Are Knox County officeholders putting in a full day's work?

Are Knox County officeholders putting in a full day's work?

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When government employees enter and exit the garage they swipe their identity card in a reader. When government employees enter and exit the garage they swipe their identity card in a reader.
6 News reviewed Duncan's work history, basing it on entries into and out of the City-County Building garage. 6 News reviewed Duncan's work history, basing it on entries into and out of the City-County Building garage.
Over the past six months John Duncan III rarely spent a full eight hours a day in the City-County Building. Over the past six months John Duncan III rarely spent a full eight hours a day in the City-County Building.
"Each voter makes a choice they look at it and if they've gotten good service and people are there doing the job," said longtime political observer Frank Cagle. "Each voter makes a choice they look at it and if they've gotten good service and people are there doing the job," said longtime political observer Frank Cagle.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - One of the candidates pitching for the Knox County Trustee's job before County Commission last week said he would "show up for work and show leadership."

The implication is that former Trustee John Duncan III did neither.

6 News wondered about that. What hours did Duncan work during the last few months of his tenure?

And for that matter, what about the other fee officers? It's hard to show leadership if you're not on the job.

To figure what hours they have worked we turned to the Public Building Authority for help.

The promising political career of John Duncan III hit a major obstacle on July 2 when he pleaded guilty to a felony for paying himself and others bonuses they had not earned. That same day, he resigned as trustee.

6 News reviewed Duncan's work history, basing it on entries into and out of the City-County Building garage.

While the trustee has satellite offices, its main business is conducted in the City-County Building.

When government employees enter and exit the garage they swipe their identity card in a reader, which gains them access into and out of the garage and building. Each card carries a specific identifier, allowing the Public Building Authority the ability to track and time the employees and officeholders.

There is a complication to the process, however. Between 4:30 and 5 p.m. the gates remain open, allowing cars to leave en masse without swiping.

So while this method doesn't account for all time worked, it does at least show a pattern of how often someone is in the City-County Building.

Over the past six months Duncan was inconsistent, except in one area. He rarely spent a full eight hours a day in the building.

For example, during the week of April 8-12 his swipe card indicates he spent just 19 hours and 19 minutes in the building for the entire week.

Longtime political observer Frank Cagle says that's disappointing.

"I hate that every officeholder and every county employee is getting branded by this because there are some extremely nice people down there who work very hard every day. And not just the officeholders, but the people who run the offices every day," he said.

So what about the other county officeholders? How do their work habits compare?

To find out 6 News asked to look at their records too. We chose April at random for a comparison.

Records were pulled for Property Assessor Phil Ballard, who makes $130,667.90 a year; Register of Deeds Sherry Witt, who draws $113,623.90 a year; Court Clerks Joy McCrosky and Cathy Quist, who both make $124,986.16; and County Clerk Foster Arnett, who receives $113,623.90. 

Arnett does not park in the City-County Building garage, but he uses a swipe card to enter the courthouse. Our review shows he typically arrived early, between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m.

The swipe card does not record his departures, but Arnett told 6 News he usually leaves after 4 p.m.

Register of Deeds Sherry Witt says she typically works at least 40 hours a week, but our review of her April entries and departures showed she worked less.

Witt questions the numbers we found, saying they don't reflect committee meetings, board meetings and other events outside the building that she says are part of her duties as register of deeds.

"There are no excuses for someone not being there," Witt said. "I have a great group of employees. There are no questions about our work because we do our jobs. We know what we are doing."

Property Assessor Phil Ballard's April time sheet also showed he was in the City-County Building less than 40 hours per week in all but one week that month.

Ballard says he tries to find a "balance between being in the office and in the field." He points out that in April he was out of the office looking at a number of properties and he says he's always available by phone.

Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCrosky logged the most hours in April in the City-County Building, though even her record shows some mid- to late-morning arrivals.

McCrosky says there are "occasional circumstances when you can't be at work on time" and pointed to doctors appointments and outside meetings as examples.

Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Quist logged the fewest hours in the building. She says she also spends time at her office on Division Street where the juvenile courts are located.

Quist adds she has never been someone who watches the clock, but says, "Knox County is getting its money's worth."

So are our officeholders working hard enough to justify their salaries?

"Each voter makes a choice they look at it and if they've gotten good service and people are there doing the job," said Cagle. "And yes, it bothers you that they're not there, or (they're) sitting around reading the paper. But most of all you want efficiency and you don't want anybody misusing taxpayer money," he added.

As for the trustee's position, Knox County voters get another chance at getting it right next year.


See the swip card records for yourself

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