Area Scandal-makers Still Ply their Old-timey Craft
KNOXVILLE, TN. Perhaps you heard that, after a process requiring 18 months, multiple meetings, and copious documentation reviews, Knox County's E-911 board of directors was set to decide last month on a $9 million contract for a new digital radio system? And that the motion to proceed voiced by Jason Lay, sitting in for Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, was greeted with stony silence by board members?
Now, Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, who allowed proxies to fill their seats on the board during the radio-system selection process, are left with egg on their faces as they struggle to explain the board’s silent rejection of the much-vetted proposal. Consequently, the chicken-embryo-adorned leaders announced their intent to vigorously pursue redress of the non-vote, without addressing why it occurred in the first place.
Yet, so far, no one can say why the motion was mutely dismissed or if there is something nefarious behind it.
"Some of our finest work to date – if it is ours," chuckles longtime Knox County scandal-maker Elle Repute. "Such delicious confusion! Whether this mismanagement has more dire repercussions, the mayors at least look like inattentive overseers, absorbed by 'more important matters' than the Knox metro area’s 911 emergency system. Exquisite."
The moment in the E-911 meeting when a dropping pin would have shattered the stillness is a signal that local members of the Scandal-Makers Union of Tennessee (SMUT) are still quietly crafting scandals using the same time-honored tools and methods their forebears did.
Repute, who is head of SMUT Local 69, says area con artisans, whose craft has been handed down from generation to generation, pursue their trade behind the scenes, in dimly lit rooms where the smoke rising from their labors makes it difficult to distinguish what they are up to.
That, Repute says, is exactly how they like it.
“Others present the public face of what we do,” she says. “We're happy incognito. The work is its own reward – as it always has been.”
“The work” is a family tradition among the Reputes. Elle’s grandfather, Disciple “Dis” Repute, was a scandalmonger under Caswell “Cas” Walker, the infamous Knoxville entrepreneur, who served on city council from 1941-1971, and was a powerful political force locally into the 1980s.
Repute says the infamous 1956 photograph of Walker throwing a punch at fellow city councilman J.S. Cooper during a council meeting is an example of the elder Repute’s scandal-mongering. She claims her grandfather staged the photo for Walker, to cement Knoxville's image as a backwater town.
“Knoxville having that image helped keep Cas' machine in power for another 25 years,” she explains. “And thanks to Grandpappy Dis, nobody knew it was a set-up."
Elle Repute’s father, Disciple Repute, Jr., who prefers the nickname “Bad,” cites the Knox County Trustee's office as an illustration of the longevity of local scandal-makers’ handicraft.
According to Bad Repute, he and other members of SMUT Local 69 engineered the years-long corruption in that office. Although longtime Trustee Mike Lowe was term-limited out of office in 2008, he and four underlings were indicted on felony theft charges in 2012 for malfeasance perpetrated during Lowe’s tenure.
The Trustee’s office suffered further ignominy after John Duncan XXXIII&I/III, scion of the local Duncan political dynasty, was elected trustee in 2010. After paying himself and some of his hangers-on unearned bonuses during his term, Duncan pleaded guilty to official misconduct in 2013 and resigned from office.
“And there’s no end in sight, with Lowe and his cronies’ trials yet to come,” the proud son of Dis Repute says in a drawl sharp as a hacksaw. “Our creations are built to last. Underhanded handiwork for the ages, you might say.”
Still, local outrages occur for which area scandal-makers refuse credit. The recent revelation that five Knox County jailers beat an inmate, which resulted for the officers in one firing, one resignation, and two disciplinary actions, is a scandal that SMUT deplores.
“That's not a scandal, that’s a travesty of justice,” sighs Elle Repute. “Maybe the jailers were following in the spirit of their boss the sheriff's inhumane 2013 vow to stack ‘like cord wood’ any undocumented aliens unfortunate enough to fall into his clutches. But whatever it was, that’s not our work.”
Of other debacles, the SMUT leader is content to leave the question of authorship open.
“Did University of Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall commit minor misdeeds at the University of Southern Mississippi or outright scandals? Was the mess that former Metropolitan Planning Commission Executive Director Mark Donaldson left in the wake of his retirement a scandal or just a fiasco?” Repute asks rhetorically. “Only time will tell. Because we won’t.”
In the meantime, Elle Repute and her colleagues in SMUT continue their toil, hidden away behind the doors of Knoxville’s smoke-filled back rooms.
— Scott McNutt, Mocksville Reporter
From APB Reports