Unhappy KTA emails from Hubert Smith, others

We ran a piece today about unease from KTA Commissioners Hubert Smith and Ken Muller over the way things are being run by new chair Renee Hoyos.

At issue – a seating chart, timed comments for commissioners and a few snags with Roberts Rules of Order.

From the story:

“The chairman should inform the board what she’s thinking and get buy-in from the board after some explanation and feedback,” Smith wrote in a reply. “However, stating this will help staff be better prepared and will assist in identifying everyone is rather lame.”

– snip –

Muller, who is the Community Advisory Committee chairman on the nine-member KTA, added his concerns on the timer and how meetings were regulated.
Their decisions impact lives. Commissioners on KTA oversee a public service that in January had 329,104 passengers. Hoyos likes to point out that ridership grew by 12 percent in the past year.
Muller complained on how the meeting was ordered, among other issues, and stated that “respect is lacking.”
“I am more disappointed by Chair Hoyos’ actions than appalled,” he wrote in an email. “I cannot assess motive here, but do feel that respect is lacking.”

She basically told them to deal with it.

“It happens,” she said. “I’m sorry they feel that way. I wasn’t doing it to make their lives unhappy.”

Here’s the text of Smith’s original email, sent Friday:

The more I think about this the more I have to say about it. First of all this should not have been put out this way as a directive. This should have been something the chairman discusses with the board. However, since this was put out in mass for everybody to read I’m going to respond in kind.

It seems we have this acronym KTA mixed up. These are (KTA) Knoxville Transit Authority Board of Commissioners meetings, not (KAT) Knoxville Area Transit staff meetings. It’s the Board’s meeting, not KAT’s meeting. Admittedly KAT is the lions share of the business we discuss, but it’s not the only issue regarding public transportation we discuss. And certainly KAT staff should not and has no authority to tell a board member where to sit. I think you’ve got it backwards.

I reject this directive in every way. I would not be so objectionable if this were handled in a more professional manner, such as discussion. The chairman should inform the board what she’s thinking and get buy in from the board after some explanation and feedback. However, stating this will help staff be better prepared and will assist in identifying everyone is rather lame.

I currently serve on the (PBA) Public Building Authority Board of Directors and have served on many others in my multiple years of public service to this city, which predates our chairman, and I have NEVER been told where to sit by staff or any chairman for that matter. Staff in most every other public board I’ve been associated with sits where the Board does not. If this is what the chairman has KAT staff taking their time to do when there is a mass undertaking such as K2 staring us in the face that’s most unfortunate.

I serve at the pleasure of Mayor Rogero and city council, not the whims of somebody who wants to run this Authority in a tight-fisted manner. When comments were made during the February meeting about “putting commissioners on the clock” when we speak and “efficiency” and respecting “peoples’ time” etc. I bit my tongue. I recognize this is commonplace when people aren’t accustomed to having authority, but this directive goes TOO far.

There’s NOTHING in the city charter, nor by-laws for this Board stating such action as this. The chairman has no authority to hand down such a directive and KAT staff has no authority to issue it, and I have no obligation to abide by it. I personally resent how this was delivered and whole-heartedly REJECT it! If the chairman wants the board to have assigned seating then ask us how we feel about it. The chairman is only one vote of nine last time I read the charter.

I see this unwarranted directive as most unfortunate.

According to Roberts Rules of Order which we work under, I FULLY intend to challenge this ruling or whatever this action it’s called when the Board meets later this month. Don’t we have important matters of public policy to deal with rather than this type juvenile behavior?

And Muller’s email text, also sent to the KTA board:

I concur that there is something amiss in the handling of several issues here — but am unsure of their importance.

At the meeting I was surprised at the apparent lack of knowledge about Roberts Rules of Order on the part of our Chairman.

1) the agenda was improperly ordered with New Business coming before Old Business.  I drew this to the attention of Chair Hoyos after the meeting.

2) She was unsure on the voting order of a Motion and Amendment and referred to John Lawhorn for information.  I was only surprised here because the information from the Nominating Committee alluded to Ms Hoyos experience  in meeting facilitation.

3) Chair Hoyos announced the restriction on speaking time for Commissioners.  Under RRofO it takes a 2/3 vote of the quorum to limit speaking time.  It is never the prerogative of the Chair.  I immediately wondered whether the KTA Charted mandated using RRofO, and seeing that our legal advisor offered no objection I did not voice a protest.  Now I will protest as a pattern is forming of disregard of said Rules.  We heard of no problem that will be solved by this restriction unless vying for the “shortest meeting record” has some clout.  As several of the Commissioners indicated that they would speak as long as they wished I again did not protest until clarifying whether RRofO is indeed mandated.    Apparently it is.

4)  Directed seating.  Say what?  There certainly could be an invitation for a Motion from the Chair with proper discussion and appraisal of the problem.  What problem?  With new Commissioner on board it might make sense for each of us to identify ourself “to the public” when speaking, but why is this important for KAT Staff?  They are close enough to read our nameplates.  Perhaps it is problem with “taking Minutes” – who knows?  But, even in first grade the seat assignment was based on alphabetical order or height.  What was the basis of the setting arrangement here?  In large measure I do not care, but as this is but one of the several strange actions it gains in stature.

Yet, the strangest action of all is receiving this directive through KAT.  Does the KTA Chair have no way of communicating with the Commissioners on a protocol other than this?  Even if the Chair does have the right to seat Commissioners, from where comes the right to seat KAT Staff?  The location and reporting order of the KAT Staff should be at the pleasure of the Commissioners or Public and not at the convenience of KAT.  Cindy McGinnis is experienced and competent.  She should have refused to be the pawn in this action.

It is possible that each of these actions has merit and should become protocol or practice.  If so they can stand the scrutiny of open discussion.

I am more disappointed by Chair Hoyos actions than appalled.  I cannot assess motive here, but do feel that respect is lacking.

Ken Muller


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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