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Blount Memorial says woman who berated teens at Alcoa bridge no longer works there

A woman who was recorded on video berating two teens at a popular Alcoa bridge after they painted LGBTQ+ flags on it no longer works for Blount Memorial Hospital.

Blount Memorial did not name the woman in a social media post about 5 p.m. Friday, June 18, but said she previously worked at the organization’s Wellness Center and occasionally taught fitness classes.

Blount Memorial said she hasn’t worked there since Friday, June 11, two days after the incident.

Many people reached out to the hospital about the incident when it happened, according to the post.

“We value and respect everyone in our community, and the actions displayed do not reflect the standards and values of our organization,” the post read.

The bridge incident happened the night of June 9 and has since evoked widespread community outcry, condemning the woman’s behavior as homophobic and racist.

The Daily Times emailed BMH spokeswoman Jennie Bounds shortly after the incident to ask if the employee in question was Tabitha Travis, someone who was employed at the Wellness Center and who many people named online. Travis, who is shown in a hospital photo posted on Facebook, appears to be the woman in the video.

BMH “does not comment on requests to confirm employment status,” Bounds said.

The Daily Times also asked Friday if Blount Memorial referred to its employee handbook and code of conduct in dealing with the situation.

Bounds replied, explaining BMH “could only speak to the statement we shared via the hospital’s social media accounts today.”

The code of conduct states employees should “model professionalism in all interactions.”

The handbook does not specifically address employees’ behavior outside of work, but notes that its listed “examples of improper acts are by no means comprehensive in nature. Blount Memorial reserves the right to apply appropriate disciplinary procedures to any of the above or other acts that are unprofessional in nature.”

The incident spawned several events at the bridge since June 9. Groups recently gathered to repaint after others painted homophobic slurs.

County Commission votes to "encourage" in-person meeting with TDOT on Pellissippi Parkway Extension

An hour-and-a-half into Thursday night’s Blount County Commission meeting, the clock struck 8 and church bells tolled in the distance. The sound sent a murmur through the quiet crowd inside the Blount County Courthouse. For some, it seemed like a sign from above.

Seconds later the crowd erupted. The county commission had just voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution that would “encourage the Tennessee Department of Transportation to hold a public, in-person, informational meeting” regarding the controversial Pellissippi Parkway Extension.

It was the reason so many of Blount County’s concerned residents showed up to the commission meeting. They want a chance to speak with TDOT officials, face to face.

“We want to see a public meeting the way it’s supposed to happen,” said Jay Clark, president of Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension. “It’s just a part of the process.”

Back in April, TDOT did hold a virtual meeting regarding the project. However, many in Blount County felt it was insufficient.

According to several residents who spoke at Thursday night’s meeting, TDOT’s virtual presentation was a one-way affair, plagued by accessibility issues that left many people feeling unheard.

“The virtual event was an inadequate platform for public learning and comment on the proposed new highway,” said Kim Saltero, of Maryville. “It was no mechanism for shared learning or hearing responses to questions, as would occur in a face-to-face meeting.”

Opponents of the Pellissippi Parkway Extension said an in-person meeting will allow them to properly express their feelings on the project directly to TDOT representatives.

“If they’re going to take people’s land by imminent domain, it needs to count,” Clark said.

But not every commissioner is in favor of the meeting. Commissioner Tom Stinnett, who, along with Commissioner Dawn Reagan voted against the resolution, calls the proposed TDOT meeting a “delay tactic.”

On Thursday night, Stinnett gave an impassioned defense of the Pellissippi Parkway Extension that elicited a number of jeers from the rowdy audience. Stinnett cited the continued growth of Blount County in his defense of the divisive project.

“We can’t close the gate. There’s going to be other people who want to move here,” Stinnett said. “If we don’t build the infrastructure, especially when we have the chance to do it, we’re going to lose out.”

According to Stinnett, TDOT could begin purchasing land for the project as soon as August. However, Stinnett said officials have told him a public meeting could delay that by at least a month.

“I’m just afraid of jeopardizing this project,” Stinnett said. “I’m afraid that if we delay this or derail this, 50 years from now we’ll be wishing we hadn’t.”

Despite Stinnett’s protests, the resolution for an in-person meeting passed with a 16-2 vote and thundering applause from the crowd.

“My hope now is that the county commissioners who supported the resolution for the meeting will show up,” Clark said. “They need to sit there in front of TDOT officials and listen to them try to explain this project.”

No date for the meeting has been set.