In this News Sentinel op-ed, deputy to the mayor and chief operating officer David Brace explains the city's decision to appeal a recent ruling that they must reinstate a former engineering staff member who left his civil service position for a job in the Haslam administration.

When his $155,900-a-year job was eliminated during a reorganization, Steve King (who is eligible for a $79,902 per year pension) requested a hearing to be reinstated to his former civil service job. The hearing officer agreed and ordered the reinstatement, which would result in demotion for two current civil service employees.

Victor Ashe's recent columns criticizing Mayor Rogero regarding the controversy are written "inaccurately and vindictively – in a destructive pot-stirring manner so common in Victor’s gossip column" according to Brace, who says the News Sentinel has "failed to report the facts" about the situation.

Brace also says it's ironic that Ashe is "the only Knoxville mayor to be found guilty in a federal employment rights lawsuit for retaliation and willful discrimination."

Column: Victor Ashe's 'pot-stirring' columns don't tell true story of Steve King removal

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bizgrrl's picture

Dang, I knew I should have

Dang, I knew I should have gone for a civil service job.

bizgrrl's picture

Don't know how long the two

Don't know how long the two current civil servants have had their jobs, but is it really fair to demote them after the other guy has been gone so long?

Bbeanster's picture

I like Steve King. We have no

I like Steve King. We have no personal relationship, but he was polite, accessible, responsive and non-defensive when I called him on some issue or other (usually First Creek flooding).

Victor Ashe is not the issue here, although I know that he's been mean to Madeline a lot. This battle's not going to be won (or lost) in the public arena, and I don't see the point of lacing this reiteration of the city's position with a side of venom – except for currying favor with the boss.

R. Neal's picture

Steve King's lawyer David

Steve King's lawyer David Burkhalter responds, saying Brace's column is "deceitful"...

(link...)

R. Neal's picture

Also, Compass reports that

Also, Compass reports that the finding against Victor Ashe regarding an employee discrimination lawsuit was overturned on appeal.

Bill Lyons's picture

Appeals Court only overturned need for continued injunction

Also, Compass reports that the finding against Victor Ashe regarding an employee discrimination lawsuit was overturned on appeal.

Well, This is more than a bit misleading. The appeals court did not address and certainly did not overturn the substance of the finding of discrimination at the heart of this matter. Rather it only dealt with the injunction that was established to prevent further retaliation against the affected firefighters and its impact on the ability of the Mayor to manage the Fire Department. The Court of Appeals ruled that this injunction was no longer necessary because Mayor Ashe was term limited and the Fire Chief in place at the time of the incidents was no longer serving as Chief.

I encourage all to wade through this entire rather technical discussion of injunctions but two key paragraphs follow.

(link...)

As an initial matter, the injunction grants class-wide relief to all Knoxville firefighters, despite the fact that the firefighters never sought nor received class certification.   The injunction is limited to Ashe, over whom the court properly had in personam jurisdiction;  however, the operative question for review is the extent to which the class-wide injunction burdens Ashe. While district courts are not categorically prohibited from granting injunctive relief benefitting an entire class in an individual suit, such broad relief is rarely justified because injunctive relief should be no more burdensome to the defendant than necessary to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs.

In light of the fact that the plaintiffs are adequately protected by the laws and regulations of the City of Knoxville, that Mayor Ashe cannot serve as mayor beyond his current term, that former chief Bruce Cureton has retired, that Deputy Chief Pressley was found not to have violated any of the plaintiffs' civil rights, that plaintiffs, Frank Potter, Kenneth Scarbrough, and William McGinnis were transferred back to their favored stations in August, 1996 during the pendency of their civil service grievances, that the merit pay system has been discontinued, and that Mayor Ashe has conceded that it was wrong for him to transfer Frank Potter, the undersigned finds that the plaintiffs have not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of future injury for which injunctive relief is warranted.

Betty Bean’s Metro Pulse article from 2002 provides a good summary of the substantive issues and the initial ruling by the Civil Service Hearing Officer.

(link...)

R. Neal's picture

So Victor is stuck on spin

So Victor is stuck on spin cycle and Compass got played? Wouldn't surprise me.

j.f.m.'s picture

Well, it's complicated

Well, it's complicated ...

I'm loath to play referee between my former colleagues at the city and Victor. I agree that the summary statement that the circuit court "reversed the ruling" is an oversimplification, for which I apologize. But our former mayor did get most of what he was asking for from the 6th Circuit. Here's the concluding paragraph (from the ruling that we did link to in this morning's email, for anyone who wanted to read it):

For the above reasons, we affirm the district court's finding that the continuing violation doctrine does not apply;  affirm the denial of the FLSA claim;  vacate the injunction;  reverse the Rule 68 decision;  vacate the entry of attorney fees;  and direct the district court on remand to issue a finding regarding attorney fees reasonably incurred by the plaintiffs' attorneys before December 6, 1996.

