Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles today held an official “sunshined meeting” at the Time Warp Tea Room which started at 4pm (see photo above). The official notice can be found here http://www.knoxcounty.org/commission/pdfs/notices/20130319112602262.pdf I attended the meeting as a member of the press. At 5:00pm Commissioner Broyles called the open sunshined meeting to an end. She then stated that she was literally going into the next room over and that since the open meeting was over, the media (which I was the only media in attendance) was banned. She then went into the next room with Sheriff JJ Jones and the Mayor’s chief of finance, Chris Caldwell. The room is technically located at 1207 North Central Street. The sunshined meeting took place at 1209 North Central Street. This is totally 100% absolutely legal. However, this is not the open and transparent government that the citizens of Knox County have come to expect. As you can see in the picture below the location of the room where Commission Broyles held her media banned meeting is literally a step away from where the open meeting was held.
Upon my leaving the establishment I received a phone call from the Mayor’s communication manager, Michael Grider. He immediately and professionally answered all my questions. He noted via official statement upon my request that the finance director attended the meeting at the request of commissioner Amy Broyles. I then asked what the meeting entailed. Mr. Grider, immediately lived up to the “open and transparent standards of good government” that his boss has stated repeatedly. He nearly immediately placed me in contact with Mr. Caldwell and held a three way phone call. Mr. Caldwell informed me that the meeting was about questions involving the financial level of participation the state will provide for the proposed safety center.
Personal note. I find it disgusting that as a reporter/photographer I have professional media access to the White House, major concerts, high profile red carpet events, and other events that are nearly impossible to access. However, as a reporter, I cannot access a meeting of a commissioner being held in a public coffee shop in a room literally right next to a room that was a sunshined event.
Dan Andrews reporting.