. The Berke campaign issued a statement Wednesday about his candidacy, but did not respond when asked why Berke is raising money in Knoxville for a Chattanooga mayoral run.
…(E)ven a supporter and campaign contributor expressed surprise Wednesday when told Berke planned a Knoxville reception.
“That’s news to me,” said Joe Decosimo, owner of Decosimo Certified Public Accountants. “Why would he go to Knoxville? He has enough support in the city, he doesn’t need to go there.”
Eighteen hosts are listed on the invitation, including Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, and former Republican Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe. Guests include current Democratic Knoxville Mayor Madeleine Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
Club Leconte is on the 27th floor of the First Tennessee Plaza Building, overlooking downtown Knoxville. According to its website, the club was formed to “serve Knoxville’s corporate, political, cultural and academic community.”
Two other potential mayoral hopefuls in Chattanooga also said they were surprised that Berke was going out of town to raise money.
…Burchett, reached by phone Wednesday, said Berke is a longtime friend — the two served together in the Tennessee Senate.
Even though he’s a Republican, Burchett said, he thinks Berke is a man of honor and would make an excellent mayor.
“If Andy tells me it’s going to snow, I’m probably going to go to Emory’s Five and Dime and get a sled,” Burchett said. “Because he’s honest.”
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a petition drive by groups trying to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield failed to gather enough dated petitions to force an election and used the wrong process for the recall, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Littlefield attorney Tom Greenholtz said the legal team is satisfied with the opinion.
“It’s good after two years to have validation from the Court of Appeals,” he said.
Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, called the process a learning experience, but said the group will have to discuss whether to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The next mayoral election is just six months away.
The appeals court ruling said the recall faction didn’t have enough dated petitions, and that it should have used a three-step process — a petition, a ballot question asking if voters wanted a recall and then a recall election.
But Folkner said the side found one victory in the decision. The appeals court said the City Charter’s requirement for fewer signatures on petitions than state law would mandate is valid.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
The Comptroller’s Division of Investigations reported today that Pikeville Mayor Greg Johnson stole money from the town for his personal benefit and wasted taxpayer dollars on unnecessary vehicle expenses. The Comptroller’s Division of Investigations reported five different instances of fraud, waste, and abuse by third-term mayor and sitting county commissioner over the past several years costing the town more than $250,000.
The Comptroller’s report details how Johnson spent $15,900 from the town coffers to purchase a 2008 Honda Element from a dealership in Nashville that was never titled to the town. Instead of the vehicle being used for town business, the mayor turned it over to a family member for personal use. The mayor purchased an additional 10 used vehicles, including Lexus, Land Rover and GMC sport utility vehicles, all from out-of-state car dealers that cost the town another $109,900. At least four of the vehicles appeared to have relatively serious damage. Nor did they seem to fulfill any official purpose. While the vehicles were never titled nor put into service by the town, the mayor admitted to taking a weeklong trip to Miami in one of them.
The mayor also received more than $130,000 in payments from an insurance reimbursement scheme he devised in which he would submit reimbursement claims to the town for health insurance premiums he never paid for himself or his family. Mayor Johnson, while covered by his wife’s insurance plan, submitted reimbursement claims for coverage on a town policy with the highest premium charged by the town’s insurance provider despite not purchasing insurance through the town’s carrier. The mayor also had the city pay him more than $37,000 for a vehicle allowance that was neither authorized by the board of aldermen nor included in his annual salary set by the board. In addition to the car allowance, the mayor purchased more than $6,000 worth of fuel in 11 months, which averages to more than $500 a month.
Johnson was indicted last month by the Bledsoe County Grand Jury for official misconduct and theft over $60,000. Both offenses are felonies with official misconduct carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison and theft over $60,000 carrying up to 12 years for a first-time offender.
“Elected officials are put in positions of public trust and they should act accordingly at all times,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “Unrestrained abuses of power undermine public confidence in local leaders and create an atmosphere of distrust of government that can take years to erase.”
