News Herald, Put Up Or Shut Up
Sunshine Violation

Mr. Kevin Burcham and or Ms. Linda Brewer, publisher and editor of the News Herald are fond of pointing out the obvious when it comes to the Sunshine Law but it is easy to point out the problems when you don't or wont provide solutions. It's easy to talk the talk but it's a lot harder to walk the walk.

On Monday October 8th, the Lenoir City Industrial Board met at 6:00 at City Hall to discuss, deliberate and vote on a resolution to present to the full city council recommending the adoption of a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) plan for the Town Creek development. The recommendation made by the Lenoir City Industrial Board will commit twenty million dollars of tax payers money for up to twenty five years to finance the Town Creek developers for certain infrastructures for the development. The fifteen minute meeting ended with a unanimous vote of the Lenoir City Industrial Board to recommend adoption of the TIF by the Lenoir City Council.

Following the meeting of the Lenoir City Industrial Board, the Lenoir City Council met in regular session and adopted the recommendation of the Lenoir City Industrial Board to adopt the TIF. The problem, the meeting of the Lenoir City Industrial Board was in violation of the State Sunshine Law.

The date and time of the meeting of the Lenoir City Industrial Board was posted on the bulletin board Monday, the day of the meeting, at city hall and the meeting was mentioned on page 8A in a News Herald article(PDF), Monday October 8th, again the same day of the meeting. Neither of these would remotely meet the Sunshine Law requirements of "adequate public notice" therefore rendering any actions taken by the Lenoir City Industrial Board null and void. This in turn would nullify any action taken by the Lenoir City Council to adopt the TIF. 

With all the publicity surrounding the recent lawsuit in Knox County, everyone including government officials, should have gained a much deeper understanding and respect for the Sunshine Law. After all it is called a law not a suggestion. In the News Herald, Monday October 8th, edition Ms. Brewer writes a heart felt editorial (PDF) reflecting her deep concerns and desires that all officials must obey the law. In fact at one point in the editorial she stated that she is so frustrated by the acceptance of some of Sunshine Law violations, she is "about ready to scream." Unfortunately screaming doesn't solve any problems. Government officials especially some in Lenoir City, are acutely aware that they can violate a number of state laws with no fear of consequences. They know all too well that unless a private citizen or some other entity steps forward to take them to court, they have no worries. Very few citizens have the time or finances to legally hold government accountable. And it's certain the News Herald doesn't have the guts step to the plate.

Who more than the media should be concerned about holding local government accountable, and demanding open and transparent actions by local officials. For the News Herald to stand on the side lines and preach about what others should do is the epitome of hypocrisy.  Screaming might be good lung exercise but it's no substitution for action. Here's you one on a silver platter. It's time to put your money where your mouth is.