Local News Articles

Nashville Attorney to Represent Election Commission in Lawsuit

March 2, 2011
Dwayne Page
John Harris, III

Nashville lawyer John Harris, III has been employed by members of the DeKalb County Election Commission to represent them in a federal lawsuit brought in 2009 by the former administrator of elections, Lisa Peterson.

The three Republican members, Barbara Vanatta, Jim Dean, and Commission Chairman Walteen Parker voted to hire Harris during a special called meeting Monday night. The two Democrats on the commission, Nolan Turner and Kenneth Moore voted against it.

The decision comes after the county's insurance carrier recently withdrew its legal representation based on a December federal court ruling, and after the state attorney general, Robert E. Cooper, Jr., in a letter to Chairman Parker, wrote that the commission could not rely on the state to provide a defense and would have to hire its own legal counsel in the case. The cost of defending the election commissioners will have to be borne by the county.

Peterson filed the lawsuit only a few months after the Republican majority of the local election commission chose not to re-appoint her to another term. Another case involving the election commission, also filed by Peterson during the summer of 2009 in DeKalb County Chancery Court, is still pending.

Mary Ferrara, an attorney for the local government insurance carrier, had been providing the legal defense for members of the DeKalb County Election Commission but that all changed after U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr. found that the Republican election commissioners, in the counties of DeKalb, Hawkins, Weakley, and Putnam County, were not subject to liability for the monetary damages sought, in their official capacities as "state actors".

According to Harris, after the court's ruling that election commissioners were "state actors" the county's insurance carrier decided that it would no longer defend them. "When these administrators filed their lawsuits in federal court, they asserted that county election commissions and the county election commissioners were part of county government and as a result of that, in DeKalb County for example, the county's insurance carrier was providing a defense. In December 2010 the federal district judge ruled, based upon 60 year old Tennessee Supreme Court case, that the county election commissions and the county election commissioners are state officials. The court said they are state officials because they are not elected by the county voters and they are not appointed by county government, but they are, in fact, appointed by the state election commission to serve in each county so they are really an arm of state government. So what has brought us to this point is when the judge ruled that the county election commission and commissioners are actually state government officials rather than county officials, the insurance company said we only have a duty to represent the county and since these are state officials, we are withdrawing and you are on your own. The result of that was, the election commission still had an interest in the federal lawsuit. The named commissioners were still involved in the lawsuit, so it was determined that it was necessary for them to hire an attorney to continue to handle the case for both the commission and the commissioners."

However, according to Harris, had the county's insurance policy been written in such a way as to include the election commission as an insured entity of county government, just as county officials are insured, then the insurance pool most likely would not have withdrawn from the case. "That's an issue that the county commission and the county attorney may want to look at because by statute in Tennessee regarding election laws, the county is responsible for paying all of the operating expenses of the election commission with only a few exceptions which are written in the statute. The county is required by law to fund the operations of an election commission because the election commission is sort of like a school board in that they can't pass taxes, they don't have any way of collecting money, but they have to provide a service. And just like a school board the state says county, you have to fund a reasonable budget for the election commission which includes human resources issues if an employee claims I've been fired inappropriately or something of that nature. In this case, the insurance company has taken the position that the insurance only protects county government and county officials and because the trial court has found that the election commission is really apart of state government and that they are state officials, the insurance company has said we don't have to defend this case. Either one of two things has happened. Either the insurance company has sold a policy that is inadequate to cover the risks that the county might incur or they are just seeing this as an opportunity to get out, hoping that the attorney general perhaps would take it over. But the county may want to find out if they were sold an insurance policy that had a hole in it," said Harris.

Harris said the defendant election commissioners had also hoped that the state attorney general would come to their defense, but that too was not to be. "Early on, and then more recently on at least two attempts, the county election commissions have written and requested that the state attorney general, whose job it is to defend and represent state interests, undertake the defense of the election commissions and the commissioners since the federal court has found them to be state officials. The attorney general has some level of discretion in when to take on representation in a case. In this case, the attorney general, Bob Cooper, has written to each of these election commissions and declined to represent them which has caused a great deal of concern, not only to the election commissioners, but with quite a few legislators that I've talked to," said Harris.

