published Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Lack of candor risks trust

Public officials and candidates for public office know when they run for election that they will be held to higher standards than others, and that they will be scrutinized and judged on their conduct and actions, past or present. Against that standard of accountability, voters could find good reason this week to reconsider their support for Sheriff Jim Hammonds and Greg Vital, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Tennessee's 10th state Senate primary election on Aug. 2.

Hammonds, reporter Ansley Haman learned this week, blatantly violated county government's anti-nepotism policy by hiring his son, Jimi Hammond, as the full-time webmaster for the sheriff's office. He did so, moreover, the day before the County Commission approved a new fiscal year budget that showed the sheriff's office running an unauthorized deficit of $4275,000 to $400,000, despite a state statute that requires sheriffs to operate on a balanced budget.

Vital rightly came under scrutiny for his claims -- in person recently in a candidates' forum, and through a history of professional background about himself -- that he "graduated" from college, when he did not.

•••

Sheriff Hammond recently has casually dismissed criticism of his questionable activities — his regular association with a former deputy who went to prison more than decade ago for supplying drugs to jail inmates when Hammond was chief deputy; the large group of friends and political donors whom he as enrolled as members of an honorary "posse"; the cost of his official car. He apparently is equally indifferent to the unease of several commissioners about both his nepotism and the budget deficit he has refused to eliminate.

The sheriff's budget deficit is a pending a review by the state comptroller, and it should elicit a more strenuous response from the commission when that review is finished. The commission, however, has no authority over the sheriff's personnel policy with regard to nepotism per se: His office and other independently elected county officials are established under the state's constitution. But commissioners can and should use their budget authority to help persuade him, and other elected county officials who indulge in nepotism, to abandon that troubling practice. It is rightly seen as an abuse of power.

•••

When questioned this week by this paper's political reporter, Chris Carroll, Vital called his statement that he had "graduated" from college, a statement he made at a candidate forum hosted by the Hamilton County Young Republicans, "a Freudian slip." One critic, in a letter to our editorial pages, more aptly called it a "fraudian slip" -- a deliberate falsehood apparently intended to misrepresent his educational achievement. Another called it an outright lie. It would be hard to argue either description.

When asked later about professional materials for his development projects and descriptions of his biography in other websites and publications which described him as a graduate Southern Adventist University, he said he didn't know whether he or someone else provided the information about his educational background. That disingenuous remark seemed equally dishonest, and reflected refusal to accept accountability.

Vital subsequently said he was "sorry for misleading" people. "It's a mistake. I made a mistake, and I apologize to the folks I may have misled. I'm done with it." The risk Vital has taken with that "may have misled" remark is that voters themselves may not be done with it.

In fact, Vital has been a forward-looking advocate in several avenues of community needs and environmental protection, and is otherwise a credible candidate for the state Legislature. Both he and Hammond would improve their credibility and public standing by frankly owning up to embarrassing mistakes, and showing genuine contrition. Absent that, they risk the trust of the public.

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mthompson332 said...

lesliesmart, with all due respect, what are you talking about and how does it relate to the editorial?

July 14, 2012 at 12:23 a.m.
mthompson332 said...

By the way nice work by the TFP on Hammond and Vital.

July 14, 2012 at 12:25 a.m.
anniebelle said...

leasliestupid: If you go to the Commonwealth Business Search page and enter Romney's last name in the search by individual field, you will find many listings of companies that involve him or his wife. I recommend to everyone to dig further into all of the companies returned in this search (there are many). The interesting result I found was this: there are two foreign entities for Bain Capital... Bain Capital Inc. and Bain Capital Investments VI. In filings for both companies with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 2001 and 2002, neither company lists Romney as a managing member (see the filings linked below). Bain Capital Inc. 2001 Bain Capital Inc. 2002 Bain Capital Investments VI 2001 Bain Capital Investments VI 2002 However, as reported by TPM, we know that the SEC filings for the company had Romney as a manager and listed as President, Chairman and CEO and sole share holder of Bain Capital Investments VI. That is the same company reported above to the Commonwealth of Mass as a foreign entity (foreign being a Delaware company doing business in MA). I noticed the following discrepancies between the two filings: 1. Romney was not reported to the Commonwealth as he was to the SEC. 2. The date of the filings with the Commonwealth were filed retroactively, signed by Michael Goss, the CFO in 2003. And if you look at the company status and its filings with the Commonwealth of Mass, you'll notice that when the company was originally registered in Massachusetts, that Romney was President. But they never filed a Statement of Change of Registered Agent or Resignation of Registered Agent. Which means, even though the filings to the Commonwealth don't list Romney as an officer or member, he was never revoked. This is at best, a misleading filing in Massachusetts or an outright deception

July 14, 2012 at 6:46 a.m.
anniebelle said...

