Tag Archives: Rutherford

FBI, TBI raid Rutherford sheriff’s office in corruption investigation

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and FBI have executed search warrants at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and the sheriff’s home.

TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said in a statement on Thursday that the warrants are part of an ongoing investigation into possible public corruption involving multiple targets within the sheriff’s department.

DeVine said he couldn’t discuss specifics because of the continuing investigation.

Last month, the TBI confirmed it was looking into connections between Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and his family members who own companies that sell electronic cigarettes and snacks to inmates at the county jail.

Further from the Daily News Journal:

The FBI also confirmed the agency is conducting a search in Marietta, Georgia, related to this case.

JailCigs is based in Marietta, according to Georgia state records. Arnold’s aunt and uncle, John and Judy Vanderveer, are listed as owners of the company. Chief Deputy of Administration and Finance Joe Russell is also listed as an owner of the company, according to records on the Georgia secretary of state’s website.

Russell was placed on administrative leave with pay in late April after District Attorney General Jennings Jones asked for an investigation into the company’s dealings with Rutherford County Jail. Arnold has since suspended that contract.

The home of Chief Deputy of Administration Joe Russell was also searched on Thursday morning, Niland said.

TBI and FBI officials arrived at the Sheriff’s Office at 6:30 a.m. to start serving the warrants, Niland said.

Investigators remained on the scene hours later carrying bags out of the office on New Salem Highway.

Judge finds conflict of interest for newly-elected court clerk in bail bond business

A judge ruled Wednesday that recently-elected Rutherford County Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Harrell must shut down her family’s bail bonding business to comply with state law, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal.

The law prohibits any Circuit Court clerk from being able to benefit from the issuance of a bond, which is a conflict of interest.

Because local judges recused themselves, Senior Judge Ben Cantrell of Nashville presided over the case at the Rutherford County Judicial Building and revoked the license of the Harrell family’s AAAA Bonding Co. at the request of a motion filed by the recently elected District Attorney General Jennings Jones.

“I feel like the judge has made the appropriate ruling,” said Jones, who along with Harrell won their Aug. 7 elections as Republican nominees. “I feel confident that Melissa Harrell will do a good job as clerk, and I look forward to working with her in the future.”

The judge ruled that Harrell will be allowed 30 days to continue the business, but it’s possible she could seek an appeal. Her husband, Otho Dunaway, testified that the bonding business had liabilities of about $800,000 from outstanding bonds.

This may be TN’s first attack ad in Arabic

The county mayoral campaign of Jimmy Evans sent out a flier blaming incumbent Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro disputes, reports The Tennessean.

The front page of the advertisement displays the name “Ernest Burgess,” shows Arabic writing and an image of what appears to be a mosque with a sun in the background and then adds “See translation inside …”

The next page offers the following message as the supposed translation: “Thank you Ernest Burgess. Without you, the Mosque would not be possible!”

But the American Center of Outreach, a local Muslim advocacy group, said the Arabic letters first appeared to be gibberish but actually are the intended words backward and without proper punctuation or spacing for the language.

Evans is running against Burgess in the May 6 Republican primary for Rutherford County offices. The general election is Aug. 7.

Mayor Burgess offered the following statement about the attack advertisement:

“This is ancient history and nonsense,” Burgess said. “My campaign is focusing on the positive things that have happened in Rutherford County and will continue to happen.”

Note: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has denounced the ad as ‘unconscionable’ and posted a copy of it HERE. The CAIR condemnation:
“It is unconscionable for any candidate to stoop to such a low level of campaigning by appealing to bigotry and promoting religious divisions. We hope to see such blatant prejudice repudiated by GOP officials in Tennessee,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

Two Rutherford Deputies Charged With DUI

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

Governor Appoints New Judge for Rutherford, Cannon Counties

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Keith Siskin to the 16th Judicial District Circuit Court, which serves Rutherford and Cannon counties.
Siskin fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Don Ash to a senior judge position earlier this year.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, Siskin has been a juvenile court magistrate since 2004 and presided over both criminal and civil proceedings including parentage, child support, child custody and visitation, dependency, neglect, abuse and delinquency matters.
Siskin graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1994 and went to the University of Georgia School of Law, graduating cum laude in 1997.
He is a past president of the Rutherford and Cannon County Bar Association and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

House District 49: Mike Sparks vs. Mike Williams

Republican state Rep. Mike Sparks, a longtime Smyrna resident and former Rutherford County commissioner, is being challenged in the 49th District of the Tennessee House of Representatives by Democrat Mike Williams, a retired Methodist minister and sociology professor.
From a Tennessean story on the race:
Sparks said he has a pro-business platform that seeks to reduce regulation at the state and local levels.
“Small businesses create the majority of the jobs, and not big businesses,” Sparks said. “There are not lobbyists for the small-business people because they can’t afford it and they are too busy working 50 hours a week.”
Sparks also vows to help prisoners who have completed their sentences be better prepared to be productive citizens.
Williams is retired from a career in ministry for the United Methodist Church and as a sociology professor for 23 years for The Ohio State University at Mansfield.
Williams said his key platform is jobs.
“I intend to help create jobs and preserve jobs by helping our small businesses succeed,” Williams said. “Part of helping our small businesses succeed involves working to give them the tax breaks they need, breaks from workers’ compensation charges.”

