The employees of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department have a lot of responsibility every second on the job. They have to be accountable to their supervisors and the public. They patrol our streets, handle our corrections facilities, answer our calls for help, investigate crimes and commit themselves to their work.
What is not in their job description for their protection is political work.
My opponent, J.J. Jones, has a series of photos on his campaign website, and a few of them include images of employees who should not have been used in campaign materials.
I sent this press release to the media today:
Although there are lawful uses of county employees for the purpose of election campaigns, J.J. Jones’ website for sheriff appears to violate the policies of the Sheriff’s Merit System Council by including images of uniformed officers who are civil service protected.
The Merit System allows classified officers and employees to participate in campaigns, but they must be off-duty AND not in uniform or wearing any department insignia.
In several photos on the sheriff’s campaign website, including two attached, some classified employees identifiable with sheriff insignia and in uniform, are shown in the photos. Some are in the forefront and others are in the background, but the use of classified employees for such is verboten.
Some of the employees in the photos are non-classified and thus their use in campaign materials can be done at the discretion of the sheriff. But others are in uniform and are classified positions for the Sheriff’s Office.
“The power of the incumbent is extensive,” Randy Tyree said. “The Merit System policies are in place to ensure that sheriff’s employees are not misused in campaigns for political purposes.”
Former Sheriff Tim Hutchison used uniformed officers and multiple images of helicopters and cruisers with sheriff insignia in his campaign for reelection. He claimed it was OK because they were off-duty and his campaign reimbursed the county for the gas.
But the Merit System policies in Section 2.3 are clear and read, in part: “No classified person can appear publicly or in any advertising on behalf of a candidate while on duty or in uniform or wearing any insignia or other clothing which may associate the person with the Sheriff’s Department.”
Jones appears to be mimicking the way Hutchison ran his campaign – without regard for policies protecting classified employees from being misused in political races.
The images that violate Merit System policies should be removed from the website, http://www.jjforsheriff.com/.
“It is impossible to remove the element of coercion when an incumbent sheriff has employees appear in campaign materials,” Tyree said.
Tim Hutchison did it. Now, J.J. Jones is following in his footsteps.
The News Sentinel’s story is online:
KnoxvilleTalks, which is hosted by WBIR, has posted the press release:
The work of sheriff’s employees is stressful. It’s scrutinized by everyone. They have enough to cope with and sort through every day without adding political appearances to their job descriptions. Also, their images that were taken during sheriff’s department events should not be used later to promote anyone’s campaign.
Leave them alone. Let them work.
And, remember, this time you decide!