Knox County Drug Court director talks about Baumgartner

Knox County Drug Court director talks about Baumgartner's addiction to pain pills


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There's a certain irony to ex-Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner's addiction to prescription painkillers because he was the judge who oversaw and helped found the county's Drug Court.

Baumgartner's misconduct while on the bench has shaken the county legal system. Drug Court was started in the late 90s to help addicts moving through the court system get sober and change their lives.

Ron Hanaver is director of the Knox County Drug Court and watched Baumgartner from the time it started. "He was highly revered and very motivated to get these people clean and sober," Hanaver said.

6 News asked Hanaver when he felt he saw the first changes in Baumgartner's demeanor. "I've thought a lot about when his problems started. Was it when he had health problems? Or 2007? I just don't know," he said.

He says he saw perhaps the same progression that everyone else saw Baumgartner turning into a man who in hindsight was displaying so many signs of addiction.

"At the end, I saw it a lot, and I thought that this man's health was going down quick. He would take time off and come back and appear to be renewed. And we thought this job was really weighing on him," Hanaver explained.

Hanaver says right now, not all the people running Drug Court are required to be drug tested.

He believes that if anything needs to change as a result of the Baumgartner revelations it's that nobody in the judicial system is above a random drug test.

"The county law department has a policy that unless we have suspicion, you cannot drug test," Hanaver said.

That's something he'd like to work on getting changed by talking to the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals.

"It's been a shock to hear what's been going on. All this time we've been trying to help people get off drugs, and the person I called boss for 13 years was making it worse," Hanaver said.

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