- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An East Tennessee mayor has ordered more training for those appointed to city boards after she found possible violations of the state’s sunshine laws.

The move stems from a public records request by the Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1DNJpE6) in relation to a proposed $9 million digital radio system being discussed by the Knox County E-911 Board of Directors. The newspaper reports the city gave it copies of emails on Thursday that show some board members discussed the contract in private.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, who was among those who met or corresponded privately with others, told the newspaper that he “wasn’t aware of the Sunshine Law, but now I see my actions should have been different.”

“After discussing it with the lawyers, I understand I stepped over the line, but it was not nefarious,” the chief said.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said she directed city Law Director Charles Swanson to review city appointees serving on boards and develop a training program for them.

“In compiling documents for a records request from the News Sentinel, city staff found several emails that indicate potential violations of the state Open Meetings Act by members of the E-911 Board of Directors,” Rogero said in a statement. “Some of them are direct communications by the board members about the proposed radio system contract under consideration by the board, and others refer to outside conversations and meetings that suggest the possibility of further Sunshine Law violations.”

According to emails, one of the meetings included Rausch having coffee with citizen representative Ken Knight two days before a Jan. 21 board meeting when a motion to accept the radio system was met with silence, killing it.

“He wanted a briefing on what this was all about,” the chief said. “Now, I realize I shouldn’t have done that. There weren’t secret meetings, but clearly there were conversations that took place.”

Swanson said he hopes to have the review done and a training program in place within 30 days.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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