose Weiner over Jay. Jay had campaigned for over a year, Weiner entered the race in late January.

Apparently, it did not occur to any one on the Commission to recognize Weiner at the meeting. Weiner went back in his spare time of a successful law firm to respond and attached as proof a 19 page document created by Buuck’s predecessor and former boss Richard B. Armstrong.

The letter is below.

Mr. Buuck,
You mentioned at this week’s worksession that the Sheriff’s Merit Council is not presently governed by the Sheriff’s Civil Service Law of 1974.  Accordingly, you summarily dismissed my concerns raised in my June 20th email to commission regarding noncompliance with that law.  I have done some research into this matter and found a memorandum from your office dated June 14, 2018 concerning “Merit System Council Policy and Procedure.”  This memorandum clearly states that it is the position of the Law Director that the provisions of the Sheriff’s Civil Service Law of 1974 apply to Knox County. See attached at pg. 2.  A copy of this memorandum is attached for your review, review of all commissioners, and review by media outlets.  Your office’s flip-flopping on this issue demonstrates to me and to the public that there should be considerable caution in accepting your advice concerning this matter.

Another issue you brought up in response to my previous correspondence was Tennessee’s Little Hatch Act and how that supposedly allows the broad and sweeping restrictions on political speech proposed by this ordinance.  While it is true that the county may restrict speech while governmental employees are on duty (e.g. a sheriff’s deputy canvassing while in uniform), the state’s Little Hatch Act expressly permits political activity of off duty employees.  See T.C.A. 2-19-207(a).  I am sure this was an oversight on your part and not a deliberate attempt to mislead commissioners.  I also am sure you know that it is illegal to “…directly or indirectly, to deprive, attempt to deprive, or threaten to deprive any person of employment, position, work, compensation, contracts, loans, grants, appropriations or benefits provided principally from public funds for any political activity, support or opposition to any candidate, party or measure in any election.”  See T.C.A. 2-19-205.  This could potentially open up county employees charged with enforcing the ban on political speech and participation to liability for a Little Hatch Act violation.

The proposed ordinance 0-22-6-103 creates an unreasonable litigation risk both at the state and federal level.  Your failure to recognize the issues here could cost the taxpayers dearly.  That is why I recommend that the Commission hire outside counsel to guide it through the process of reforming the Sheriff’s Merit Council in a manner that provides due process for our deputies, complies with the state and federal law, and lowers litigation risk.  Surely that would be more cost effective after accounting for the litigation risks brought about by this ill conceived and reckless proposal.

Sincerely yours,
Steven M. Weiner, Esq.

Attachment:  Merit System Council Policy and Procedure

Conservative Attorney Steve Weiner

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