Commissioner denies wrongdoing after ethics allegation

(WBIR) Knox County Commission Chairman Brad Anders Wednesday morning asked the law department to look into whether the board's vice chairman, R. Larry Smith violated any county ethics policy when he asked a county employee to email a release to fellow commissioners and the media Tuesday afternoon to "discuss the upcoming school board race."

Although the press release didn't go into further details, during the Wednesday morning "press conference" at the 640 building on Greenway Drive, Smith announced he would be pulling out of the school board race.

In the release, which was on county letterhead, Smith noted that "concerned citizens are encouraged to attend." He did not go into details.

He asked Jolie Bonavita, who works in the commission's office, to email the release to officials and the media. Smith, by virtue of his position on the board, is technically Bonavita's boss.

Smith, who is term-limited as a commissioner, is a candidate in the District 7 Board of Education race and is expected to challenge Andrew Graybeal and Patti Lou Bounds in the non-partisan May primary.

Other county officials say they do not use county supplies to discuss their campaigns.

For example, County Mayor Tim Burchett on Monday used his own personal Facebook page to announce that he would no longer accept campaign contributions. Burchett will not face a challenger in his re-election bid.

When a reporter called county Communications Manager Michael Grider to talk about the announcement, Grider forwarded him to the mayor.

Grider said he would not discuss campaign-related issues during county time.

"We play it safe - we never come close to that line," Burchett said.


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