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.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Two officers with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office have resigned after separate DUI arrests.
According to The Daily News Journal (http://on.dnj.com/14OPnSY ), one of the officers was also charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon while under the influence. He is 41-year-old Ronnie Pugh, who was a detention officer with the sheriff’s department. Pugh was arrested Saturday by a state trooper.
The arrest warrant on Sgt. Trent Thomas Givens states a Rutherford County deputy saw the 37-year-old Givens driving is vehicle through people’s yards early Monday. He performed poorly on field sobriety tests and smelled of alcohol.
Both men resigned from the department after their arrests on suspicion of DUI.
Pugh has also been suspended as a volunteer firefighter with the Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Department
Gov. Bill Haslam thinks U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais ought to weigh whether he can continue to be effective in Congress, but the governor has not been part of any “official” conversations about asking him to resign, reports The Tennessean. “I think the congressman’s decision is, can I effectively represent the people who elected me?” Haslam told reporters after a public appearance in Nashville. “It’s not my call. It’s his decision.”
Criticism of DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, has sharpened since a Marion County court released official transcripts from DesJarlais’ divorce proceedings that contradicted his account of what happened after a patient he had slept with told him she was pregnant with his child.
……A spokesman for DesJarlais said Monday that the congressman will not resign and does plan to be sworn in for a second term in January.
Haslam chose his words carefully when asked whether there has been discussion within the Republican Party about whether DesJarlais should step down.
“I haven’t been a part of or heard any official discussions like that,” Haslam said.
Haslam said he would not personally call for DesJarlais’ resignation because he had not read the 665-page transcripts.
“As the governor of Tennessee, I’m not sure that falls into my line of responsibility,” Haslam said. “In the end, it comes back to he has a decision to make.”
From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press: “He lied. That’s about all you can say,” said Liz Holiway, a Tennessee Republican Party state executive committeewoman who represents portions of DesJarlais’ 4th District. “Not saying that a lot of other politicians haven’t. But I think something should be done.”
…Former GOP state senator and Family Action Council of Tennessee President David Fowler said DesJarlais needs to address his own “personal failures and ethical violations.”
“When an elected official experiences moral failures or past moral failures become public,” he wrote in a statement to the Times Free Press, “the issue is whether there is evidence of a broken and contrite heart and a corresponding demonstrated change in behavior.”
For the fifth straight day, DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson declined to respond to requests for comment. Many in the party said that’s the wrong approach, adding the congressman is missing an opportunity to portray himself as a changed man.
“There are so many things that are out there that people need to hear from him about what happened,” said Emily Beaty, a state executive committeewoman from Bradley County who works in marketing. “He should probably just be truthful. That would be helpful to him as a person, not just as a politician.”
Other Republicans on the state executive committee, all of whom said they consider themselves anti-abortion, said issues from 12 years ago — even the congressman’s sworn testimony — aren’t relevant now.
Tim Rudd, a Realtor who resides in Murfreesboro, said the media should “get off DesJarlais” and investigate President Barack Obama’s background, education and “what makes him tick.”
“We’re talking about a personal issue in his former marriage,” Rudd said of DesJarlais. “That did not form the man he is today.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union on Tuesday called for Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais to resign after reports that include the congressman once urged a mistress to terminate a pregnancy.
Chairman Lloyd Daugherty said in a release on Tuesday that DesJarlais’ actions have “reached a level of hypocrisy that is simply untenable.”
“He has repudiated the beliefs of the Fourth Congressional District, rejected the long held core values of the state of Tennessee, shamed the Republican Party and accomplished something incredibly difficult,” Daugherty said. “He has embarrassed the United States Congress.”
DesJarlais, who opposes abortion rights, has argued he was using strong language to try to pressure the woman to admit she was not pregnant. The woman was also under DesJarlais’ care as a Jasper physician.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Highway Patrol sergeant has resigned rather than be fired after an investigation revealed misconduct that included having sex while on duty.
The THP announced Wednesday that 45-year-old James Sells resigned following an internal affairs investigation that also found he misused state property and equipment and was negligent in performing his duties.
Sells worked in the criminal investigations division in Cookeville.
It’s one of several recent misconduct incidents involving the THP.
A Cookeville-based trooper fired in June was later indicted on drunken driving and weapons charges, while two colleagues were disciplined for not reporting the incident.
A Bradley County trooper is charged in the accidental shooting death of his 3-year-old granddaughter.
A former Pickett County trooper pleaded guilty in July to having sex with a minor.
The chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union said Monday he’s talking with other Republican-leaning groups and exploring whether to demand U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., resign from Congress.
Reports the Chattanooga TFP: The move comes as the 4th Congressional District lawmaker and candidate finds himself under growing fire following revelations that as a physician 12 years ago he pressed a former patient with whom he had been involved sexually to get an abortion.
Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty in an interview declined to identify the other organizations with which he has been speaking. He said his goal is building a “coalition” in support of the congressman’s ouster.
“We’re very upset that he’s broken his medical creed and the trust of the citizens of his district,” said Daugherty, who two years ago endorsed then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., whom DesJarlais beat in an upset.
The group usually backs Republicans.
In a statement Monday night, the Jasper lawmaker said his Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart, “supports Barack Obama for president and thinks Obamacare is great for Tennessee.”
