Knoxville, TN - After public outcry, the city of Knoxville has yet to reverse its decision to make the Pension Task Force, which will offer recommendations to improve the rising costs of pensions, meetings public. In response, Mark Padgett, 2011 Mayoral candidate issued the following:
“Chairman Lyons and Mayor Brown are dedicated public servants who are committed to fixing the rising costs of pensions, but the time for waiting is over. The city needs to reverse their decision and make all of the Pension Task Force meetings public. With nearly $9 million taxpayer dollars at stake – and expected to rise to $30 million by 2019 – public meetings will help inspire confidence in the group’s recommendations and trust with taxpayers and city employees.”
Padgett also commented on the lack of ethnic diversity of the Pension Task Force:
“Knoxville is blessed to have community leaders from all ethnicities and walks of life, and I think it’s unfortunate that only two members are women and not a single member of the board is African American or Hispanic. The Pension Task Force should represent the whole city, and I think our community has grown to expect nothing less from local government. If I’m elected Mayor, diverse participation and full transparency will be two of my administration’s chief priorities. I urge the other candidates to join me in this pledge.”
On February 24, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that the city’s Pension Task Force planned to hold some meetings in private.
On February 24, Padgett issued his first call for transparency in a letter to Chairman Bill Lyons and Mayor Daniel Brown.
Padgett believes this decision violates Tennessee’s “Opening Meetings Act” (TCA 8-44-102 Section A), which states: “All meetings of any governing body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times, except as provided by the Constitution of Tennessee. (b) (1) “Governing body” means: (A) The members of any public body which consists of two (2) or more members, with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration…”
On February 25, the Knoxville News Sentinel editorialized that the task force should meet in public: “Secret discussions don't increase candor so much as they multiply suspicions. Employees could think they've been sold out. Taxpayers can't have confidence their best interests are taken into account. No one wins… Transparency will be good for the process, good for the employees and good for Knoxville taxpayers.”
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