ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Hawkins County General Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor has received an additional one-year sentence in exchange for guilty pleas to six felony theft charges.
The Kingsport Times-News (http://bit.ly/SSDiXu) reports that a judge on Friday also ordered Taylor to pay $71,783 in restitution to victims in Hawkins County and serve 600 hours of community service.
Taylor is already serving a three-year jail sentence stemming from guilty pleas last month to similar charges in Davidson County.
The newspaper reports the charges in Hawkins County stem from money he took from clients in his private practice and from funds he raised to put a display in the courthouse lobby that contained the Ten Commandments.
News release from Davidson County District Attorney’s office:
Former Hawkins County Judge James F. Taylor today pled guilty to stealing from the Administrative Office of the Courts, by creating forged documents to support false billings for legal work that he did not perform.
The AOC disburses payments from the indigent defense fund to private attorneys who are appointed to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases. Taylor entered guilty pleas under a plea agreement to six counts of felony theft.
As part of that plea, Taylor accepted a 13-year sentence. Three years of that is to be served with 30% parole eligibility at a CCA facility. The remaining 10 years will be on probation. He is also ordered to make restitution to the AOC in the amount of $32,757, to be paid in monthly installments. The plea also dictates that Taylor will enter an order of disbarment, and he cannot apply for reinstatement of his law license until October, 2025, at the earliest.
After the General Assembly approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority last spring, Knoxville businessman Earl R. Taylor thought he might be a good fit as one of the agency’s five new part-time directors.
But Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor who knew Taylor, and the governor’s top staffers instead saw Taylor in a different role at the TRA, which sets rates and service standards for privately owned utilities.
Further from Andy Sher: The governor decided Taylor, who had worked as an attorney and television affiliate executive before becoming a Panera Bread restaurant franchisee with multistate operations, was the best choice for the reconfigured authority’s powerful new executive director position.
So on July 31, Haslam; Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is Senate speaker; and House Speaker Beth Harwell named Taylor as executive director. He is in effect the TRA’s chief operating officer.
…n a recent interview, Taylor said he’s enjoying his new role and has discovered “a very good group of people working here, very capable, dedicated smart folks. We’re blessed to have a lot of great people here at the TRA.”
The “learning curve’s pretty steep, but we’re getting there,” he said.
…The appointment took agency officials, utility attorneys and news organizations by surprise. Taylor’s name wasn’t on the list of 18 applicants released earlier by the administration to the Times Free Press.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” Haslam said. “When I was elected … we had a lot of people apply for positions, some of whom I chose. A lot of people who are agency heads and commissioners didn’t apply. I went out and found them and got them to do it.”
That doesn’t mean “there’s anything wrong with the process,” the governor said. “I think it kind of works to open it up: here’s the position, see who applies. But our job is always to find the very best person that we can.”
Thirty days after a new law took effect transforming the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, the utility regulating agency got an executive director and a quorum for its new part-time board on Tuesday.
Earl R. Taylor, a Panera Bread franchisee who lives in Knoxville and has previously worked as a consultant to media companies, was named as the full-time executive director of the agency jointly by Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.
Previously, the TRA had four full-time directors and no executive director. Under the legislation passed this year at Haslam’s urging, it will have five part-time directors and a full-time executive director.
Two of the part-time director positions were also filled Tuesday by appointment of James Allison and Herbert Hillard.
Allison is president and CEO of the Duck River Electric Membership Corp., headquartered in Shelbyville. He grew up in Maryville, according to Haslam spokesman and is described in a news release as “also regarded as one of the top instant replay officials in college football after having been an on-field official in the Southeastern Conference for more than 12 years.”
Hillard is executive vice president and chief government relatons officer of First Horizon National Corp. in Memphis.
Two of the former full-time TRA directors – Kenneth Hill and Sara Kyle – remain as part-time directors after the agency overhaul. One part-time director position still remains to be filled.
The new law took effect July 1 and when it did, the agency was left with only two of the part-time board members in place – not enough for a quorum – and with no executive director. The appointments Tuesday resolve that situation.
Taylor was not among the 18 persons who initially applied for the TRA executive director position.
“We wanted to cast as wide a net as possible, so we had those who applied and we also had conversations with others who might be interested,” said Haslam spokesman David Smith in an email. “We’re excited Mr. Taylor is willing to serve in this capacity.”
