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.
A scaled-down version of the Farm Bill passed the US House Thursday, and Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted along strict party lines today–with one exception. So reports WPLN.
Knoxville Representative John Duncan is one of only 12 Republicans voting no.
The bill strips out any language governing food stamps, and that’s a big reason why Democrats don’t like it.
Duncan takes issue with a measure that would expand crop insurance for farmers.
“You start a small business you have to pay 100% of your insurance, and then on top of that you
From a Wasnington Post blog, here’s a list: The dozen GOP lawmakers who bucked the party were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Paul Cook (Calif.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.).
Knox County Trustee John Duncan III pleaded guilty today in Criminal Court to a felony charge of official misconduct and resigned from office, reports the News Sentinel. He entered the plea by information, which means he agreed to skip a grand jury review.
He received a one-year probation and may apply for diversion.
He must cooperate with “this” and “any other probes,” according to his plea agreement taken by Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz.
His father, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, said after the hearing, “We can rely on our faith to get on with our future.”
He declined further comment.
Prosecutor Bill Bright said that Duncan had then-attorney Chad Tindell file a salary lawsuit on Sept. 30, 2010, approving bonuses of $3,000 each for himself and five others, and a $2,000 bonus for a sixth staffer for completing a training program that none of them had, in fact, completed.
Duncan, as part of the plea, is specifically agreeing to participate in the probes of the other employees who received bonuses who have not yet been charged.
Bright alleged that Duncan lied to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation by saying that no one ever told him that it was improper to collect bonuses before completion of the training program.
However, three employees told the TBI that they had, in fact, warned Duncan against trying to collect bonuses without having completed the training.
In February, Tindell received judicial diversion on a misdemeanor charge connected to his participation in the bonus program that let some employees in the Trustee’s Office receive extra money for educational studies they never completed. Tindell worked more than two years as the tax attorney for the Trustee’s Office before leaving early this year. He can seek to wipe his record clean if he abides by the terms of his probation.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is getting a lot of opinions from a lot of people as he weighs the pros and cons of taxing items purchased over the Internet, according to Michael Collins. Gov. Bill Haslam wants states to have the power to collect the tax, arguing it is money that is already owed. Some small businesses in Duncan’s Knoxville-based congressional district take the same position and say it’s a matter of fairness: They already are required by law to collect the tax and send it to the state, but out-of-state online retailers are not.
Calls to Duncan’s congressional offices, on the other hand, are running roughly 12 to 1 against Internet tax legislation pending in Congress. Even his own staff is divided. A couple of his close advisers are encouraging him to support the bill. Another argues it amounts to a tax increase and that he should vote no.
“I’m feeling a lot of pressure from both sides of this bill,” the Knoxville Republican conceded this week.
So where does he stand? “I don’t know,” Duncan said. “I’m still thinking about it.”
He’s not alone. The three other East Tennesseans in the U.S. House — Reps. Phil Roe of Johnson City, Scott DesJarlais of Jasper and Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah — all said they are undecided about the bill known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. All three congressmen are Republicans.
“From a fairness standpoint, your small local retailers are at a disadvantage and, right now, frankly, you do owe that tax,” Roe said. “The flip side of that is, hey, this is a foul. Nobody wants to pay more taxes.”
Tennessee’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — both voted for the bill when it cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this month on a 69-27 vote.
U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan’s assertion that 90 percent of felonies are committed by people who grew up in fatherless homes has been given a “mostly false” rating by Politifact.
The national fact-checking group looked at a comment the Knoxville Republican congressman made in a letter to a constituent: “Well over 90 percent of felony cases, all over the nation, are committed by defendants who grew up in father-absent households.”
A Duncan spokesman told Politifact that the assertion was based on “knowledge obtained from nearly eight years as a criminal court judge dealing with mostly felony cases.” And Gary Tullock, chief probation counselor, told him the figure was actually 98 percent.
Politifact looked at three studies on the issue, which pegged the number at around 60 percent.
An excerpt: Dewey Cornell, a clinical psychologist and professor of education at the University of Virginia, said that even if Duncan’s statistic were true, “it would be misleading and incomplete,” because it does not address how many people grew up in father-absent households and did not commit felonies.
“We could point out that 99 percent of felony offenders drank milk as a child, too, but it is easy to see the fallacy here because we have no preconceptions about milk the way we do about father absence,” he said. “Father absence is surely an important concern, but it is only one of a number of risk factors for felony criminal behavior.”
…The data we found supports Duncan’s impression that growing up in a fatherless home is one of the factors that contributes to eventual incarceration. But the quantitative research does not show the near-certain link between felonies and fatherlessness that Duncan portrays. We rate the claim Mostly False.
The full Politifact article is HERE.
The idea of selling the Tennessee Valley Authority is continuing to get bad reviews from Republicans in Tennessee’s Congressional delegation, reports the News Sentinel. In the 2014 budget submitted to Congress, the Obama Administration said it “intends to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole.”
