County Commissioner Richard Briggs said his nomination of Craig Leuthold for Knox County trustee was not a conflict of interest, reports the News Sentinel, though Leuthold’s father is Briggs’ treasurer for a Tennessee state Senate bid. “If it is a conflict, it’s a conflict by second degree,” Briggs said. “I don’t have anything to gain by Craig being in the office or not being in the office.”
Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong said there was no conflict in Briggs’ action under county policy.
“He’s got a guy who has volunteered to run his campaign who happens to be Frank Leuthold,” Armstrong said.
Briggs said he voted rather than “disenfranchise” his 5th District constituents by recusing himself from voting for an interim trustee on Monday.
Briggs, Leuthold and other Knox County elected officials explained to the News Sentinel this week their connections and decision-making used to fill the trustee seat that John J. Duncan III resigned from July 2. Duncan pleaded guilty that day to a felony charge for giving $18,000 in unearned bonuses to himself and staff.
While local political gadflies have mused over the connections between Leuthold and the people who selected him, Briggs defended Leuthold as a commissioner who made it through “Black Wednesday” unscathed.
Leuthold worked in the Knox County Property Assessor’s Office until his Monday appointment as the county’s tax collector and was a two-term commissioner who held office when the state Supreme Court enforced term limits in 2007.
A Bradley County man’s quest to have the Cleveland city manager and a councilman charged for ripping up his protests signs came to naught Tuesday, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Dan Rawls said Bradley County General Sessions Judge Sheridan Randolph refused to issue criminal summonses for City Manager Janice Casteel or Councilman George Poe on charges of vandalism, criminal trespass and official oppression.
After meeting with the judge to make his request, Rawls said Randolph told him that even if he signed the papers, the prosecutor’s office was likely to dismiss the charges.
The two city officials ripped up protest signs Rawls posted in front of his business, Cleveland Performance Center, when Gov. Bill Haslam was appearing across the street on July 11. Rawls said the hand-painted sign saying, “Haslam, shame on u,” was to protest the governor’s support for Common Core educational standards.
Poe said afterward that the signs were an embarrassment to the city and that they were on city right of way.
Photos showed them near a stop sign and a utility pole, but it’s hard to determine whether they are within the 6-foot right of way
Next month, in the quiet Morgan County city of Wartburg, the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, along with the Tennessee Department of Correction, will open what the state says is the nation’s first statewide residential Recovery Court, reports the News Sentinel. The 24-hour, 100-bed facility, which opens its doors Aug. 1, will allow the state to divert people with substance abuse or mental health issues from prison beds, with the hope of halting the cycle of hospitalization, incarceration and homelessness that plagues many.
In a November budget hearing meeting with Gov. Bill Haslam, Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney laid out such a plan as being a humane and cost-effective way to deal with what he sees as one of the state’s biggest problems. In 2011, he told Haslam, for the first time ever, the state saw more people seeking treatment for narcotics addiction than for alcoholism — and the state’s system was sorely taxed.
“A large number of people in jails … their core problem is really drug abuse,” he said. Such an intensive program could “change their (lives) before they ever get that far.”
TDOC estimates the average daily cost to house a prison inmate at just more than $67. The Recovery Court residential program, even being more service-intensive than existing programs, will cost an average of $35 per person per day, the state said. But it also will, in theory, save money by reducing recidivism — “repeat offenders” — by using “evidence-based” programs “proven to have a larger impact on reducing recidivism.”
The state said studies have shown the recidivism rate for people who participate in such programs is one-third that of those who don’t.
However, it should not been taken as the state going “soft on crime,” TDOC Commissioner Derek Schofield said.
“What it says is that we’re going to place people in the best option to ensure they don’t re-offend. But also, we’re going to make sure we have a prison bed available for people who commit violent offenses that harm our communities,” he said.
Craig Leuthold, a former Knox County commissioner, was named by the current Knox County Commission Monday as trustee, filling the seat vacated when John J. Duncan III resigned July 2 after pleading guilty to a low-level felony for paying himself and staffers more than $18,000 in bonuses he knew they didn’t earn.