Taylor’s resume, provided by the governor’s office, says that as a Panera franchisee since 2000, he has developed stores in Florida and has stores under development in Texas and Louisiana. Before that, he was employed by Harmony Media as a consultant. In the 1990s, the resume says Taylor “developed and signed-on” WBXX-TV, Channel 20, in Knoxville and served as general partner and in other capacities at WKXT-TV in Knoxville.
Before that, he practiced law in Johnson City. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UT Knoxville and a law degree from the University of Memphis.
— Note: The governor’s news release is below.
In the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary, Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor come into their campaigns with backgrounds in health care although from different perspectives.
From a Georgiana Vines overview of the district campaigning: Headrick carries with her information on health, education and job rankings from websites which show how the 11 counties in the district are doing so that she can be prepared to discuss how each ranks. From there she talks about her platform, which includes changing financial systems that she considers rigged against working families, paying a living wage with benefits in blue-collar manufacturing and service jobs, protecting Social Security, closing tax loopholes, stopping privatization of education and supporting nonprofit health care plans.
“We’re tired of greed driving all decisions,” she said. She said lobbyists in Washington, D.C., are helping to make too many decisions and do not know what is going on in congressional districts. She cited as an example congressional action that stopped proposals that would have limited pizza and French fries on federally funded school lunch menus.
“This declaration … was in spite of the obesity rate,” which is high in Tennessee, she said.
The physician, 63, said she closed her patient cases in April 2011 but does auditing of health charts — something she can do as she has time.
Businessman Taylor, 59, said he is focusing his campaign on jobs, health care and taxes, with the creation of sustainable jobs being No. 1.
The country has had a job slide for the past 20 years, he said, but fortunately the 3rd District has Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other federal programs working with international businesses to build a work force.
“I’m not a fan of big government but there are only some things the government can do for you. Health corporations are so big that only the government can negotiate,” he said.
His comment was made before the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Thursday, which said in a 5-4 ruling that the national health care law passed in 2010 is constitutional.
Chip Forrester, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, said he is excited about the party’s candidates in the 3rd Congressional District, particularly with the GOP candidates having such a brutal primary.
“It is so vicious the son (of one candidate) is slicing the tire of others. It’s bloody. Our candidates are not running that kind of primary,” he said.
News release from TBI:
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office have investigated a case against a former Hawkins County, Tenn. judge which has resulted in him being indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury on forty-one counts of theft.
Former Hawkins County General Sessions Court Judge James “Jay” Taylor, age 41, of Rogersville, Tenn. was indicted on 36 counts of theft more than $500 and less than $1,000, three counts of theft over $1,000 and two counts of theft less than $500. Taylor turned himself into authorities on the charges this morning and was booked into the Davidson County Jail.
Between September 15, 2010 and July 27, 2011, Taylor filed numerous false claims with the Administrative Office of the Courts requesting payment for services as appointed legal counsel in cases where he did not perform legal services.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into allegations of bribery and theft against Taylor at the request of the 3rd Judicial District Attorney General’s Office in August of 2011. The theft offenses named in the indictments occurred in Davidson County where the Administrative Office of the Courts is located and are being prosecuted by the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office and Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.
TBI’s investigation on Taylor in Hawkins County is currently open and ongoing. Taylor’s bond in the Davidson County Jail is set at $175,000.
Some 3rd Congressional District hopefuls who are pleading for civic responsibility in the Aug. 2 primary are sporadic voters themselves, reports Chris Carroll. Democratic candidate Bill Taylor confronted his record of missing 10 elections in 10 years.
“Obviously I think voting’s more important now than I did in 2002 or whatever,” he said.
Republican dairy executive Scottie Mayfield has skipped 11 of 34 county, state and federal elections since 1990. He missed the 1996 presidential election and its Tennessee primary, leaving no trace of his thinking on former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole’s challenge to President Bill Clinton. (Mayfield voted in the Republican presidential primary in 1992.)
Later Mayfield failed to cast a ballot in the 2000 presidential primary, where he could have chosen from a field that included Texas Gov. George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Mayfield also is the only 3rd District Republican hopeful whose history shows him voting in an exclusively Democratic race.
Records show Mayfield cast a vote in the 1990 McMinn County Democratic primary. One of the 1990 Democratic school board candidates, Becky Jacquish, donated $250 to Mayfield’s congressional campaign this year.