“I’ll stand on my conservative record of lower taxes, reduced deficits, and repealing Obamacare. Mr. Daugherty supported Lincoln Davis last election cycle, so Eric Stewart would be a consistent choice for him — but not for true conservatives.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An assistant commissioner in the Department of Correction has resigned after an investigation found parole officers reported making checks on dozens of parolees who had been dead for months or years.
Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said in a letter to lawmakers on Thursday that Gary Tullock, who was in charge of community supervision for the department, turned in his resignation after a state audit released this week found 82 parolees being checked were actually dead. That number has risen to 107 now, Schofield said.
Schofield said lawmakers were incorrectly told two parole officers who falsified records were fired. A review showed they had resigned from state service.
According to The Tennessean, Tullock had worked his way up from a parole officer and been in charge of the program since 2004.
Note: For some background, see TNReport’s account of a legislative hearing and video on Schofield. An excerpt: Assistant Correction Commissioner Gary Tullock said the agency fired two parole officers responsible for much of the faulty reporting on dead offenders, but Schofield said other employees likely contributed to the high number of erroneous reports.
According to the Department of Correction, the state monitors 13,000 offenders on parole and 56,000 people on probation. The state also supervises 7,500 people in community correction, a program that keeps less violent offenders out of prisons.
Overall, that’s 3,175 more offenders under state observation this year than last year, though the number of parole officers has not increased, Tullock said.
However, Schofield said it’s too early to say whether he’ll ask the governor to add to his department’s yearly budget.
“The first thing we say is we’re short-staffed. If you look at and examine how we supervise and how we do things, there’s always opportunities to find resources. If we need those resources, we will present that to the governor,” he told reporters.
Some Democrats are boycotting the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s upcoming annual fundraiser in response to Chairman Paul Smith’s continued refusal to apologize for a sexist joke, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. It’s the latest setback for Smith, who’s facing louder calls to step down after an attempt at humor on a Democratic Party business document was perceived by numerous women as misogyny.
An email about Smith obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press began circulating among party officials and board members Wednesday. It explored the possibility of an emergency meeting about a no-confidence vote that could prompt his resignation.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Smith declined to discuss his future as chairman or the Oct. 10 Estes Kefauver Dinner, named after the esteemed Chattanooga lawmaker and considered the local party’s main mechanism for pre-Election Day money.
“I don’t want to get in an argument with that bunch,” he said, describing those he offended and others who are boycotting the dinner. “I’m trying to register people and work for the candidates.”
Smith, 75, included a lengthy joke about women on a board meeting agenda four days after U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” He said he printed it as an attack on Akin, but his explanation baffled and offended high-ranking women in the county party. Smith last week called them “troublemakers” who don’t understand his jokes.
Board member and Hamilton County Young Democrats President Colby Knecht, 20, said his group is withdrawing a $1,500 commitment to the dinner.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester is coming in for heavy criticism over Mark Clayton’s victory in the U.S. Senate primary. A sampler:
From a Chattanooga Free-Press editorial: How long does it take to turn a state political party from an empire that controls every facet of government into an irrelevant laughingstock? Apparently about six years when you have ineffective buffoons like Chip Forrester and Gray Sasser at the helm.
Gail Kerr’s opinion: Clayton has already served a useful and overdue purpose. He has demonstrated that the Tennessee Democratic Party is a complete, dismal mess.
From Democrat-oriented Pam Strickland:
Chip Forrester should be ashamed. When the state Democratic Party chairman hoodwinked the Executive Committee into re-electing him after the bloodbath that the party took in state legislative races in 2010, he promised to do better, but what he has delivered instead is a U.S. Senate nominee that the party has been forced to disavow.
From Republican-oriented Greg Johnson: To repurpose a 1990s post-Soviet era joke about communism, the Democratic Party is dead in Tennessee — it just hasn’t been buried yet. Here’s another knee-slapper: Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said last week’s GOP primary “shows a Republican Party clearly in disarray.” After the Democratic primary, Forrester should know from “disarray.”
From a Tennessean editorial: If the party knew about Clayton’s positions before the election and did not actively educate voters about their opposition, hoping (praying?) that he would not win, because they were afraid to publicize their error in allowing him on the ballot at all (again), then that is unconscionable bad judgment. If they were totally unaware of his positions, then that is incompetence.
In either case, leadership should own their responsibility and make way for a new team.
Two Tennessee Democratic legislators have resigned from the American Legislative Exchange Council, which this summer is the target of a national campaign from critics contending it has become a secretive, corporate-controlled lobby for conservative causes.
Tennessee Republican legislators attending ALEC’s national convention in Salt Lake City last week, however, say the organization has made them better lawmakers by enhancing an exchange of ideas and information between the public sector and the private sector.
“It’s an organization that promotes the principles on which this country was founded — free markets and free enterprise,” said Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, deputy speaker of the state House, a member of ALEC since 1989 and a member of its national public sector board of directors.
ALEC is largely financed by its private sector members. Two groups leading the anti-ALEC campaign — Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Color of Change — say 30 major corporations have recently abandoned membership, including General Motors and Walgreens last week. Others quitting range from Walmart and Coca-Cola to Amazon and Miller Coors.
There are Tennessee groups critical of ALEC as well.
“We think Tennessee legislators are being bought and paid for by an exclusive network of corporate lobbyists and special interest groups,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action.