Since the court has ruled that the election commissioners cannot be held liable for monetary damages, barring any successful appeal, Harris said the only significant remaining issue to be decided is the "injunctive relief" claim in the lawsuit. "There is a portion of the case which the trial court has not ruled on at this point and that is the issue of whether future election commissions will be allowed to take into consideration political party affiliation, if they choose to do so, in the decision to reappoint or select an administrator of elections. If the court takes up that issue and finds in favor of the plaintiff [Peterson], what the court could do is issue an injunction that says from this point forward, you do not have the discretion to take into consideration party affiliation. If the court does that, then the second prong of the potential problem for the county is that the court could order the county to pay the plaintiff's attorneys fees in the case which could easily be hundreds of thousands of dollars, in addition to paying its own defense costs since the state attorney general is not going to take it up. If the plaintiff wins on that, federal law allows the court to award attorneys fees to the prevailing plaintiff [Peterson]. It could award them to a prevailing defendant but it very seldom does so," said Harris.

Judge Wiseman's ruling on the monetary damages issue is being appealed to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court by the plaintiffs in the case, although a challenge has been filed by the defendants as to whether the appellate court has jurisdiction.

DeKalb is among about a dozen counties in Tennessee where lawsuits have been filed by former administrators of elections asserting that they were not re-appointed to those positions because of their political party affiliation. Harris said whether or not that be the case, it doesn't necessarily give rise to a cause of action "because in Tennessee, every two years the county election commissions are reappointed and those reappointments are based on the political party affiliation of the election commissioners so that whichever party is in charge of the Tennessee General Assembly, that party gets three seats on the election commission and the minority party gets two seats on the commission. For the last 150 years, the Democrat Party has been in control of the election commissions in Tennessee, but that all changed in November 2008."

Meanwhile, legislation has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly that if approved would require terms of county administrators of elections to expire when the commission's term expires. It would also allow county election commissions to consider political party affiliation, knowledge and experience when hiring administrators

Walteen Parker, Chairman of the DeKalb County Election Commission, issued the following statement on the developments that led to the commission's decision to hire its own attorney in this case. "The Election Commission has consistently been very astute in responding to this lawsuit. Initially, we chose to let the county's insurance carrier handle the matter, rather than seek an independent law firm. This proved to be a very wise decision. When the county's insurance attorney filed a motion to withdraw because we were deemed state agents and that motion was granted, we were required to file an appearance with the court within 30 days of February 4, 2011. Again, we agreed the next logical step was to contact Attorney General Robert Cooper and request his services. Unfortunately, AG Cooper decided not to provide legal counsel to any of the county election commissions involved in this lawsuit. After exhausting that avenue, we contacted an attorney who has the expertise in this matter, who has experience in election laws, who has a commitment to fairness and justice, and who can provide the best defense at a reasonable fee. That attorney is John Harris, III, whose references and recommendations were valid and very impressive. In procuring legal counsel, we are confident that we have been diligent in being mindful that neither the county nor the state should be responsible for the enormous legal fees of the plaintiff's attorneys. We will continue to choose the best course of action toward resolving this matter," said Chairman Parker.

Smithville Fire Department Renews Request for Aerial Ladder Truck

March 1, 2011
Dwayne Page
Charlie Parker
City Fire Department Seeks Aerial Ladder Truck similar to vehicle shown here
City Fire Department Seeks Aerial Ladder Truck similar to vehicle shown here

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker and members of the city fire department met with the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night in an informal workshop to discuss the purchase of an aerial ladder truck for the City of Smithville.

The aldermen set aside $400,000 in capital outlay funds in this year's budget to go toward the purchase of a used 100 foot ladder truck, if a suitable one could be found

Chief Parker, during Monday night's workshop, said after reviewing the city's five to ten year plan based on needs, the department would like to propose purchasing a new or demo model 75 foot aerial truck. "We're proposing to the city to purchase a 75 foot aerial truck for the City of Smithville. We've been looking for the last several months, doing a needs assessment for the city, searching for the vehicle we think would give us the most bang for the buck. So we've come up with a 75 foot aerial truck which would meet the needs, not just for now, but for our five year plan and also for our ten year plan. This truck would not only give us an aerial device, but it could also qualify as a ladder company which would still give us our ISO credit for pump capacity as well as for aerial capacity. It's kind of a win-win situation."