From the News Sentinel: Leuthold said he would open the bookkeeping.
“I’m going to work toward changing morale,” he said. “I’m going to be transparent.”
Former Trustee Mike Lowe held office from 1994 until he was term-limited by the state Supreme Court in 2007. He surrendered to authorities in April 2012 amid grand jury indictments on multiple counts of felony theft of more than $60,000. The grand jury also indicted four others from the county’s tax collection department.
Leuthold worked under Lowe, primarily in satellite offices. He said he would draw on his familiarity with the office in his approach during his term that lasts slightly more than a year. The office will be up for election in August 2014.
Given the troubled history of the office, commissioners wanted candidates to promise openness. They differed on whether they wanted a political outsider or someone connected to county government.
Monday’s discussions included some political theatrics by commissioners, including a postponement proposal to allow absent Commissioner Mike Brown to join in the vote in August.
Felonies and criminal charges from past Knox County trustees are preventing the interim trustee from obtaining the bonding she needs to fully operate, according to the News Sentinel. The Hartford, the bonding company for the Knox County Trustee’s Office, notified the county that it wouldn’t bond Kristin Phillips, the county’s acting trustee, until the county provided more information on the position.
“That causes great consternation,” Tony Norman, chairman of the Knox County Commission, said. “That affects their daily practices there.”
The lack of the $18.5 million bond for the seat keeps the trustee from investing the county’s tax money and similar jobs. The bond, required for the officeholder, is intended to protect the public from failure to perform duty or malfeasance.
…Phillips became acting trustee after the resignation of the previous officeholder, John J. Duncan III. Duncan pleaded guilty on July 2 to a low-level felony for paying himself and staffers more than $18,000 in bonuses he knew they didn’t earn.
Before him, Mike Lowe, who was trustee from 1994 until being term-limited by the state Supreme Court in 2007, surrendered to authorities in April 2012 following grand jury indictments on multiple counts of felony theft of more than $60,000. The grand jury indicted four others who worked in the county’s tax collection department. Lowe’s trial is set for 2014.
Among celebration parties in Bartlett, Germantown and elsewhere, suburban school supporters sipped soft drinks and toasted their success Tuesday night after voters again approved the formation of municipal school districts, reports The Commercial Appeal. Back at the polls because a federal judge threw out last year’s vote approving the districts, voters turned out in smaller numbers in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington but approved the districts by an overwhelming margin.
Approval numbers ranged from a high of 94 percent in Collierville to a low of almost 74 percent in Millington. About 20 percent of the 143,000 registered voters cast ballots with about half voting early.
“It’s higher than a typical special election,” said election administrator Richard Holden.
If the districts ultimately pass legal muster, Bartlett would be the largest suburban school district with 9,000-plus students in a dozen schools. Lakeland would be the smallest with roughly 2,500-plus students in one elementary school.
At Garibaldi’s Pizza in Germantown, supporters in YES shirts supporters smiled as they took pictures, cheered and applauded as precinct totals came in.
Roy Herron has returned to full-time work — and pay — as chairman of the state Democratic Party after serving as an attorney in monthlong trial that resulted in a $15.2 million verdict for his client, a young man left permanently disabled by alleged malpractice of a doctor and hospital.
Herron, a former state senator, stopped drawing his chairman’s salary May 15 to prepare for the trial, which began June 3 and ended July 3 with a Weakley County Circuit Court jury verdict in favor of Cody Wade of Martin, Tenn., who was 17 when left with brain injuries while under the care of the defendants following a traffic accident.
Herron, who was part a team of attorneys representing Wade and his grandparents, returned to the party headquarters to resume full-time work on Monday, according to Democratic spokesman Brandon Puttbrese.
Defendants in the case were Dr. Susan Lowry of Martin and Cane Creek Rehabilitation Hospital, owned by Rebound LLC, an affiliate of HealthSouth Corp. They may appeal the verdict.
“This verdict can mean that he lives in Weakley County with his family and those who love him, instead of the state taking Cody from his family and shipping him to Memphis, Nashville or even East Tennessee to languish and survive in a distant nursing home that takes ventilator-dependent patients,” Herron told the Union City Messenger.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Tim Gobble of Cleveland to the state Board of Parole, filling the remainder of the term left vacant by the resignation of Charles Taylor.
