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Bill Lockett recall, Knox County, Tennessee, 2009

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An effort to recall Bill Lockett from his position as county law director in Knox County, Tennessee was initiated in June 2009. The recall effort began after Lockett disclosed that he had pocketed payments from clients at his former law firm Kennerly, Montgomery and Finley. Brian Paone and local residents spearheaded the recall effort. Recall supporters were aiming for a recall election in August of 2010.[1][2] However, the group leading the recall effort withdrew the petition and the recall did not go to a vote.[3]

Background

At the time, Lockett represented every department of the Knox County government, including the mayor's office, sheriff's office and Knox County School System. After a criminal investigation was launched, the Knox County Commission and County Board of Education stopped using Lockett as their legal representative.[4][2]

Criminal investigation

In May 2009, Lockett disclosed that he had pocketed payments from clients at his former law firm Kennerly, Montgomery and Finley.[1] According to reports, Lockett kept fees totaling about $30,000 and did not repay a $10,000 loan from developer Tim Graham.[5] A hearing was scheduled for April 2010 before the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. Additionally, Lockett was being investigated by the Sullivan County district attorney general and by the Internal Revenue Service.[6]

County actions

On June 10, 2009, the Knox County Commission voted to censure Lockett, asked him to resign, sought to expedite all the investigations and pursued ouster proceedings. However, county officials were warned that proceeding with a civil ouster suit could hinder the criminal case.[5]

School board actions

On September 2, 2009, the Knox County Board of Education decided to drop Lockett as its legal representative, in light of the investigations against Lockett.[7]

Petition language

The proposed ballot question was proposed to read as follows:[4]

Shall William S. Lockett be recalled and removed from the office of Knox County Law Director on the following grounds: willful failure on the part of Lockett to inform Knox County voters, during the 2008 primary and general election, of 35 instances in which Lockett improperly took funds from his former employer before and during his 2008 campaign for the office of Knox County Law Director?

Lockett's response

In an August 14, 2009 letter that was faxed to WATE, Channel 6, Lockett responded to questions regarding his most recent legal activities for the county. Throughout the letter, Lockett explained that, aside from providing legal representation to the county in court, he also spent much of his time reviewing county documents, finding new ways to maximize the collection costs in court, etc. Lockett emphasized that, despite recently having been on a five-day vacation, he was always in contact with county officials. Lockett refused to address any of the allegations against him.[8]

Path to the ballot

In order to place the recall measure on the ballot, supporters were required to submit a minimum of 15% of registered county voters - approximately 40,000 signatures. Petition language was filed September 24, 2009.

On October 7, 2009, the Knox County Elections Commission dropped the petition to remove Lockett from office, citing the lack of an election date by organizers, which was required by law. Organizers anticipated the decision and decided to turn their efforts elsewhere. According to Tamara Shepard, member of the Lockett Recall Initiative, the group planed to lobby to change the charter recall amendment. The group hopesd to have the recall amendment revised and another recall petition circulated for an election. Ultimately, however, the recall effort did not go to a vote.[9]

See also

External links

References