"We're looking for a little newer model now than we were before (with a proposed 100 foot used ladder truck) to cover our five year and ten year plan," said Chief Parker. At the present time, we have two fire trucks, one truck is ten years old and the other one is nineteen years old. We're hoping to replace the nineteen year old truck, within the next four to five years, so that we won't have something considered antique status as one of our first line vehicles. But we'd still like to keep that truck (to be replaced) as a reserve vehicle. We have two engines right now with no reserve at all, so this would actually provide us a reserve truck for when we have large commercial fires or if we should have to provide mutual aid assistance to one of our neighboring departments, we would still be covered in the city."

Chief Parker said if the city decides to buy an aerial truck, the newer the better. "We're still in the hunt. We're looking for a good demo truck. It's hard to find one that's real new because good quality trucks are hard to come by, but we're looking at a newer vehicle or a demo vehicle that has some wear just in showing it around. With a demo, we could still get a new vehicle warranty, but it would also help with regard to maintenance and keep from having a lot of extra expense as you would have with a used vehicle. We had considered going with a 100 foot used truck. We looked at several factors such as the sheer size of the truck, the maneuverability of the vehicle around all the city streets of Smithville, and the number of people it would take to operate that vehicle. We also considered the pump capacities and the amount of water we could put out. The 75 foot truck is a smaller vehicle but it's a better fit for our department at this time. We can get into more places and we can use it on more fires than we could with the other vehicle (100 foot ladder truck).

The cost to purchase a newer 75 foot aerial truck would be significantly more than the amount the city has allocated to purchase a used 100 foot ladder truck, but Chief Parker said a newer truck could be bought through a lease-purchase plan, without the city having to raise property taxes or dip into the general reserve fund to pay for it. " We've been looking at some demo units just a few months old and they're priced in the $600,000 to $650,000 range but there are deals on other demo units depending upon the age of the trucks If you start looking at brand new trucks ordered per specs, they'll probably be in the $700,000 to $750,000 range depending upon the equipment in the specs. One of the biggest assets of a newer vehicle is the payment options that come with it. If you look at a used vehicle, there are very little payment options. If you've got the cash, you can buy the vehicle. With the purchase of a new vehicle, there are several payment options you can look at including lease-purchase plans. The last vehicle we bought, the 2001 truck, we did that on a lease-purchase for three years. If we bought a new, or demo truck, that would give the city more flexibility on payment options and we wouldn't have to pull all of the money out of the city's reserves to do it or we could spend the money we have in capital outlay now ($400,0000) and lease the balance of that on a two, three, or five year plan. So it gives us more flexibility on buying a truck, being able to better afford it in these tough economic times, while getting more of a vehicle that we need. We're looking at doing this (making this purchase) without a tax increase, spreading out the payments, so that the city residents can get the benefits of the truck. We're hoping that with the addition of this truck, and a few more things, we can continue our ISO rating, and try to lower it to reduce some of the insurance rates for our citizens in Smithville."

According to Chief Parker the city needs an aerial or ladder truck, not only to help fight fires at large industrial buildings and two and three story structures, but also at many one story buildings in the city with facades that currently make it very difficult for firefighters to reach the roofs, in the event of a fire.

The aldermen have asked Chief Parker to come back at a future meeting with a few specific options for them to consider.

Trustee Reports DeKalb County Property Tax Collections at 86.5% as of Monday, February 28th

February 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
Sean Driver

The DeKalb County Trustee's Office was a busy place Monday as last minute taxpayers hurried to beat the deadline for payment of 2010 property taxes without penalty.

For those who didn't beat the deadline, a 1.5% per month penalty and interest will begin to accrue on 2010 taxes yet unpaid, starting March 1st.

