Knox Co. School Board requests Phillips' resignation over assault

Knox Co. School Board requests Phillips' resignation over assault

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By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The Knox County School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to censure board member Bill Phillips for his misdemeanor assault conviction.

The board also voted to request that Phillips, 44, who represents District 8, resign.

Phillips apologized for his actions, but refused to step down. "I hope that each and every one of you understand that my personal situation did not affect a student, employee nor school in any way."

Phillips said he hopes to move forward now with the rest of the board.

Knox County Law Director Bill Lockett says if Phillips doesn't resign, the board has no legal authority to remove him.

Phillips pleaded guilty in February to the assault, which involved a confrontation with his wife the day after Christmas 2008.

Karen Phillips said her husband put an object to her stomach and asked if she "was ready for this life to end." 

Bill Phillips told 6 News in February that he believes a combination of prescription and over-the-counter drugs may have lead to an incident.

"We'll just have to work through that and I'm going treat this as a professional thing and we'll certainly maintain a professional relationship with all board members," said board Chair Indya Kincannon.

The censure is simply a formal reprimand that expresses the board's disapproval of Phillips' actions.

The board voted not to censure another member, Robert Bratton, who represents District 9, although he was accused of sexually harassing a female custodian at South-Doyle Middle School in June 2007.

Shortly after the accusations went public, 6 News obtained video of Bratton at the school interacting with the worker.

The school system eventually paid $21,000 to the employee who accused Bratton of harassing her because a principal failed to report it.

Some board members said the fact that Bratton was not convicted of a crime made them decide against censure.

"Allegations simply cannot form the basis for a censure. It has to be more definite than that," said school board member Dan Murphy.

He voted against censuring Bratton, but Kincannon voted for it.

"I thought the appearance of impropriety was significant and wanted to censure," she said.

Before the vote, Bratton explained his past response to some of the allegations against him.

"It didn't pay me to argue about it. So I just shut my mouth," he said.

Both Bratton and Phillips recused themselves from the votes.

The Knox County School Board also amended its ethics policy. Any complaint to the ethics committee must be made in writing within one year of the alleged incident.

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