Letter to the Editor

Dear reader,

On May 30, 1973, Ben Bradlee, the crusading Washington Post editor of the Watergate era, said, “As long as a journalist tells the truth in conscience and fairness, it is not his job to worry about the consequences. The truth is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run. I truly believe the truth sets men free.”

That quote hangs in my office as a daily reminder of what I do and why I sit behind my desk. As the editor of The Tomahawk Newspaper, it is my desire to report the news and bring relevant information to our readers, especially when it involves our elected officials and those that earn a living on the taxpayers’ dollars. 

That applies to all daily news in our region. In an effort to answer our readers’ questions, including in connection with the video referred to by Mrs. Matheson, posted on social media, initially on TikTok, which made its way to other platforms such as Facebook, The Tomahawk has sent emails to Johnson County Schools Director Mischelle Simcox.

In a reply email, the Director of the Schools said, “On the advice of legal counsel, it is our practice at Johnson County Schools not to comment on personnel matters outside the school system,” adding that the “matter has been fully addressed.”

The Tomahawk hoped to get a comment from JCS on how the matter has been handled and the consequences of the behavior of the individuals involved in posting the “inappropriate” video on social media. Or whether or not such speech and conduct in the recording are OK or acceptable in the Johnson County Schools system.

The Tomahawk has also contacted the Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and the department’s media source. In reply the Department stated:

“Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, § 49-2-203, a local board of education has the authority and duty to “manage and control all public schools established or that may be established under its jurisdiction.” Also, Tennessee Code Annotated, § 49-2-301, states specifically that, each local board of education is authorized to employ a director of schools. Local school district employees, including teachers, principals, and central office staff, are hired by the local director of schools and are not state employees. The Johnson County Board of Education and the director of schools must address local employment matters.”

Meanwhile, The Tomahawk has received many comments concerning the video post, from residents specifically sharing their dismay over the behavior, speech, and conduct of those appearing, in the video, as well as the silence on the part of JCS officials as to the weight of this incident and how they are or will be planning on handling such incidents.

It is noteworthy that the gross lack of transparency in Johnson County is widespread, and it seems to be a comfort zone for local officials.

A recent example of such an attitude toward the local press and the community that relies on its local news source was the incident involving Johnson County General Sessions Judge Perry Stout, who was being investigated for an alleged incident with a courthouse employee.

Even after multiple efforts as to what has occurred inside the courthouse or at least whether such behavior is tolerated or not, the Johnson County Mayor’s office initially responded: “No comment.” 

Mayor Larry Potter did release a statement nearly a week after the press inquiry began. While transparency was mentioned in the official statement, no answers regarding the

County’s stand were offered. 

It is my hope that our locally elected officials in all levels of local government, anchored by the taxpayers, reflect on, and choose transparency on behalf of all the citizens of Johnson County. 

A well-informed community is a strong community. Not rumors, gossip, or hearsay but relevant information that befit a transparent administration. 

It is my promise that The Tomahawk will continue to work with and offer its assistance to all members of the  Johnson County government, court, education, and law enforcement to bring accurate and fair reporting to the readers of the local press. 


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