Knox Trustee Awards Bonus to Self, Others
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John Duncan III, the Trustee for Knox County, awarded himself and six other employees each a $3,000 education bonus after being in office for only three months. The majority of those who received the bonuses are tied to a program that says money should only go to those who have a designation of certified public administrator. None of those who received the bonuses had that certification.

Close to one year later, Duncan awarded himself and 11 other employees, most of whom are the highest paid, the same exact bonuses. Four of the 11 workers were certified this time. According to the administrators of the program, the trustee is not certified. Duncan III is the son of U.S. Representative John J. Duncan Jr.


“I feel like if they show reasonable diligence in pursuing the program, then they should be rewarded for it,” said Duncan, who earns almost $107,000 a year in salary, according to knoxnews.com. “I have no problem at all rewarding people who are taking initiative and trying to improve their knowledge of the county and better serve the taxpayer.”

Duncan paid workers $36,000 in 2011 and $21,000 in 2012 with the training program costing taxpayers $6,300.

In order to acquire the certification, workers for the county have to complete the County Officials Certificate Training Program. This is administered by the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Services (CTAS). The program was created 20 years ago for elected officials, even though any employee of the county can take part in it.

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Candidates within the program have to earn 60 hours of training and then pass a series of open book tests followed by an exit exam. For officials to remain certified, they must complete 16 hours of training each year. Elected officials have to take an additional two hours of ethics training.

There is a one-time assessment fee of $300 and a $300 fee to attend a ‘capstone’ event, which is a three-day session that was offered last April. Every four years there is a $300 re-certification fee.

“The classes are about all of county government, anything from the history or how a legislative body works, elections and government in Tennessee in general,” said CTAS Executive Director Mike Garland, who also said that online courses are available. “It’s kind of like getting a college education, but on a smaller scale of course. When people come into office, many have never served, so we give them the fundamentals of operating the office and how to better serve the public.”

Garland then responded to a question about officials receiving county dollars before acquiring their certification: “I’m not aware of any county that pays prior to receiving the designation.” He also said that those payments would violate the spirit of the program.

In Knox County, 34 officials have received the certification, with 820 county officials receiving the certification across the state.


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