Trustee Sean Driver said as of the close of business Monday, February 28th, collections were at 86.5%, which is almost as much as one year ago. "A lot of people came in today, even though it was a bad rainy day. We received a lot of mail today and I'm assuming more mail will come in the next two days, as far as postmarked mail and we'll be able to add to our collection percentages. As of right now, (February 28th) I finished with 86.5% in collections. That's about 1-1/2% off what it was this time last year but that can change with incoming mail tomorrow. From total tax rolls, which is $6.8 million, there's still about $950,000 that's still floating out there (yet to be collected). Of course a lot of people are out of work. We understand that. We wish we could do a whole lot more for them."

Driver said taxes may still be paid in person, or by debit or credit card either by phone, in the trustee's office or on-line at www.tennesseetrustee.com. " We are offering credit and debit card processing through the Business Information Systems for the property owners of DeKalb County. You may pay your property taxes using a VISA, MASTERCARD, or DISCOVER card. It can be handled on-line, in the Trustee's Office, or by phone."

In addition to the monthly accrued penalty and interest, Driver explained that a 2.75% convenience fee will be added to your tax bill, if you take advantage of on-line payment. However that convenience fee is collected through Business Information Systems, not the county. "If you want to do those payments on line, it is fast, easy, and secure. On-line payments may be made at www.tennesseetrustee.com. 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You may also pay your taxes with the accrued penalty and interest in our office at 1 public square, room 206 in the DeKalb County Courthouse. Our phone number is 615-597-5176. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m."

Driver said he is also looking into the possibility of implementing a plan in the future where taxpayers could make partial payments during the year until their entire tax bill is paid. "We are looking into accepting partial payments. We're trying to work with the Clerk and Master on trying to get some kind of program up on that. We do need to get caught up further on prior year taxes."

Meanwhile, property taxes from 2009 may be paid in the trustee's office through Thursday, March 31st with the accrued interest and penalty. After that, unpaid 2009 taxes will be turned over to the clerk and master's office and subject to additional fees.

County Commission Honors Eagle Scout Michael Caldwell

February 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Mike Foster with Eagle Scout Michael Caldwell

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night paid tribute to Eagle Scout Michael Caldwell by adopting a resolution in his honor.

County Mayor Mike Foster read the resolution which states "Whereas, it is fitting that the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor should announce their pride, respect, and honor in the young people of our community who so capably fulfill their requirements and duties to reach lofty goals and levels of achievement."

"Whereas, Michael Caldwell has performed the tasks to work his way to the highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America. Michael Caldwell has worked to a level achieved by a very select few and has earned the Eagle Award."

"Whereas, the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor wish to thank Michael Caldwell, his family, other scouts who helped and his leaders for the honors they have brought to themselves and DeKalb County."

"Now, therefore, be it resolved by the DeKalb County Commission that February 28th, 2011 be officially named "Eagle Scout, Michael Caldwell Day."

Be it further resolved that this accomplishment be spread across the records of this meeting and preserved as a lasting part of our appreciation to Eagle Scout Michael Caldwell"

Caldwell is the son of Rose Brown and the late Jeremy Caldwell.

Currie Charged with Public Intoxication and Criminal Impersonation

February 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

39 year old Tammy Denise Currie of East Main Street, Dowelltown is charged with public intoxication and criminal impersonation. Her bond totals $3,000 and her court date is set for March 3rd.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Monday, February 21st a deputy was called to check out a person on East Main Street in Dowelltown who may have been intoxicated

Upon arrival, the officer saw the woman walking down the street. She was very unsteady on her feet. She admitted to the officer that she had taken xanax and hydrocodone pills. When he asked for her identity, she told him her name was Stephanie Mooneyham. A further investigation revealed her name to be Tammy Currie. The deputy placed Currie under arrest to keep her from walking out in front of vehicles.

53 year old Donna Faye Hewell of Hawkins Drive, Smithville was issued a citation for two counts of simple possession including one for a schedule III and the other for a schedule IV controlled substance. She was also issued a citation for failing to maintain proper lane of travel. Hewell will appear in court on March 10th.

Sheriff Ray said that a deputy stopped her vehicle on Saturday, February 26th for failing to maintain proper lane of travel. Hewell gave the officer consent to search and he found, in her purse, three blue pills believed to be Loratab, which is a schedule III controlled substance. Four small blue bills were also found, believed to be xanax, which is a schedule IV controlled substance.

