Council’s appointments lead to questions

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By Susan Sharp

In the last week, questions have begun to swirl about not only LaFollette’s new police chief but also how he ended up in the position.

For a brief moment, I don’t think the people squeezed into the council chambers last Tuesday night believed James Lynch had just nabbed the top cop spot for the city.

In fact, I don’t think he initially trusted his own ears.

There was no discussion between council members about the applicants, their credentials or anything for that matter. In fact, entire council appeared disengaged from the process at times.

As names were fired like shots from a cannon during the nomination process, not one word of discussion occurred.

Not even when men were nominated from the audience did this spark debate.

This begs the question why the council failed to hold an open discussion about filling the position.

Were the interviews so comprehensive all questions were answered and all doubts were erased? On the other hand, did everyone already know, without a doubt, who was getting their vote?

With six applicants to choose from, it appears a lively debate could have transpired.

Instead, roll call votes were the only method used to narrow the field of contenders.

In the end, the only mention of any candidate’s credentials was when Councilman Joe Bolinger said Lynch had served the department well for 20 years.

Is that all that was needed to get the job?

   I don’t believe that was specified as criteria anywhere in the posting.

If the council believes, and remember it was not a unanimous vote, that Lynch can do the job- fine.

But let’s examine some of the other applicants as well.

William Roehl, a native of the county, applied for the position. At the moment, he serves as a deputy chief for the city of Knoxville. He helps supervise a department I would venture to say is substantially larger than LaFollette’s. Roehl has held that job for a number of years not only supervising officers but also working with a multi million-dollar budget. Along with that, Knoxville’s crime rate is well known, as are the KPD’s attempts to combat that growing statistic.  However, without his background being discussed in an open forum the public is probably not aware of these points.

Another applicant was David Muse who is currently a detective with LaFollette. After retiring from the military Muse chose to work with the city. When Lynch was named chief, it was mentioned he had “loyally served the city.”

What about Muse?

He has done the same. As a matter of fact, Muse has been not only a part of but also the lead detective in a number of felony cases that were successfully prosecuted. Muse’s background was not discussed either.

The members of the council expressed their gratitude to him by virtually ignoring him last Tuesday. Sgt. Jason Henegar nominated Muse from the floor. Then not one of the council so much as extended him a courtesy vote.

That will do wonders for the morale at the department.

There were also others in the race that had experience in actively enforcing laws.

For example, Jacksboro Detective Mike Starrett recently took part in a drug raid on a local bar and was one of the key players in the raid on Adult World in November. But Starrett and his background were not discussed at the public meeting either.

The council’s sheer lack of debate about the candidates is distressing. This was an important decision that affects everyone who lives and works in LaFollette.

In all the council spent less than 15 minutes in the public eye considering who would be the next chief of police.

Did this decision truly require so little time and discussion?

On the surface, it appears the answer is yes. However, unfortunately that answer only leads to more questions.