Bill Lockett recall, Knox County, Tennessee, 2009
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.
In May 2009, Lockett disclosed that he had pocketed payments from clients at his former law firm Kennerly, Montgomery and Finley. According to reports, Lockett kept fees totaling about $30,000 and did not repay a $10,000 loan from developer Tim Graham. 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.
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.
School board actions
The proposed ballot question was proposed to read as follows:
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?
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.
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.
- Knoxville News Sentinel, "Volunteers to collect signatures for recall vote on County Law Director Lockett," September 7, 2009
- KnoxNews.com, "Lockett recall drive begins," September 25, 2009
- Wate.com, "Group pulls petition to recall Knox Co. law director," November 5, 2009
- WBIR, "Lockett recall process starts, could cost $275k," September 24, 2009
- Knoxville News Sentinel, "Criminal probe of Knox County Law Director Bill Lockett takes priority, parties say," June 13, 2009
- Knoxville News Sentinel, "Knox school board doesn't want Lockett's services," September 2, 2009
- WBIR, "Update: School board dumps Lockett, too," September 3, 2009
- WATE, Channel 6, "Lockett's response to legal activities," accessed September 8, 2009
- KnoxNews.com, "Election Commission rejects Lockett recall petition," October 7, 2009