Congressman Diane Black Visits DeKalb County

February 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

As members of the U.S. House and Senate return to Washington this week, Congressman Diane Black is hopeful that a deal can be reached on federal spending levels by Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Congressman Black visited DeKalb County Friday to meet with constituents as well as local public officials and business and industry representatives.

In a brief interview with WJLE afterwards, Congressman Black talked about efforts in the U.S. House to get federal spending under control.

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The U.S. House has already taken action to cut $100 billion dollars from this year's budget, a measure which has been sent to the Senate. However, since senators have been on recess and haven't had a chance to consider it yet, Congressman Black said lawmakers will most likely adopt a continuing budget resolution in the meantime. "Last week we sent a bill over to the Senate that cut about $100 billion out of the current budget. It's our job to give them what we think is reasonable, what we think is good for this country and we hope that they (Senate) will be reasonable people and go along with us so that we can balance this budget."

"It may be that the Senate will not have time to fully take up our HR 1 which is the bill that we sent to them recently. They have been out on recess and they may not have time to fully take that up so what you may see is a short term continuing resolution, maybe for a two week period of time. But in that will also be cuts. That will give them more time to fully discuss the bill that we sent to them" said Congressman Black.

Congressman Black said members of the House do not want a government shutdown. Their only intent, she said is to get spending under control. "A government shut down is certainly not our intent. Our intent is to balance the budget and that's the reason why we work so hard. We had ninety hours of debate on this last week. Debates that went until four thirty in the morning because we were serious about getting to the Senate what we consider to be a reasonable continuing resolution. Our job was to give them something we thought was reasonable. It is certainly, absolutely not our intent to close down the government. We want to do what the people are asking us to do and that is to be responsible."

Congressman Black said controlling federal spending is what her constituents are most concerned about. "Probably the most important issue that everybody has on their minds is the amount of spending and the fact that we are out of balance. When you look at the $14.5 trillion dollars in debt that we currently have piled up, $1 billion dollars a day, it's hard for most people who are just everyday people like myself and you to even think about $1 billion dollars. Yet, we're continuing to spend that day after day. Whether people are democrats or republicans or independents, I'm hearing from folks saying, "hey, get this debt under control." Our grandchildren and our children don't need to pay for this down the road, we need to be responsible adults and do the thing we need to do right now to balance the budget."

During her visit to DeKalb County on Friday, Congressman Black met with local elected officials as well as business and industry representatives to give them a chance to share their concerns with her. "I am here to listen to the elected officials, the business men and women in town, and constituents. I'm taking it very seriously that when we have this week off and can be back in the district that I am here, hearing from people. That's important. As a representative, that's my job. So I'm visiting as many counties as I can every time I'm back in the district, which is one week a month and we'll continue to do this."

Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Smithville Trailer Home

February 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Smithville Firefighters Work to Save Trailer Home

A fire Saturday night caused extensive damage to the home of Greta Higgins at 905 West Main Street in Kings Trailer Court, located behind the old Westgate (Piggly Wiggly) Shopping Center.

Central dispatch received the call at 7:57 p.m.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker said that Ms Higgins was cooking when a grease spill sparked the blaze which spread throughout the kitchen and into the living room. City firefighters were able to contain the fire to those areas, although it did render significant damage. Heat and smoke spread throughout the rest of the trailer.

Ms. Higgins was able to escape unharmed.

Smithville Police Charge Local Man with Aggravated Rape of Two 14 Year old Girls

February 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Walter Richard "Richie" Hartman

A 47 year old man has been charged by Smithville Police with two counts of aggravated rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allegedly providing beer to two fourteen year old girls and engaging in sexual activity with them.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Walter Richard "Richie" Hartman of 201 West Bryant Street is under a $52,500 bond and he will be in General Sessions Court on March 3rd.

According to Detective Matt Holmes, who investigated the case, the incident occurred around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning at Hartman's home where a birthday party had been held Friday night for one of the girls, who is related to Hartman. The other girl is a friend who had come over for the party and had planned to stay the night.

