Powerful TN statute lets 10 people oust lawless officials

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booted outBy David Tulis

A powerful tool that can be used to uproot evil within state government is being ignored by people who care about the direction of Tennessee and the people who reside within her borders.

That tool is the ouster provision in the Tennessee Code Annotated that enables a tiny group of 10 to throw out a municipal, county or state official for cause. The law does not envision political differences, personal hostility or social pique as the cause for such an ouster. But it gives as grounds for removal violation of the oath of office, disobedience to a statute, willful or repeated disregard of a statutory or constitutional duty.

The main cause is against one who “shall knowingly and willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by any of the laws of the state.” Lesser offenses include drunkenness, illegal gambling or acts of “moral turpitude.”

Title 8, Chapter 47 of the Tennessee Code Annotated governs removal of public officers.

The law lets the committee of a minimum of 10 people sue the official on behalf of the state. They combine as representatives of the people, and in their accusations become the state itself, as it were. Their case is in the name of the state, on their “relation.”

Only most serious cases likely

The official accused has 20 days to respond to the claims filed in circuit, criminal or chancery court.

So important is such a case that the judge is required to put the accusations at the head of his docket. Fast-track treatment is required if malfeasance is alleged.

Accusations are not to be lightly filed. Costs for the proceedings are taxed against the accusers if they lose. If judge and jury rule against the claims, the accusers pay the costs. They would have to pay for the official’s substitute if he is temporarily removed from office pending a verdict. If the citizens succeed, the costs of the prosecution are borne by the crooked actor who’d held the post.

Karen Blake, attorney

Karen Blake, attorney

A recent case is City of Franklin, Tennessee, Upon the Relation of Karen Beyke, Attorney for the City of Franklin v. Mary Dodson Randolph. The complaint contained 28 counts of crimes of moral turpitude and misuse of office, based mostly on allegations that the alderman had stalked — both electronically and physically — at least 10 victims, including minors.

Karen Beyke, whose married name is now Blake, has a presentation that explains how the law works. She says removal efforts have succeeded 34 percent of the time, with disputes being mooted 17 percent of the time.

Mrs. Blake practices law in a Nashville office of the firm Baker Donelson. Her work is cited by David Fowler and other critics of the Beavers-Pody bill to restore traditional marriage in Tennessee, parties who reject the doctrine of interposition and constitutional supremacy and who favor, instead, judicial supremacy and further appeals to courts in efforts to restore some semblance of godly marriage in the state.

So what about Hamilton County?

Since Obergefell v. Hodges imposing gay marriage on all willing parties was decided in June 2015, the clerk in Hamilton County has recognized and granted licenses to same-sex couples. This act violates Bill Knowles’ constitutional oath of office and writes into the state’s laws and records the gay theory.

Mr. Knowles had a duty to defy such opinion as being of any authority over his office, and should have restrained the hand of evil by standing his ground in good faith and insisting he would recognize only unions between one man and one woman.

Mr.  Knowles is a practicing Christian at Woodland Park Baptist church, at last report, and is highly regarded by residents, who have re-elected him.

The relator law exists for just such cases as his. It awaits the use of a tiny number of people who believe that a godly social order is a blessing, something for which it is worth fighting.

Christendom in Tennessee is indeed at a low ebb. Church people fill football and basketball stadiums for ballgames, yet barely fill the lobby in an “overflow” crowd when gay partner benefits are debated at city hall. Christians fill worship centers and churches Wednesday night, and pack buses for religious junkets to Costa Rica and Mexico, but find proceedings such as those enabled by the relator law to be dry and irrelevant to God’s interest in the public weal.

Sources

TCA 8-47-101.  Officers subject to removal — Grounds. Every person holding any office of trust or profit, under and by virtue of any of the laws of the state, either state, county, or municipal, except such officers as are by the constitution removable only and exclusively by methods other than those provided in this chapter, who shall knowingly or willfully commit misconduct in office, or who shall knowingly or willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by any of the laws of the state, or who shall in any public place be in a state of intoxication produced by strong drink voluntarily taken, or who shall engage in any form of illegal gambling, or who shall commit any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude, shall forfeit such office and shall be ousted from such office in the manner hereinafter provided.

My good-faith clerk analyses

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How local, state officials in ‘good faith’ defy alien jurisdictions

Clerk facing gay mudslide can act in good faith, say ‘sorry, boys’

Gleanings from sniveler’s lips: Oath of office controls duty of marriage clerks

Truth be told; how clerks, judges may cheerfully reject gay fibs in public record

Judges give glad defense of democratic processes, states’ rights, federalism

U.S. judge defends authority of states to define marriage

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