Knox commissioners call for law director to resign

Knox commissioners call for law director to resign

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By HARLOW SUMERFORD
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- In a special Knox County Commission meeting Wednesday, members voted 16-1 for a resolution calling for Law Director Bill Lockett to resign.

The commissioners also voted to censure Lockett for taking payments from clients without passing the money on to his former law firm while he was in private practice.

"When there is an issue of self interest over the publics interest, I think it is time for the official to step down and resign," says County Commissioner Dr. Richard Briggs.

The resolution passed by the commissioners also asks that Lockett not serve as the attorney that represents the commission in legal matters, and that all state investigations into Lockett are expedited.

Commissioner Greg Lambert was the lone no vote, saying the commission was overstepping its authority.

"Mr. Lockett may or may not be guilty of something and that remains to be determined and this is a matter for the Board of Professional Responsibility, not a matter for the Knox County Commission," says Lambert.

The vote follows recommendations by the county's ethics committee Tuesday calling for censure  and Lockett's resignation.

In order to hold the meeting a petition was circulated by Commission Chairman Thomas Strickland and was signed by 17 commissioners. Ten signatures were required.

Lockett had been invited to attend but did not speak at the meeting. Commissioners are not sure whether he will honor their request.

"No idea what he will do. He has so far insisted that he will not, but it is clear on any principal, any ethical principal for him to look at, he should leave," says County Commissioner Mark Harmon.

A special prosecutor is also looking into the matter with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.


Lockett offers explanation to discipline board 

In a letter to the Board of Professional Responsibility, Lockett explained the reasons for his wrongdoing.

In what is known as a petition for discipline, Lockett admitted accepting approximately $20,000 in fees from clients that he never handed over to his former law firm, Kennerly, Montgomery & Finley.

The law firm, however, says the actual amount is more than $30,000.

In his letter to the board, Lockett said he kept the money because in 2006 his then 8-year-old son was diagnosed with a painful inflammatory skin condition.

Lockett said he racked up more than $20,000 in medical bills not covered by the firm's health insurance plan.

"This wreaked havoc on our financial situation, with a general sessions suit being filed against us for unpaid medical bills and, on two different occasions, we got four months behind on our mortgage payment," Lockett said in his letter. "In order to help stave off these financial problems, I began agreeing to represent clients without KMF's awareness and accepted payments directly from these clients without remitting the amounts paid to KMF."

Lockett also points out that no clients were damaged or hurt by his actions. He says he is embarrassed and deeply regrets his conduct and claims he always intended to pay back his former law firm.


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