Detective Holmes said that Hartman had given the girls three beers each for the birthday party and the girls told police that they had drank some of the beer. Later, as the girls were lying on a pallet in the floor watching TV, Hartman approached them complaining of back pain. He asked the girls to give him a back massage. After one of the girls fell asleep on the pallet, Hartman allegedly began massaging the other girl's back, before removing nearly all of her clothes, and then engaging in sexual activity with her. He also allegedly made sexual contact with the girl who had fallen asleep.

Detective Holmes said the girls later contacted police to report that they had been raped. "We got a call that two fourteen year old girls had been raped. K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow and Officer David Phillips initially responded and then called for me (Detective Holmes). I responded and met the victims at the hospital emergency room, where I interviewed them."

Meanwhile, in other city crime news, 18 year old Ariel Cierra Licciardi of Alexandria was issued a citation for theft on February 12th by Officer Matt Farmer after an employee of Rite Aid Pharmacy saw her allegedly take a bottle of perfume without paying for it. Her court date is March 3rd.

21 year old Leah Marie Grandstaff of Game Ridge Road was arrested for theft and public intoxication on February 16th. Sergeant Randy King was dispatched to Mapco Express to investigate a possible intoxicated female who was shoplifting. Upon arrival he spoke to the clerk who stated that Ms. Grandstaff had taken items from the display racks and then went to the restroom. Upon observing Ms. Grandstaff exit the restroom, Sergeant King noticed she was unsteady on her feet and could not focus on him. When she spoke, her speech was slow and slurred. When asked about items taken from the display racks, she produced item from her pants pocket. Bond for Grandstaff is $2,000 and her court date is March 10th.

52 year old James Marshall Weddington of South College Street was issued a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia on February 18th. While investigating a theft, Officer Brad Tatrow went to a residence on South College Street to confront the suspect about the allegations . After receiving consent to search the residence, Officer Tatrow found several items of drug paraphernalia while searching a dresser drawer. Weddington's court date is March 31st.

42 year old David Dixon of Hurricane Ridge Road was arrested by Corporal Travis Bryant on February 18th for theft over $1,000 and for violation of bond conditions. Dixon allegedly went to a residence on Crestlawn Avenue and took a car without the owners consent. Police say Dixon also has bond conditions due to an active case in which he was charged with domestic violence. The victim in that case is apparently the owner of the stolen vehicle and Police say Dixon knew that he was not supposed to be at that residence. Dixon was stopped by county deputies and found to be in possession of the stolen vehicle. Bond for Dixon is $15,000 and his court date is March 3rd.

25 year old Aliz Morales-Guendalay and 18 year old Holly Ann Lynn Cikalo both of North College Street were arrested by Corporal Travis Bryant and K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow for domestic assault on February 20th. Officers responded to a domestic assault call on North College Street and spoke to both persons involved. During the investigation, officers discovered that the argument between the two had turned physical. Since it could not be determined who was the primary aggressor, both were arrested. Bond for each is $2,500 and their court date is March 3rd.

28 year old Agustine Muniz of Talley Road was arrested by Officer David Phillips for driving under the influence on February 21st. Officer Phillips stopped Muniz' vehicle after he saw it crossing the center line several times. Muniz had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. Muniz submitted to field sobriety tasks and performed poorly on them. Bond for Muniz is $2,500 and his court date is April 7th.

Michael Dewayne Hamilton of South College Street was issued a citation by Officer Brad Tatrow for simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance and for possession of drug paraphernalia on February 22nd. On February 3rd, officers were called to a residence on South College Street to check out a complaint about drug activity. Permission was granted for the officers to search the residence. During the search, police discovered a small baggie of a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Hamilton's court date is March 31st.

34 year old Samuel M Murphy of Cookeville Highway was issued a citation by Captain Steven Leffew for shoplifting on February 23rd. Murphy was observed placing a bottle of Tylenol in his pants allegedly with the intent of depriving the store of payment. His court date is March 3rd.

50 year old Kenneth Clayton Odom of Lakeview Drive was cited by Corporal Travis Bryant for possession of drug paraphernalia. Corporal Bryant stopped a vehicle on a stolen property investigation and made contact with Odom who gave consent to search. Officer Bryant recovered a syringe under the floor mat. Odom's court date is March 17th.

