Rogero responds to Victor Ashe’s column in the Shopper

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero firing back at former Mayor Victor Ashe after his column in the Shopper. Rogero sent Victor Ashe the following email:

Dear Victor,

There are a few things I want you to know, from one mayor to another, and I want to be as clear and transparent as you would expect.

The first is that I found your most recent Shopper News column outrageous in its personal attacks on Lori Goerlich, the City’s Greenways Coordinator. Lori is a dedicated staff member who is leading the Greenways Commission through a comprehensive master plan for our greenways system. She had no control or authority over construction delays in the complex project you wrote about. The details of that project were explained to you many times, but as usual, you chose to ignore facts that didn’t suit your biases.

It is one thing for you to criticize me or my senior staff – we get paid to make the decisions and take the heat. It is something else entirely for you to so nastily and unfairly single out a hard-working junior staff member.

During the past four years, in the course of research for your weekly gossip column, you have taken up more time and occupied more City resources – by far — than any other member of the local media. (I should say “alleged research,” because most of the information we provide you never appears in your column.) There have been weeks and months when your endless, largely trivial questions have required more attention than the rest of the media combined.

I welcome scrutiny of City services and operations, whether it comes from the media or members of the public, and I absolutely believe in accountability for myself and all City employees. But honestly, it is hard not to roll our eyes at most of your questions.

A lot of your pestering has been aimed at banal details of City operations — remember when you threatened to file an open records request to find out the decorating scheme for a budget luncheon? (It was blue gingham.) Sometimes it has been comically hypocritical, like your outrage over pension enhancements that you created while you were mayor and from which you currently benefit. Then there is your concern with City election cycles, which you somehow never addressed during your 16 years in office but now find a matter of great urgency.

I have to say that in my conversations with mayors across the country, your behavior as a former mayor in harassing and haranguing subsequent administrations is unprecedented – and unprofessional.

But obviously you are free to your opinions and obsessions. What I really object to are these two things:

• Your personal attacks on my City staff, which have escalated over the years. Ms. Goerlich is just the most recent, and you seem to have a special penchant for picking on my employees who are women. Let’s be clear: This is my administration. If you don’t like something we are doing, the buck stops with me. If you want to criticize me, question me, or insult me, then have at it. But it is profoundly unfair to abuse public employees who have done nothing to deserve it and who have no way to respond in kind. Those are the classic tactics of a bully.

• The sheer amount of time and energy you occupy. City staff at all levels are too busy with real work to jump at your beck and call. The Victor-related workload here was already high before we started receiving additional information requests filed anonymously through an attorney that somehow always mirror whatever you’re interested in that week. Needless to say, this is not typical media behavior.

Four years is enough of all of this. So here’s what we will do for the next four years. I see no need to continue the pretense of treating you as a member of the media and including you on our media distribution list. You exhibit little or none of the ethics or interests of a professional journalist – you routinely ignore information that contradicts your opinions, you spread baseless rumors and sometimes you simply make things up.

We have dutifully answered your hundreds if not thousands of questions, most of which have gone well beyond what’s required under open records laws. But frankly, we’re tired of it. From now on, like any Tennessee citizen, you are free to file records requests with the Law Department for public information. But we will not respond to requests that go beyond what we are required by law to provide to you. I have instructed City staff other than the Law Department not to respond to you.

I am sure that you will continue to find fault with my administration and my ongoing failure to do things the way you would. I’m OK with that. My intention is to limit your abuse of public employees and public resources. If you ever want to talk, mayor to mayor, give me a call.

Sincerely,
Madeline

We reached out to Victor Ashe for his response to this letter.

He said, ” It’s disappointing to see this heavy handed reaction to valid questions about the snails pace of the green way construction in our city, only two miles in four years. I’m glad the mayor is taking full responsibility for this and hopefully will speed up the process of green way construction in the future.”

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