Gobble’s appointment becomes effective Tuesday, July 16 and the term expires December 31, 2015. (Note: A board member is paid $93,732 per year.)
“Tim has demonstrated his commitment and responsibility throughout an extensive career in public service, and we are fortunate to have him on the Board of Parole,” Haslam said. “I am grateful for his willingness to serve in this important capacity.”
Gobble has been interim deputy chief in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office since May, returning after serving as deputy chief in 2010-2011. He served as city manager of East Ridge from April 2011-February 2013. Gobble was the sheriff of Bradley County from 2006-2010.
He served as director of the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency from 2004-2006 and was a special agent and supervisor in the United States Secret Service from 1989-2004, serving in Nashville, Houston, Washington D.C. and Chattanooga. He was a police officer in Cleveland from 1988-1989.
“I am honored to be appointed to this position by Governor Haslam, for whom I have great admiration and respect,” Gobble said. “I look forward to serving and working with Chairman Montgomery, other Parole Board members, Parole Board staff and relevant stakeholders in the effective operation of the criminal justice system.”
Haslam named Richard Montgomery chairman of the Board of Parole on July 1.
Gobble received a bachelor’s degree in government and public administration from David Lipscomb College, now Lipscomb University, in 1986. He and his wife, Christie, have been married 25 years and have two daughters and one son.
Note: The Tennessean adds some background not included in the news release: The move comes five months after Gobble was removed as the city manager of East Ridge, a Chattanooga suburb, after a tumultuous two years on the job.
Gobble ran into criticism for a decision to hire a member of his church as a personal assistant and for his disciplining of the city’s court clerks in a case involving his daughter.
Gobble was hired almost immediately by Hamilton County and given oversight of the jail. Gobble also has served as sheriff of Bradley County, director of the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency and a special agent and supervisor in the U.S. Secret Service.
— UPDATE: And there’s this from Nooga.com: Asked how he reconciled his pick with Gobble’s recent experience in East Ridge, Haslam declined to comment on the issue and instead focused on his other roles in public life.
“I mean, I can’t really speak for both sides of that issue,” Haslam said. “But I think from what I’ve seen of Tim, both as Bradley County sheriff, his time in Hamilton County and his federal government Secret Service work, I think he can add to the program.”
News release from TBI:
KNOXVILLE – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has investigated a case of illegal voter registration fraud in Scott County which resulted in the indictment and arrest of an Oneida couple.
Thirty-seven-year-old Christina Botts and her husband, Carrie Botts, 29, were arrested last evening on indictments returned by the Scott County grand jury yesterday. Christina Botts was indicted on 13 counts of illegal voter registration fraud and Carrie Botts indicted on one count of illegal voter registration fraud.
In October of 2012, the 8th Judicial District Attorney General requested TBI to investigate allegations of the couple fraudulently registering voters in Scott County.
Christina Botts registered 43 individuals during September 2012 and Carrie Botts registered one person and forged a signature on the voter registration application. They were altering address information on voter registration forms so it would appear the individuals lived in the city of Huntsville. The Scott County Sheriff’s Office was also involved in the case.
Both were taken into custody at a relative’s residence in Helenwood yesterday. Christina Botts was booked into the Scott County Jail on $25,000 bond. Carrie Botts bond was set at $1,500.
ERWIN, Tenn. (AP) — A judge has dropped six official misconduct charges against former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris.
The Johnson City Press reports that Judge John Kerry Blackwood ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed with Harris’ trial, which started Monday.
It would have been Harris’ third trial. Two previous trials ended in hung juries.
During opening statements Monday, District Attorney General Tony Clark told jurors that county inmates were taken to property owned by Harris to bush hog it, mow it, cut wood and raze structures there.
Harris’ attorney said in court that Harris did not know the inmates were working on the property.
A grand jury in October 2011 indicted Harris on felony charges, including official misconduct, theft, criminal simulation, attempted aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.