So the injunction was reversed, attorneys fees were vacated and remanded, and the continuing violation doctrine ruled inapplicable. And the lower court had already significantly reduced damages awarded by the jury. The jury verdict stood, but without much to show by way of penalties. It is certainly true that Victor was found guilty by the jury, but it is also true that the 6th Circuit threw out most of the remediating consequences. You could call it a win-win. :)

None of which has any legal bearing on current events, but it is interesting.

j.f.m.'s picture

Meanwhile, I see the back and

Meanwhile, I see the back and forth continues, this time from King's lawyer: (link...)

I would also note, self-promotionally, that Scott Barker's ongoing coverage of all of this for Compass is the only actual, impartial reporting anyone has done on the issue. I guess it's too byzantine for TV, and the News Sentinel has let Victor opine about it repeatedly (and now run competing op-eds) without ever assigning a reporter to it.

EDIT: Sorry Randy, didn't see you had also posted the Burkhalter link.

Bill Lyons's picture

The finding that civil rights were violated was not overturned

It is certainly true that Victor was found guilty by the jury, but it is also true that the 6th Circuit threw out most of the remediating consequences. You could call it a win-win.

Jesse, I have to push back a bit here. I appreciate this summary. However while, as you point out, the courts removed much of the remediation, the jury finding of guilt for violation of the civil rights of firefighters was not overturned. So to be clear, the reported" reminder" that the ruling was reversed on appeal by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court. is in fact more than a little misleading. A reasonable person would equate the "ruling" in such a claim to the core finding of guilt rather than to a reduction in penalties, fees, and injunctions against further retaliatory actions.

One can expand the boundaries of the conversation to include consequences after the fact and logically characterize this as somewhat of a win-win. But let's be clear. For the purposes of this discussion being found guilty or not guilty of discrimination is much better framed as a win-lose / zero-sum game.

j.f.m.'s picture

Agreed. Like I said, calling

Agreed. Like I said, calling it a reversal was an oversimplification. The ruling is complex. Several parts of the lower court actions were reversed, but the underlying verdict was not. I'll clarify the clarification in Monday's email, and hopefully it won't require a clarification of the clarification of the clarification.

Bill Lyons's picture

Local News and Opinion

I would also note, self-promotionally, that Scott Barker's ongoing coverage of all of this for Compass is the only actual, impartial reporting anyone has done on the issue. I guess it's too byzantine for TV, and the News Sentinel has let Victor opine about it repeatedly (and now run competing op-eds) without ever assigning a reporter to it.

We can all be thankful that Compass has provided professional and thorough coverage of this matter. We are in a very strange place in newsland when, on one hand, an issue merits multiple iterations from a far-from-from-disinterested opinion writer, later supplemented by op-eds from obviously interested stakeholders, but on the other hand is yet to merit any coverage from a reporter approaching this through the lens of a professional journalist. This is going to be an increasing challenge as newspapers continue to struggle and redefine themselves in a world of shrinking resources for the newsroom. We know that objectivity is often hard to achieve. But news is certainly more than the aggregation of biases and opinions.

cwg's picture

Just wait until the KNS

Just wait until the KNS buyouts go into effect. :/

ann viera's picture

David Brace/KNS I'm glad for the response wish more of you would

Thanks for all the background everyone. I'm glad David Brace wrote a response. I wish more of you all would respond formally as he did. I guess the Compass people are in their publication.

Here is main question: Why does KNS give Ashe and his poison pen an unchallenged forum?

Disclosure: I was David Brace's father's librarian 1987-2010 or 2011

My wish for 2019: Mr. Ashe learns Wordpress and blogs and gets out of the KNS. Then he could get metrics that show how few people would seek out his views if they weren't unchallenged in the daily paper.

j.f.m.'s picture

Yes, Compass is providing

Yes, Compass is providing ongoing coverage of the case, both on the website and in our daily newsletters.

As for the question about KNS and Victor Ashe's column, I will say that I have repeatedly asked that question to Jack McElroy. His answer was always that it was an opinion column, so it was OK if it didn't present all the facts. I pointed out to Jack (multiple times) that Victor often uses his column to report news items, but without any of the journalistic standards or practices that typically accompany news reporting. It would be one thing if KNS was doing real news stories on an issue (like this one), and then Victor was expressing his opinions.

But in this case and many others, literally the only information about an issue at knoxnews is in Victor's columns -- which leads to terribly distorted coverage, because it's all filtered through Victor's longstanding personal agendas. With no disrespect to Victor, who I think is just taking advantage of whatever leeway KNS gives him, I think this is journalistically irresponsible. Reporting inaccurate and distorted information is worse than not reporting it at all. If a story is worth an opinion column, it's worth assigning a real reporter to.

Of course, McElroy won't even be there now, so who knows what level of oversight or accountability Victor or anyone will have there.

R. Neal's picture

Of course, McElroy won't even

Of course, McElroy won't even be there now, so who knows what level of oversight or accountability Victor or anyone will have there.

You will have to ask the new editor in Nashville.

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