A spokesman for Mayfield did not respond to detailed questions in several phone messages and emails.
Among the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and six 3rd District challengers, only 25-year-old Weston Wamp can claim a perfect voting history.
A Hawkins County judge has agreed to resign after he was formally charged with violating the state’s judicial code of conduct for taking money from clients for his personal benefit. From the News Sentinel: In an agreement reached Friday with the Tennessee Court of Judiciary, James Taylor is immediately suspended from his position as general sessions judge in Hawkins County and will resign on May 1.
Upon his resignation, the formal charges against him will be retired, according to the agreement. But the settlement will not apply to any civil lawsuits filed against him that claim mishandling of clients’ money and sexual harassment.
Taylor, who also is an attorney, was accused of taking more than $9,000 from a client for personal benefit and claiming payment for services that he didn’t perform.
He is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. No criminal charges have been filed. He also is the defendant in civil lawsuits alleging misappropriation of money from clients and sexual harassment.
Earlier, Taylor had invoked his right against self-incrimination when responded to the Court of the Judiciary’s charges against him. Taylor’s formal answer to the Court of the Judiciary ws signed only by him, but referred to him in the third person.
Hawkins County Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor “took the Fifth” once again Monday in response to several charges filed against him by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR), reports the Kingsport Times-News. On Feb. 13, the BPR filed five charges against Taylor — four of which pertain to allegations of theft against clients in his private practice.
The other charge pertains to allegations of “misappropriation” of monetary donations gathered by Taylor for the purpose of installing a display of historic documents at the new Hawkins County Justice Center lobby, including a Ten Commandments plaque.
On Monday, Taylor filed his response to those charges stating he “has been advised by counsel to assert and invoke, and hereby does respectfully assert and invoke his privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
A hearing will now be scheduled, and Taylor faces disciplinary action from the BPR ranging from public censure to disbarment.
The BPR charges are separate from four charges filed against Taylor in January by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary (COJ), which polices sitting judges.
Taylor is scheduled to stand trial in Rogersville April 25 on the COJ charges accusing him of stealing from a client, filing fraudulent payment claims with the state, and misappropriating contributions intended for the Justice Center lobby display.
Chuck Rated No. 3 by WaPo
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is ranked No. 3 on The Washington Post’s list of the top 10 House incumbents who could lose their primaries this year (H/T Chattanooga TFP). Here’s the relevant paragraph of the list (which fails to mention the third major GOP candidate, dairy heir Scottie Mayfield): 3.. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn): Fleischmann won this east Tennessee seat in 2010 when then-Rep. Zach Wamp ran unsuccessfully for governor. But now he faces a serious primary challenge from another Wamp — Weston Wamp, the 25-year-old son of the former congressman. Wamp’s last name and his father’s connections in Washington ensure he will be a well-known and well-funded opponent for the still-new-to-Washington Fleischmann. Something to Crowe About?
Robert Houk writes in his weekly column that Sen. Rusty Crowe, senior member of the Northeast Tennessee delegation to the state General Assembly with 22 experience in Nashville, Crowe has “just about seen and done it all” – or thought so until this year. Crowe has managed to emerge from each battle unscathed and a little bit wiser. Yes, he’s seen a lot as a state senator, but even Crowe admits he has never seen anything like the “polarizing” debate about to come on the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill Bizarro World
Frank Cagle begins a column on the effort to make teacher evaluations secret by recalling that value-added testing scores have been secret for a couple of decades now – though the original intent was to make them open after the procedure was well established.
His opening line: Sometime I think I’ve entered Bizarro World when I view public policy issues being argued in the Tennessee Legislature. Targeted Fundraising
On Saturday, the final day of a political fundraising quarter that included a $2,500-per-plate dinner for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., Democratic challenger Bill Taylor invited donors to shoot guns for 100 times less, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Taylor hosted his “Candidate Shootout Challenge” Saturday at Shooter’s Depot in Chattanooga, daring people to fire eight rounds with him in exchange for a $25 campaign donation. The gist of the Second Amendment agreement: If Taylor hit the bull’s eye more often than his donor, the donor owed the campaign an extra $10.
Taylor and Maynardville, Tenn., physician Mary Headrick are competing for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District in the Aug. 2 primary… An Ooltewah resident who manages physician offices, Taylor said he raised about $1,000 Saturday, adding that some donors gave him “a lot more” than his campaign asked for