Big Brother is watching!
Commission Approves Search Ban Policy
By: Pat Hunter
October 13, 2008
Commissioners voted 8 to 1, to approve a new ban policy at all county owned buildings. Commissioner Austin Shaver started the discussion by asking, who has the authority to ban the possession of weapons within county buildings or premises and if it falls within commission, does commission want to implement a ban. Shaver drafted a Ban Resolution that he said that he would oppose. Shaver felt that the language was very restrictive in light of the lack of security presence at the various county owned buildings and he did not think that it was a good idea at this time.
Commissioner Harold Duff asked for clarification, are you asking if commission or the county mayor has the authority to post the signs? Do we want to change the wording asked Duff? Do we want signs on county property, that's the question, Shaver replied.
In Knoxville you can't even get into a county building with a pocket knife so we should honor what has been suggested commented Commissioner Wayne Gardin. This is part of the Homeland Security thing in the first place, we may need someone at the door checking people at these meetings, added Gardin.
Commissioner Nancy Marcus pointed at the metal detector, what does that thing do? Marcus wanted to know why the metal detector wasn't at the side door rather than at the door leading into the hallway.
County Mayor Doyle Arp commented that the side door was not supposed to be open but it was always used. Arp said, "We were asked by some citizens" that were concerned about individuals that were carrying weapons that were attending meetings and going in and out of buildings. Anyone that carries a gun "isn't trained to take out the right people." There's also a question whether the ban would meet a legal challenge.
Commissioner Chris Park questioned the issue of liability but his concerns were not addressed. While Commissioner Shaver voted no, all other commissioners seemed unconcerned to disarm a citizen population without specific security plans in place. Under Arp's plan people may be searched indiscriminately.
Mayor Arp takes matters into his own hands
Before obtaining prior approval from Commission, Mayor Arp printed little red signs with a NOTICE, which started to appear throughout county owned buildings. Under the Mayor's security plan, citizens may be searched and screened along with their packages, purses, and briefcases. The ban includes weapons, firearms, chemical sprays and contraband.
Was this just another intimidation tactic to try to keep the public from entering and using public facilities? The wording on Mayor Arp's WARNING notice appears to go far beyond state law. Below is the wording from Tennessee law T.C.A. 39-17-1359. Please read the difference between state law wording and Arp's Ban Notice.
PURSUANT TO § 39-17-1359, THE OWNER/OPERATOR OF THIS PROPERTY HAS BANNED WEAPONS ON THIS PROPERTY, OR WITHIN THIS BUILDING OR THIS PORTION OF THIS BUILDING. FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THIS PROHIBITION IS PUNISHABLE AS A CRIMINAL ACT UNDER STATE LAW AND MAY SUBJECT THE VIOLATOR TO A FINE OF NOT MORE THAN FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($500)
Mayor Arp's Warning Notice with his own revisions.
Liability Issues & Concerns
For many years, the county building side entrance was used by the public and officials but Arp ended that practice abruptly. He locked the side doors at the county office building and install a keyless entry for employees and a chosen few to use. Surveillance cameras and monitoring followed. Then he relocated his office near the front door entrance to the county office building.
At the urging of Mayor Arp, commissioners had the nerve to run off the Sheriff and his deputies who provided security at commission meetings. Months ago, Mayor Arp and commissioners sat around the new conference table located in the county office building joking about the Sheriff. It seems that the mayor and commissioners felt the Sheriff's presence at commission meetings was not needed. Where was their concern for security back then?
Why didn't Arp discuss this matter with commissioners in public prior to taking action? Commissioners did not say how they plan to protect the public from any potential harm. What liability has Commission created by not providing security?