Mosque Ruling Brings No Cheers from Open Government Advocates

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A court ruling that sets higher standards for a central component of the Tennessee’s open meetings law hasn’t drawn loud cheers from government transparency advocates.
In part that’s because the legal effort to stop construction of a mosque in Rutherford County is widely seen as being driven by fear of Muslims. But some good government groups also think the county government didn’t do anything wrong.
Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled May 29 that county officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law by not providing adequate public notice of the meeting where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new building was approved.
Corlew’s order does not require greater notice for all meetings in Rutherford County or even all meetings of the Planning Commission but specifically refers to meetings that involve either the Islamic Center or “further matters of significant public interest.”

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At a Rutherford GOP Gathering, ‘Tempers Exploded’

Tempers flared at a Rutherford County Republican Executive Committee meeting, reports the Murfreesboro Post, after circulation of an email criticizing a Tea Party candidate vetting plan. For state party officials, it seems a case of having friends on both sides of the fight and standing firmly with your friends.
After Jake Robinson, a local conservative and husband of Rutherford County Register of Deeds Heather Dawbarn, asked the committee about an e-mail by County Executive Committeeman Tim Rudd, tempers exploded and the meeting nearly turned into a riot, one witness said.
The Rudd-penned e-mail encouraged local Republican candidates in the August Primary to steer clear of activities sponsored by the Rutherford County Tea Party and 9/12 Project.
“Jake said he was disappointed that Rudd would send out an e-mail that was divisive,” Murfreesboro City Councilman Eddie Smotherman said, adding he attended the meeting at the request of fellow Councilman Toby Gilley.
Smotherman said county GOP Chairman Austin Maxwell lost his temper at Robinson’s question and started cussing and banging his gavel.
“As soon as he (Robinson) got started, Austin showed poor anger management skills. … One GD was all it took for me and I left,” Smotherman said.
“I was hoping I would see the Republican Party trying to bring people together … We need to work together to solve our big issues,” Smotherman said, adding he was disappointed in Maxwell’s leadership after witnessing the meeting.
At issue was an e-mail by Rudd, who is also an executive committeeman with the state party, to Republican Primary candidates Richard Garvin, Dawn White and Ryan Harring, along with incumbents state Sen. Jim Tracy, Reps. Joe Carr, Rick Womick and Mike Sparks about events and questionnaires from outside organizations purported to “vet” Republican candidates.
“I urge you not to participate in this unauthorized ‘vetting’ process,” Rudd wrote. “No organization outside the Republican Party has the right or responsibility to vet, interview or determine who the Republican Party’s nominee should be.”
Rudd went on to say the two conservative groups were trying to “interfere with another organization’s process” and implied it was a “power grab.”
Rutherford County Tea Party President Chris Beach said the group wasn’t trying to grab any power from the local GOP, it was only trying to get information out to voters.
…Beach said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney doesn’t support Rudd’s position, but state party Executive Director Adam Nickas stopped short of criticizing Rudd.
“Tim Rudd is a respected member of the state Republican party …” Nickas said. “Tim expressed his opinion, and he is well within his rights, according to our bylaws, to do that.”
But then Nickas didn’t want to criticize the Tea Party either.
“We have the greatest respect for the Tea Party and share many of their ideals. They played a major role in our success in 2010,” Nickas said.

Hat tip: Pat Nolan.

Young Democrats Compete for Right to Run Against Womick

As Luke E. Dickerson introduces himself to supporters at a local Democratic fundraiser, The Tennessean reports, it only gradually becomes apparent that the 28-year-old is not just an aide or campaign volunteer doing legwork for someone else.
He’s the candidate.
While Dickerson may be green in terms of experience compared with other candidates statewide, he is the oldest candidate in the primary election for a Murfreesboro state House district set for August. His opponent, Spencer Douglas, is a 23-year-old Rockvale resident who just graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in May.
Douglas and Dickerson are trying to unseat first-term lawmaker Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale. If either were to win the southwestern Rutherford County district, he would be one of the youngest lawmakers in the state House and the first Democrat to win that district in recent memory.
As Douglas sees it, his eligibility to run for the state House is all the requirement he needs to succeed if elected.
“At 21, you can run. I don’t see how not having much personal experience can be a disadvantage,” he said.

Some Tennessee History News Notes

Old Newspapers to Be Displayed
This fall, a time and date to be determined, the Walter T. and Julia Pulliam Historic Newspaper Collection will be dedicated and put on exhibit in ceremonies at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate.
The Pulliam archives include about 900 newspapers assembled in a half-century or more of hunting down not only rare national and world newspapers, but also editions that illustrate daily snapshots of life in various East Tennessee communities. Some of the more important newspapers date to as far back as the 1600s.

Fred Brown’s story is a recommended read for Tennessee history buffs, not only for notes on the historic newspapers but for the recounting of Walter Pulliam’s personal history as a reporter and small town Tennessee newspaper editor.
Historical Misinformation About Murfreesboro?
William Lytle, an early Rutherford County landowner, figures prominently in most accounts of the founding of Murfreesboro. Much of what is said, however, is incorrect. A Murfreesboro Daily News Journal column breaks it down.
Bill Carey History Columns Now Online
Bill Carey, a former Tennessean reporter and Metro Pulse editor who runs Tennessee History for Kids, has set up links to his Tennessee history columns in Tennessee magazine (an electric cooperative publication that isn’t available online). You’ll find the listing HERE.