Romney is the epitome of lack of candor and you're all lined up to vote for this traitor who keeps his fortunes in other countries. So far be it from just the local officials to less than candid. You better be careful what you wish for.

July 14, 2012 at 7:09 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Both Hammonds and Vital tout their love for Jesus, God, and "Traditional Tennessee Values."

The next time you see Hammonds and Vital wave your Special Deputy Badge and college diploma. Give 'em the secret wink that let's them know you're a good Christian just like them.

Makes one proud to live in the Tennessee Valley Holy Land.

July 14, 2012 at 11:36 a.m.
aae1049 said...

On another note, there is a tendency of party followers to throw rocks at the reporters. Chris Carroll is the most awesome political reporter, his reports are factual and entertaining at the same time. Beth Berger is another talent that has been criticized for reporting the news.

I watch the local political parties try to kill the journalist messengers, in some cases they have by blocking them from information, and definitely tried in the case of the reporters that broke pervasive nepotism in county government, ie the Knowles clan in gov employment.

Local party followers, back off!

July 14, 2012 at 3:07 p.m.
cooljb said...

It's nice to have a some factual reporting on the good ole boy system, like the "Deal Of a Lifetime" from last Sunday. It is refreshing to hear the questionable as well as the praise. Facts are facts, some you can swallow, some you can't. That doesn't change the need to hear the truth. I agree with aae1049, some party followers of both extremes, just won't bring themselves to admit the truth sometimes and will make snarky excuses for their political picks.

July 14, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

The editorial incorrectly states the Sheriff's last name by misspelling it. His last name is "Hammond." Please revise. Thanks.

July 14, 2012 at 6:08 p.m.
mv said...

Tremendous editorial which sums problems in our local political landscape. These things must stop or the citizens will continue to have not trust in local elected offials.

July 14, 2012 at 8:24 p.m.

Oh come on, not trust our fine local elected officials? Who could do that?

July 15, 2012 at 1:34 a.m.
LarryRose said...

"Lack of candor"? How about deliberate deception.

At his Greenbriar Cove master-planned community, he removed most of the vegetation from a wetlands reserve, then dressed things up and sold some luxury homes -- which just happened to have flooded crawlspaces.

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ed Perry explains: “Build your house in a wetland, and you’ve got a hobby for the rest of your life. You will be fighting that water forever.” (Michael Lipske, Caution: Building in a Wetland Can Be Hazardous to Your House – Developers are nibbling away at the nation’s small wetlands, creating big problems in the process for many homeowners, National Wildlife Federation, June 1, 1998)

GREED VS. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

You see, there are some developers who will do anything to make a buck. “Ed Perry has prepared numerous reports studded with photos of seasonal wetlands—some of them “sites you need hip boots to get into,” he says—where unscrupulous builders have tried to peddle housing lots during dry months.” (Michael Lipske, Caution: Building in a Wetland Can Be Hazardous to Your House – Developers are nibbling away at the nation’s small wetlands, creating big problems in the process for many homeowners, National Wildlife Federation, June 1, 1998) Like those seasonal wetlands underneath so many of the houses on Leyland Drive in Greenbriar Cove.

THE GROUNDWATER DOESN’T REALLY GO AWAY

“When wetlands are filled, the water that made them wet has to go somewhere. If it isn’t seeping back into the basement of the house built on the former wetland, the water likely is leaking into formerly dry homes of downstream property owners.” (Michael Lipske, Caution: Building in a Wetland Can Be Hazardous to Your House – Developers are nibbling away at the nation’s small wetlands, creating big problems in the process for many homeowners, National Wildlife Federation, June 1, 1998)

The Greg Vital Group focuses their marketing efforts for the Cove on “active seniors”. People who have a stack of money, and aren’t ready to pack it in just yet.

So maybe your grandmother is looking for a hobby that will keep her busy — for the rest of her life. (per Michael Lipske, Caution: Building in a Wetland Can Be Hazardous to Your House – Developers are nibbling away at the nation’s small wetlands, creating big problems in the process for many homeowners, National Wildlife Federation, June 1, 1998)

If so, there are PLENTY of these “hobby houses” available.

September 13, 2012 at 1:39 p.m.
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