Meanwhile, anyone with information on any offense is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

The Loop: A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

February 26, 2011
Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a weekly legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

Legislative Leadership unveiled the upcoming schedule for budget hearings that will help determine the Budget priorities for the State of Tennessee.

The schedule includes speakers who will provide expert testimony about the needs of Tennesseans and where savings can be found for taxpayer dollars. A number of high-profile commissioners and executive directors will discuss the issues their respective offices are facing. The Budget Hearings begin on Tuesday, March 15th.

In addition, the Legislature will soon receive the Governor's budget proposal that will highlight ways to grow Tennessee's economy and create an environment for positive job growth. Last week, the Governor delivered his legislative package that contains a number of much-needed reforms. They form a dynamic agenda to make Tennessee a leader in attracting new businesses, job creation, and common sense educational reforms that reward teaching excellence and promote student achievement.

On Tuesday, the Governor welcomed another major company to Tennessee that will provide valuable employment opportunities for citizens of Tennessee. U.S. Nitrogen, LLC selected Greene County to be the location for its brand new liquid ammonium nitrate plant. The company was recruited to the area by the Governor as well as many other local leaders.

The company will bring nearly $110 million to the local economy as well as 80 jobs for talented Tennesseans.

This move is yet another sign that Tennessee's leadership is committed to improving the workforce opportunities for citizens by recruiting and retaining some of the top companies in the United States to the Volunteer State.

Representative Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) on February 22nd announced the new members of his House Whip Team. The group, comprised of six Republican legislators, will help Rep. Rich meet the goals of Speaker Beth Harwell's (R-Nashville) legislative agenda for the House of Representatives.

Joining the team as Chief Deputy Whip is Representative Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City). Upon learning of his appointment, Rep. Matlock said, "I am grateful for this post. I look forward to helping our Majority govern and pass an agenda dedicated to creating an environment for job growth, reforming the state government, and bringing excellence to the field of education."

Other Members selected for the Whip Team are Representative Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), as well as first-term Members Representative Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden), and Representative Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna).

"It is an honor to be selected to join the Whip Team and help guide our Majority's priorities through the Legislature," commented Rep. Weaver. "I look forward to working with Rep. Rich to make sure we pass legislation that reflects the values of Tennesseans."

Rep. Rich remarked of the team, "This is a strong group of leaders in our Caucus dedicated to ensuring legislation that is vital to the interests of Tennesseans passes the House of Representatives. They exemplify a strong work ethic and a commitment to the conservative philosophy that guides our State."

Turner Pleads Guilty to Attempted Rape

February 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
Robert M. Turner
James Mitch Johnson
Edward Lee Judkins, Jr.
Carlos Godsey
Gwynn Prater
James A. Marsh
Brittney D. Barnes

A 53 year old man, accused of trying to have sex with a woman who was unconscious on drugs more than a year ago, entered a best interest guilty plea to a charge of attempted rape Friday, February 25th in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge Leon Burns, Jr. gave Robert M. Turner a three year sentence, all suspended except one year to serve. He was given jail credit for the one year he has already served and will be released on supervised probation. His name will be on the state sex offender registry and he is under a restraining order to stay away from the victim. The offense occurred on February 2nd, 2010.

Meanwhile, in other cases Friday, 36 year old James Mitch Johnson pleaded guilty to forgery and received a two year sentence, suspended to probation. He must make restitution of $5,500 to the victim and contribute $150 to the economic crime fund. Johnson allegedly had fifteen checks belonging to a Watertown man and he forged one of them and passed it at an Alexandria bank for $5,500 on August 21st.

26 year old Edward Judkins, Jr. pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence to serve. He was given jail credit of 211 days.

Judkins was arrested on Tuesday, July 27th after a witness spotted him at the scene of a burglary in progress in the Jefferson Community. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray the witness apparently noticed a strange vehicle at the residence on Jefferson Road, stopped to investigate, and saw Judkins running away. Officers were notified and quickly arrived on the scene and found that someone had broken the door glass and made entry into the home. A weedeater, chainsaw, some horse drawn equipment (double tree), and an axe were taken from the home and loaded onto Judkins' vehicle. Judkins was later arrested and charged in the case.

