Judging The Sheriff Candidates

Saturday, April 19, 2014
We have a decision to make on who will lead the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office - current Sheriff Jim Hammond or opponent Chris Harvey?  As you read the opinions there are some positives listed for each of the candidates.  No one is saying that either gentleman is a bad person.  You need to weigh what you want in an elected official that is in charge of managing the budget, supervising the staff and serving the citizens of Hamilton County. The comments in previous opinions list several comparisons to the two candidates.
  I would like to included one more concerning an issue with Sheriff Hammond.
 
I am a major supporter of transparency in government.  My mind goes back to an article in Sepember. of 2012 when the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board interviewed Sheriff Hammond.  This is one issue that was discussed in that interview and the sheriff’s response:
 
“According to state law, “all documents ... made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any governmental agency” are public records. A government agency in Tennessee is required by law to make those records available within seven days or provide the requestor a written explanation of how long it will take to produce the request.
 
 So why then does it take weeks, sometimes months, to get documents from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department?
 
In a Times Free Press editorial board meeting on Thursday, Hammond responded to that question by admitting to slow-walking the process of furnishing public records. “If you’re asking me, ‘have I slowed the pace down?’ Absolutely,” Hammond said.”
 
Sheriff Hammond’s admission of not adhering to the State of Tennessee Open Records Act concerned me then and it is still a concern to me.   Why would a government official intentionally delay providing access to public records and violating the laws of the State of Tennessee?  When that elected official is over the law enforcement branch of the county government it concerns me even more.
 
I want to make it clear that in my experience other departments of Hamilton County Government do not share Sheriff Hammond’s “slowed the pace down” attitude with open records.  Departments of Hamilton County government that I have requested information from have always been polite, speedy and professional in supplying the information in a timely manner, even moving more quickly than the seven-day window set by Open Records Act.  The Sheriff’s Office should adhere to those same high standards set by other departments within Hamilton County Government.
 
For this reason and others (some listed above by fellow citizens), I will be casting my vote for Chris Harvey for Hamilton County Sheriff.  I ask friends and fellow citizens that believe in open, honest, and responsible government to join me in electing our next Hamilton County Sheriff Chris Harvey.
 
Frances Pope
East Ridge

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