Lineweaver defends record in juvenile court clerk debate

Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 10:06pm

“Experience counts.”

Juvenile Court Clerk Vic Lineweaver used the expression multiple times Saturday afternoon during what turned into a relatively uneventful though well-mannered debate between contenders vying for his seat in the upcoming Democratic primary. 

As most of Nashville took advantage of ideal weather outside, some 50 spectators convened at Tennessee State University’s Avon Williams campus to watch seven candidates discuss matters of record keeping inside Juvenile Court.

Election Day is May 4, with early voting beginning April 14. Davidson County residents can also choose to vote in a Republican primary.

Lineweaver’s string of negative recent headlines — including an arrest for failing to produce certain court documents — has put his hold on the seat in jeopardy, making the race the most analyzed contest in this year’s local election. The position pays an annual salary of $115,000.

While the six other candidates gave their reasons for running for the job, Lineweaver’s vulnerability is certainly the biggest reason the large field has formed.

“We’ve seen how the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office has been run over the past few years,” said Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite, one of the challengers. “Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve seen the articles and the newspaper stories.”

Lineweaver used the debate to defend his record. He said he’s helped bring a new digital recording system to the courtroom; installed a new ATM machine in the clerk’s office; extended office hours by 30 minutes; and started scanning all incoming files.

But candidate David Smith, a General Sessions Court officer and recipient of the most campaign cash, pointed to three audits conducted over the past few years that he said suggests the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office lacks accountability, fails to communicate effectively with Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green and has finance issues.

“If I’m elected, we’ve got to have communication with the magistrates and the judge, between the parties, so we can work together, share ideas and make things change,” Smith said.

School board member Karen Johnson, meanwhile, said the clerk must work with Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling to ensure its allocation of funds is used appropriately when it comes to trust accounts for children.

“One of the things I would immediately improve is establishing a clear policy around that,” Johnson said.

Howard E. Jones, who is also targeting Lineweaver’s seat, said it’s important the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office secure a “web-based system” to review files, adding that the office must also seek to build relationships with outside groups.

“We need to communicate with stakeholders in the community, with neighborhood associations and with faith-based agencies,” Jones said.

If elected, Jeff Brousal, a pharmacologist for the state, said he would hope to improve the process of transferring motions and petitions between courtrooms. The office, he added, also needs to do a better job of monitoring its “in-house database.”

Candidate Patricia Courts seemed to share those sentiments, maintaining the office must to a better job of “streamlining the process” of record keeping. 

5 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 4/11/10 at 7:54

An attorney neighbor that attended this says
Mrs. Johnson gave by far the best presentation
for this office! She certainly has appeared to have
been an excellent member of the School Board.

By: Ex Civil on 4/11/10 at 9:32

I was unable to attend this debate and I find the reporting on what the candidates said sketchy, given that I have read the 2009 audit, I was left wondering which candidates had read even the most recent audit.
Does “experience count” in ignoring all of the audits?
Should a candidate rely on “articles and news stories” for information about the deficiencies the audits identified or should the candidates read the audits?
Yes the three audits indicate “Juvenile Court Clerk’s office lacks accountability, fails to communicate effectively with Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green and has finance issues” other than talk to the people who are frustrated with the current situation what are your ideas or plans for dealing with these issue (two of the candidates)?
How does “monitoring … ‘in-house database’” deal with the audit identified issues?
Is “share those sentiments” another way of saying “I have not read any of the audits?
The only bright spot in the City Paper report was the candidate who apparently had read the audit section on failure of financial or fiduciary responsibility and who out lining a proposed policy on ”trust accounts for children” including pointing to a source of information and assistance in the form an existing experience Metro official, Finance Director Richard Riebeling.
I would consider voting for Karen Johnson, the details reported on the other candidates left me with little or no hope for the office of Juvenile Court Clerk.

By: Anna3 on 4/12/10 at 6:09

lets cut to the chase scene in this movie...Lineweaver will win the primary because of the large field of Dems...and that his chief challenger Smith is from a family of political hacks and crooks far worse than lineweaver. Crafton will win the Republican primary and go on to beat lineweaver. All you lawyers out there...you better get on the Crafton train early...its leavin' the station as far as i can see. Crafton may be the best early money you've ever spent.

By: unbridledskeptic on 4/12/10 at 8:42

I attended the event and, frankly, was a bit disturbed by some of the responses / behavior of some of the candidates, David Smith's response to a question from an audience member regarding working with people of different races/nationalities. His response was something like " desegregation..is that the correct word?" (turning to Ms. Wilhoite). I work well/get along well "with them"... referring to when he first went to school with people of color. At least know the basics of what not to say when you're addressing an audience predominately made up of people of color". IN MY OPINION, terms like that tend to show ones visceral true color. With so many youth of color in the juvenile system, this did not sit well with me...again, IN MY OPINION. I was also disturbed by Mr. Smith's omission of any mention of formal advanced education or direct association with any organization providing service to youth. He was the one candidate that I felt did not have any emotional connection to the position, and was strictly in it for the politics. In my opinion,although this position is primarily about recordkeeping, any person in this position should also have an deep desire for the best interest of the children. I didn't get that from him.
Ms. Wilhoite and Mr. Jones disturbed me in that there appeared to be a great deal of "posturing" going on. There was nothing substantial in their responses. I just didn't "get " them, at all. It seemed they spent more time telling us they were qualified instead of providing us valid qualifications.
Vic Lineweaver seems to be a nice man, but that is all I can give him. With his documented history in the office and other "antics", I think he is more of a liability and this office is in need of change.
I think Karen Johnson is BY FAR the best candidate for this position, Not only does she have an emotional connection, she also has the formal education and the history of working with organizations servicing children. She also presents herself in a very professional manner. Judging from what I witnessed from this panel and other media accounts, having any of the other candidates in this position would be doing a grave injustice to already troubled youth.
As far as Ms Courts and Mr. Brousal go, though they appear to be good people with the interest of children at heart, nothing they said resinated with me as them being viable candidates.

By: SRJ on 4/14/10 at 3:10

SRJ

Well, It is obvious that "unbridledskeptic" did not bother to do his/her homework on Candidate David Smith. It is amazing to me that "unbridledskeptic" failed to research his association with Shriners Hospital. Candidate David Smith is a ardent supporter and fundraiser for Al Menah Temple and Shriners Hospital (a non-profit Hospital that cares for crippled and burned children....at no cost to the family.) David Smith has dedicated the majority of his adult life to this very worthy cause. So, I would say, that is a very deep association with an Organization that provides services to youth.
David Smith is the only Candidate who understands how the Court System works. He will be able to take over on the first day, without months and months of on the job training. I also like the fact that he is not a "Career Politician like most of the other Candidates."