31 year old Carlos Godsey pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He was given credit for one and a half month of time served. Godsey must also make restitution of $2,000 to the victim. The sentence is to run consecutively with his probation in another case.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, August 11th, Godsey went to a location on the Alexandria to Dismal Road, Alexandria and stole a 20 horsepower boat motor, an air compressor, a truck and car transmission, and a 1976 International scout body, valued at $1,500.

32 year old Darnell Gurley pleaded guilty to obtaining prescription by fraud and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He has requested judicial diversion and a hearing is set for April 11th. Gurley was given jail credit of 180 days and he was fined $2,000.

Gurley was accused of altering a prescription in order to obtain more pain medication. He was arrested by Smithville Police Officer Matt Holmes on Wednesday, June 16th.

Gurley, who had a written prescription for pain, took it to Wal-Mart Pharmacy where it was determined that the prescription had been altered. Gurley admitted to adding to the amounts of pills above what the prescription called for because he needed more medication for his pain and did not have the money to see another doctor.

60 year old Gwynn Prater pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and received a suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days. He will be on supervised probation and he must make restitution of $486 to the victim. Prater must also contribute $75 to the economic crime fund.

Sheriff Ray said Prater was arrested on Tuesday, June 29th after detectives received a report that three purses were stolen from an unattended vehicle parked at Holiday Haven Boat Ramp on Wednesday, June 23rd. Detectives later identified Prater as a suspect and questioned him. During the questioning, Prater allegedly admitted to committing the crime.

21 year old James A. Marsh, charged with misdemeanor theft and introduction of contraband into a penal institution, was granted judicial diversion for a period of three years. He must meet all conditions of his probation and make an effort to complete his GED.

Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, May 7th, 2009 deputies responded to a report of a break in at a business on Highway 146. Through an investigation, officers learned that Marsh had broken into the business and stolen a cash register and cigarettes. Marsh was arrested later in the day. On November 1st, 2009, Marsh allegedly tried to smuggle contraband into the jail.

25 year old Tracy Thomason pleaded guilty to auto burglary and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation except for 30 days to serve. She was given one week of jail credit. Thomason must also pay $75 to the economic crime fund

On Thursday, July 22nd, Smithville Police Captain Steven Leffew took a report from David Elliott who stated that he had parked his truck in Food Lion's parking lot. When he returned to his truck he found a female inside. Elliot asked her what she was doing. The woman then got out of his truck, got into a blue car, and left. Elliott took down the plate number of the car. He also noticed that his Ipod and other items were missing. While conducting a follow up investigation, Detective Matt Holmes spoke with Ms. Thomason and she admitted to taking the items from Elliott's truck and selling them.

22 year old Brittney D. Barnes pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. She received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on the drug charge, all suspended to supervised probation. She also received a sentence of five months and 29 days on the resisting charge, all suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run concurrently with each other.

Sheriff Ray said that a deputy spotted Barnes in a vehicle at the intersection of Allen Ferry Road and Cookeville Highway on April 9th and had knowledge of an active warrant against her to serve a jail sentence for violation of probation. As the officer walked to the door of the vehicle he saw Barnes shoving something down her pants. Barnes said it was cigarettes. When the officer tried to remove her from the vehicle Barnes became combative. Before placing her in the back of the patrol car, the deputy conducted a search to make sure that there was nothing there. After arriving at the jail, the officer checked the back seat again after Barnes was removed and found cigarettes and a pill believed to be Xanax. Barnes also had two hypodermic needles in her purse.

46 year old Aubrey Kilgore entered a best interest plea to a first offense of driving under the influence. The offense occured on June 19th. Kilgore received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended except for 48 hours to serve and then be on supervised probation. Kilgore must pay a fine of $365 and he will lose his license for one year. He must also complete the alcohol safety education program.

53 year old Billy R. Huddleston pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence. The offense occurred on March 4th. Huddleston received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended except 48 hours to serve and then be on supervised probation. Huddleston must pay a fine of $365 and he will lose his license for one year. Huddleston must also complete the alcohol safety education program as well as an alcohol and drug assessment and follow any recommended treatment.


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