Knox County Commission Eliminates Powers of Its Health Board


The Knox County Commission finalized its vote to eliminate the Knox County Board of Health’s powers on Monday, effectively rendering it an advisory body. The final vote in favor of the measure, 8-3, wasn’t as close as the previous vote. The final vote was originally scheduled for the end of April, as The Tennessee Star reported in January, but the commission voted during last week’s meeting to vote on this measure during Monday’s meeting.

The Star inquired with Chairman Larsen Jay about the commission’s decision-making. Specifically, we inquired what caused the shift within the commission to be more supportive of the measure. Jay didn’t respond by press time. He voted “no” alongside Commissioners Dasha Lundy and Courtney Durrett.

Tennessee Stands, a community-based nonprofit social advocacy group, announced the decision shortly after the commission meeting. The group had rallied and advocated to eliminate the board’s powers.

It appears that Board of Health members anticipated what the likely outcome of the commission meeting would be. Approximately hours before the meeting, one of the board’s members, Colonel Patrick O’Brien, submitted his resignation letter. The contents of the letter are reproduced below:

In the event that the enabling ordinance that set up the Knox County Board of Health is negated by the Knox County Commission, I will not accept a position as a member of the Knox County Advisory Board of Health as I do not feel I can adequately serve in this newly established advisory role. It was an honor and privilege to serve on the Knox County Board of Health with my fellow board members, but I feel as though given the direction that has been set by the Knox County Commission, it is time for me to step aside and focus my time and energy elsewhere.

At the end of last month, O’Brien advocated for “several more months” of strict mask-wearing and social distancing – though he acknowledged the continued downward trend of hospitalizations and active cases.

Similarly to this decision by the commissioners, the Tennessee Senate is considering a bill that would eliminate the powers of six independent boards of health. The House has already passed the bill.

The entirety of the vote lasted just minutes. Groups of maskless community members were present at the meeting to speak in favor of reducing the board to an advisory body.

Following the decision, one individual took to a social media group to threaten commissioners for their vote. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office is investigating this threat.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Knox County Health Department Building” by Knox County Health Department. 





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6 Thoughts to “Knox County Commission Eliminates Powers of Its Health Board”

  1. Jay

    Sad but true we are losing our state to the left. All those people that moved here to escape the idiocy are bringing it with them

  2. Cannoneer2

    Stupid decision. Shoot, Tennessee’s universities need to go ahead and hand out a complimentary degree in health science when a public administration, political science or business degree is conferred. Cut out the middle man.

  3. 83ragtop50

    All I can say to Colonel Patrick O’Brien is don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  4. Mike

    This decision is a positive outcome. I do not believe the health board was capable of fully evaluating the effects of it’s decisions on those affected by the decisions. This group would serve the county best as an advisory group.

  5. rick

    It’s n absolute shame that this power has not been taken away from Queen Cooper and his corrupt health dept. Knoxville may have finally come to their senses. Cooper is a disgrace and should be run out of office.The metro council is no better except for a few good people. The Council person that represents my district only cares about promoting LBGTQ and this individuals personal business. Oh this individual plays the game well, but is totally useless and full of it. Common sense would have no voice if it were not for Councilman Glover.

  6. Randy

    Larsen Jay, allegedly a Republican and certainly not a conservative, routinely votes with the Democrat Commissioners Lundy and Durrett. The threat came prior to the vote by commissioners and is being hailed by a local online paid lefty “news” service as a wonderful expression of freedom. Of course the same outlet has railed against anything that remotely suggests anyone should ever be allowed out in public without government consent. Unless of course you are The thirteenth district rep from Knoxville, then its OK to hug people, they miss her so much.