KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Jeff Ownby has served as the Knox County commissioner for the Fourth District since August 2010.
His arrest on an indecent exposure charge may have an effect on what his constituents think, but ultimately what happens to his commission seat may be up to him.
According to Knox County Law Director Joe Jarret, because Ownby was arrested for a misdemeanor, there's little commission can do. The only act commissioners can take is censuring Ownby.
"A censure is basically a slap on the wrist," explained Commissioner R. Larry Smith.
But it's something Commission Chairman Mike Hammond plans to bring up at the chairman's lunch on Tuesday.
"I think that we, as a commission, need to discuss it to see if there's any commissioner who wants to talk about it," Hammond said.
The other possibilities would have to come from voters. "The only way he can be removed from office is through a citizen petition, a recall petition or there could be an ouster petition filed," Hammond explained.
A recall petition would require signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in Ownby's district. "That would be really hard to do, to get those numbers," Smith said.
Or Ownby could resign. Of the commissioners 6 News spoke to Friday, all agreed nothing should happen until Ownby has his day in court. He's scheduled for that on June 12.
But with the Knox County budget vote right around the corner on June 4, what effect could his arrest have?
"He is a sitting commissioner," Hammond said. "He can come to the meeting on Tuesday and vote like he normally would. He can be at the budget meeting on Monday, June 4 and vote like he normally would."
If Ownby doesn't attend the meeting, commission can vote without him.
"We have a body of 10, but we act as if we have a body of 11 because even though a commissioner is not there, so for example we would still need six (votes) for a majority," Hammond said.
If commissioner Ownby does resign, commission would then declare a vacancy. Commissioners would accept resumes from people from the Fourth District. There would then be a special hearing and a vote. The whole process would take two to three weeks.