KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Commission voted 8-3 to strip the Knox County Board of Health of its regulation-making power Monday night.

The commission began these discussions late last year.

This means the group will become an advisory board for county leaders when making decisions for residents regarding health regulations.

A total of 17 members of the community spoke during public forum. All of them spoke out against the Board of Heath and urged commissioners to “do the right thing” and vote to take its power.

When it came time to vote, Commission Chair Larsen Jay was the only commissioner to speak.

“I’ve maintained from the beginning that if the state wants to change the form and the function of the Board of Health, that we would abide, yet still it has not. I continue to question based on the clearly written state law if the commission has the authority to establish an advisory board of health, but I’ll just have to simply disagree with our law department interpretation and move on,” Jay said.

Commissioners Lundy and Durrett also voted against the ordinance. The remaining 8 commissioners voted in favor of it.

Prior to the vote, one of the board members Dr. Patrick O’Brien sent a semi-resignation letter to the commissioners. Saying in the event that the ordinance is passed, he “does not feel he can adequately serve in the newly established advisory role.”

After the vote, Dr. Buchanan said she was not surprised at the outcome.

“This debate has been brewing for several months and the direction it’s going has become more and more clear. So you know as always as I’ve said this whole time no matter who is making the decisions, I will continue to follow public health science and make the recommendations that I think are the most appropriate for our community to keep our citizens safe,” Buchanan said.

As for what happens next, Dr. Buchanan says she will have to consult with the law director to find out what happens to health policies that are currently in place.


Knox Co. Commission set to vote on Board of Health power shift

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Commission is set to vote tonight on a proposed ordinance that would strip the Board of Health of its policy-making power.

In December 2020, the commission passed the ordinance on first reading to move the Knox County Board of Health to an advisory role.

In January, second reading was postponed for 90 days, set to be voted on in April. During the March 22 work session, the commission unanimously passed a motion to add the Board of Health ordinance to the March 29 regular voting meeting. 

Tonight’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the City-County Building’s Main Assembly Room.