To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/ia/20120809PikevilleReport.pdf
Greg Johnson, who is in his third term as mayor of Pikeville, is free on $10,000 bond after being arrested Wednesday on charges of official misconduct and felony theft in the wake of a months-long investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office.
Further from the Chattanooga TFP: Officials at Pikeville City Hall said Johnson had not come into the office on Thursday. City Hall staff also said he has not submitted any correspondence regarding his plans as mayor.
Johnson, 50, was first elected to the Pikeville Board of Aldermen at age 19.
Mike Taylor, district attorney in the 12th Judicial District, said Thursday that Johnson is charged with four counts of official misconduct and one count of theft in excess of $60,000 on grand jury indictments issued Monday.
Among the accusations is that Johnson spent more than $100,000 on used cars never put in the city fleet, cashed a check for $16,000 for his own use and took a monthly stipend from the city to pay for health insurance when he already had health insurance elsewhere.
The investigation, which covered the period between July 2010 and February 2012, arose from complaints made to the prosecutor’s office around the first of the year, Taylor said.
“Back in the late winter, I started receiving complaints initially about the purchase of some used vehicles that had been stored at [a] building at the industrial park there in Pikeville,” Taylor said.
Soon after, other complaints were made that the mayor “was using public monies for his own use,” Taylor said, so the district attorney contracted the state Comptroller of the Treasury Office.
Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Investigator Ricky Seals said Wednesday that Johnson surrendered at the jail after having his attorney contact local authorities.
Johnson could not be reached for comment, and messages could not be left on his home phone.
Johnson’s legal counsel, Dunlap, Tenn., lawyer Steve Greer, said Thursday he couldn’t comment until he sees the formal indictment and that his comments would be limited even then.
He did say, though, that Johnson probably will keep his mayor’s post for now.
The Dayton mayors wife says she was told Wednesday that her vote in the Aug. 2 Republican primary will be rejected, triggering a debate over a voters’ ability to participate in the party primary of his or her choice.
From Action Andy Sher’s report: “I’m still in shock,” Maxine Vincent, wife of Dayton Mayor Bob Vincent said.
There were unconfirmed reports that as many as five other voters had their effort to cast ballots in the GOP primary challenged by Republican election officials.
Vincent, who acknowledged usually voting for Democrats, and her husband are longtime friends and now supporters of Republican Ron Travis, of Dayton. He is running against state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, in the House District 31 GOP primary, which is among the contests on the primary ballot. Early voting started last Friday.
Rhea County Administrator of Elections Theresa Snyder, who Vincent said challenged her voting in the GOP primary, said in an interview that “the way the state law reads you can be challenged in a political primary for several reasons.”
Snyder said a primary “is for the purpose members of that party to select a nominee to appear on the November ballot. And I think that kind of speaks for itself.”
Tennessee law says a registered voter is entitled to vote in a primary election if the voter is a “bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote; or at the time the voter seeks to vote, the voter declares allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and states the voter intends to affiliate with that party.”
Snyder confirmed Vincent did take the oath as she was asked a series of questions about her allegiance to the Republican Party. But she added that “the three judges verified her voting history and made their decision.”
“Obviously, she has a strong history voting for one party, not the party she asked to vote in,” Snyder said.
Since it was a Republican primary, the panel was comprised of Republicans. Vincent said Snyder was one of the judges. Asked about that, Snyder would only say it was “three judges.” When pressed about her participation, she told a reporter to call the state election coordinator’s office and then hung up.
…Travis said he was dismayed over what happened.
“There are rules and processes that we have to follow,” he said. “But we’ve got a unique situation here” because only he and Cobb are running the GOP primary and there is no Democrat running in the House race this fall.
“This is the primary and this is the general,” he said. “There are only two candidates running. But I do believe we need to follow the rules and the processes and the law. We’re not to bend [them] to the benefit of any candidate.”
He said he thinks Vincent was treated unfairly “if she raised her hand and took the oath of the Republican Party. For goodness sake, Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat.”
