I submit the following in response to Mr. Louis Matthew Bailey’s public accusations against me. Mr. Bailey has marginalized the concerns of both our police officers and our citizens by claiming that I’ve overstated the police department’s turnover. In reality, the HR Director, Penny Sissom omitted the names of at least two known departures, thereby skewing the statistics in the first place.
The truth is that the police force has continued to erode with ten more individuals departing since the matter came to light in February. That brings the loss rate for the year so far to 14%, and we still have over three months to go. Readers will recall that Knox County PD has an annual turnover rate of just 2.9%. Since Chief Akagi’s arrival four years ago, we’ve suffered a total staff loss of over 60% department-wide. Contrary to Mr. Bailey’s misunderstanding of the facts, we’ve clearly established that our turnover rate is high, thus the unanimous vote by council to investigate.
Mr. Bailey goes on to justify our attrition by claiming that crime is down. It is not surprising that Mr. Bailey cites no source for his data since none exists because Chief Akagi did not report our statistics to the TBI for nearly a year. However, any reduction would be directly attributable to those who actually combat crime, not those who take credit for it in the press at every opportunity.
Mr. Bailey also accuses me of tainting the MTAS review process and violating the charter by communicating with Ms. Sissom instead of the city manager, Mark Watson. (Ms. Sissom was the point of contact who scheduled interviews with employees and MTAS.) I will go into the details of the events Mr. Bailey references, but will first remind him that Mr. Watson was widely criticized for his clear demonstration of bias towards Chief Akagi. Moreover, this entire ordeal could have been avoided had Mr. Watson not repeatedly refused to investigate the matter internally.
From late July through August, several current and past employees contacted me expressing concerns that Ms. Sissom was making it difficult for them to participate in the investigative process. I encouraged each person to reach out to Ms. Sissom again.
On August 26th, per the invitation from Mayor Gooch to all members of council, I met with MTAS. At that meeting, I was informed by Mr. Barton and Ms. Norris that they had completed their interviews of employees. I informed them that I was aware of a number of people who still wanted to participate but had yet to be scheduled. Mr. Barton instructed me to notify Ms. Sissom.
On August 27th, I sent an email to Mayor Gooch apprising him of the situation and asked him to explain how we were ensuring that all employees were allowed to participate. I emailed the mayor because he had been council’s primary liaison with MTAS up until this point. I copied the MTAS director, Jim Thomas along with the entire police department in the event that there were others who’d been omitted from the process.
On August 28th, the city attorney emailed me and copied Mayor Gooch and Ms. Sissom instructing me to send the names of the individuals to “us.” Mayor Gooch replied that he did not want to be copied on information about any interviewees.
In one last attempt to avoid the pitfalls of communicating with Ms. Sissom, on August 31st I emailed the names of omitted officers to Mr. Thomas. On September 1st , he replied that interviewees should contact Ms. Sissom. I replied explaining once again that the interviewees had had communication problems with Ms. Sissom but conceded that I would email her directly, which I did.
I did not demand anything of anyone nor did I compromise the investigation. I did everything I could to preserve the integrity of council’s commitment which was to afford all employees the opportunity to participate confidentially.
Finally, Mr. Bailey alleges that my endeavors (for accountability and transparency) are harming Oak Ridge because of the press coverage they receive. If Mr. Bailey is truly concerned about the headlines garnered by our city as of late, then I must ask: Where is his concern over the lack of accountability by our city manager for the Jackson Square project? Where is his indignation over the recent drive by shootings on Wakefield Road? Where is his anger at the four school administrators who failed to report alleged sexual abuse involving a student to DCS as required by law? Where is his outrage over the city hiring and retaining an officer with a documented history of problems who now faces possible indictment for allegedly having sex with a 16 year old?
Mr. Bailey, you’ve taken up the cause of protecting our city’s reputation by making me the object of a highly aggressive smear campaign, but where is your concern for the actual welfare of the city’s people?