In a written statement, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Thursday that “While unfortunate but true, TVA as a going concern today is probably worth less than its debt and its rates have become increasingly less competitive, so if the goal is deficit reduction, I doubt this idea gains much traction.”
In the past, Corker has been critical of how TVA is run, focusing particular attention on the board nominees submitted by Republican and Democratic presidents.
In October, Corker said that “On most days in Washington, I fear the federal government is going to destroy TVA”, adding that “I’ve wondered if the governors wouldn’t care more” about the agency and provide better oversight and leadership.
…The idea of a TVA sale also drew fire on Thursday from U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr., of Knoxville.
“This proposal is part of a Presidential budget that has received very bad reviews and is not likely to go anywhere,” Duncan said in a statement. “It is also something that has been proposed in the past and been determined to be a very bad idea.”
Legislation setting the stage for election of school superintendents in some Tennessee counties faces key votes this week in both the state House and Senate with U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. among its supporters.
“When the state went to appointed school superintendents, it did not take the politics out of the process,” Duncan wrote in a March 14 letter to state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “It simply put political control into a very small group of people.
“The overwhelming majority of citizens who have discussed this with me feel that they should be allowed to vote on this very important position,” Duncan wrote, saying he had been asked to do so by Claiborne County Mayor Jack Daniels.
The Claiborne County Commission has approved a resolution urging passage of the bill (SB916) Niceley is sponsoring. It is among several county commissions that have done so, although the Knox County Commission refused last month with some commissioners saying they wanted more public input and Commissioner Mike Hammond saying discussion of the issue is “a waste of time” until the bill becomes law.
A state law enacted in 1992 requires that all superintendents be appointed by school boards once those in office had served out their terms. Before that, the system for choosing superintendents varied from system to system, but many — including Knox and most other East Tennessee counties — held popular elections for superintendents.
The bill sponsored by Niceley and Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, would apply only in counties or cities that had elected superintendents before 1992. In those places, the bill would authorize a local referendum on returning to elected superintendents — if the local county commission, or city council in cases of city school systems, approves the referendum by a two-thirds majority vote.
In his first extensive comments on Tennessee’s most controversial congressman, Gov. Bill Haslam stopped short of endorsing Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais for re-election in 2014, reports Chris Carroll. The governor’s careful statements came last week during an interview at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Pressed repeatedly, Haslam declined to say whether he’ll support DesJarlais if the Jasper physician runs for a third term.
“I think everybody’s kind of clear what the issue is there,” Haslam told editors and reporters, “and I think he’ll have a good bunch of … competition.”
As the ostensibly anti-abortion physician vied for re-election last fall, it emerged he slept with a patient and pressured her to have an abortion. The Times Free Press later disclosed he supported his ex-wife’s abortions and had sexual relationships with another patient and several co-workers at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn.
..”Well, you’ve got some other people who might run, as well,” Haslam said with a laugh. “I’m not in that district. I’ll let that district vote. I’m going to vote for [Knoxvillian and longtime U.S. Rep.] Jimmy Duncan for my congressman.”
The blogosphere has been abuzz with speculation about who might continue to carry the torch for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul now that the straight-talking Texan and campaigner for low taxes and limited government is retiring from Congress.
For some, the answer seems obvious, reports Michael Collins: The next Ron Paul just might be U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a straight-talking Tennessean whose political philosophy and voting record are closely in sync with Paul’s on many issues. “He’s probably the closest to Ron Paul’s ideological twin on Capitol Hill,” said Mark Anderson, a Ron Paul fan from Atlanta.
Duncan, a Knoxville Republican, said while he and the retiring congressman share many of the same beliefs, “I don’t think anyone can replace Ron Paul or become another Ron Paul, and that certainly is not my goal.”
At the same time, “it is probably accurate to say that during the 16 years Congressman Paul and I have served together, no two members have voted more alike than we have,” Duncan said during a recent floor speech in which he lauded Paul’s service in Congress.
The chief of staff to Knox County Trustee John Duncan III and his office attorney pleaded guilty this morning in Criminal Court to facilitation of official misconduct, reports the News Sentinel Joshua A. Burnett, 32, and attorney Chadwick B. Tindell, 48, were both sentenced to 11 months, 29 days probation on the misdemeanor charge by Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Liebowitz.
Both will be eligible for judicial diversion.
Duncan’s status was not immediately available. His attorney, Jeff Hagood, was out of town and said he could not comment.
Burnett and Tindell both resigned from the Trustee’s Office, according to a statement this afternoon from Duncan.
Bill Curtis will become the office’s chief deputy, and resumes will be sought for the delinquent tax attorney position, according to the statement. Tindell will assist with pending matters.
Appearing with his attorney Tommy Hindman, Burnett agreed to cooperate in “any way requested” by prosecutors.
Hindman said the plea is connected to bonuses handed out by Duncan three months after he took office in September 2010.
It’s “a very unfortunate circumstance” and “he took some very bad advice,” Hindman said.
“He is pleased to have this matter concluded and looks forward to the opportunity to move on with his life.”