State Sen. Andy Berke is already posting behemoth numbers for a mayoral election that is still eight months away, according to the Chattanooga TFP.
The Chattanooga Democrat has raised $271,050 since he declared in May that he would run for mayor of Chattanooga. He now has $383,000 in cash on hand, putting him in a fundraising position not seen since former Mayor Bob Corker ran in 2001.
“We have laid a strong foundation, with over 600 donors and 300 volunteers,” Berke said in a statement. “In the coming months we will continue reaching out to people who are interested in leadership that works on the economic development and quality-of-life issues facing our community.”
The Andy Berke for Mayor campaign released its financial disclosure statement to the Times Free Press on Friday. Campaign officials said they plan to give the disclosure to the Hamilton County Election Commission this week.
Other potential mayoral candidates said Friday they were not surprised by the results.
Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield founder Jim Folkner, former Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy, Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd, County Commissioner Warren Mackey and Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee President Roger Tuder are considering mayoral runs.
State Sen. Andy Berke formally announced Tuesday that he will run for Chattanooga mayor in the March 2013 election.
From the Chattanooga TFP report on the announcement event: Standing in front of a cheering crowd of almost 150 people packed inside the center, Berke said he wanted to “build bridges.”
“We have an opportunity to come together anew,” Berke told the crowd.
Berke is the first person to announce publicly intentions of running for mayor. Other names floated for the city’s top job include City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd; Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey; Roger Tuder, executive director of Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee; Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield leader Jim Folkner; longtime city employee Guy Satterfield; and former mayoral candidate Rob Healy.
Todd Womack, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s chief of staff, announced Monday he would not seek the seat. Kim White, executive director of River City Co., also has said she would not seek it, and businessman Greg Vital dropped out of consideration and is running for Berke’s old seat.
Todd Womack said Monday he would not run for Chattanooga mayor at this time, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “It’s humbling that people would encourage you to serve and we’re certainly open to considering a run for mayor down the road,” said Womack, chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.
State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, is expected to announce his mayoral campaign bid today. He plans a meeting at 11 a.m. at the Chattanooga Theatre Center.
Womack said he and his wife, Katie, had discussions about his potential run for mayor.
“After a lot of soul searching, a few weeks ago Katie and I decided we’re where we need to be for now and I don’t plan to run for mayor next year,” Womack said.
He said he thinks he still has work left to do with Corker, a Republican, in the U.S. Senate. Womack became communications director for Corker in 2001 when the senator was mayor of Chattanooga. When Corker became senator in 2006, Womack worked as state director for three weeks, then took the position of chief of staff.
Rockwood Mayor James Watts says he’s recommending that City Council on Monday fire Tom Pierce, the city’s longtime public works director, reports the News Sentinel. An investigation of records shows that Pierce in 2010 used the city’s credit card to buy 13 weapons — including an assault rifle — at a cost of “somewhere around $6,000,” Watts said.
…Pierce at first told officials he needed the weapons “for personal protection in working with animal control,” Watts said.
“When we got into it, and there were that many weapons involved, it changed the course of what we were looking at,” the mayor said.
The city also is looking into Pierce’s purchases of clothing with the city credit card, Watts said,
From Mike Donila:
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s wife filed for divorce Friday afternoon, citing irreconcilable differences, almost four years after the two were married.
According to the five-page complaint filed in Knox County Chancery Court, Allison Burchett says her husband is “guilty of such inappropriate marital conduct as will be proved at the hearing of this cause.”
Allison Burchett, 30, says she should be “awarded a reasonable amount of alimony, both temporary and permanent,” and that Burchett should cover her legal fees. The complaint provides no other detail.
“Everybody knows somebody who has gone through this and it’s very unfortunate,” Tim Burchett, 47, said.
He declined to comment on his wife’s vague allegations, adding that “I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what those accusations are.”
Allison Burchett responded to a request for comment with the following statement: