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Liberty Man Injured in Pickup Truck Crash

July 17, 2009
Dwayne Page
Carlos Nokes Pickup Truck Towed by JR Motors

An 18 year old Liberty man was seriously injured when his pickup truck crashed into a tree on Big Rock Road Thursday afternoon. Central Dispatch received the call at 4:41 p.m.

Carlos Dustin Nokes was airlifted from the scene by a Life Flight helicopter ambulance and flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Nokes was driving a 1986 Chevy S-10 south on Big Rock Road when he went off the right side of the road, overcorrected, continued south, and then went off the left side of the road. The pickup struck a ditch, went airborne, and then crashed nose down and top first into a tree. The truck then fell back and came to rest on it's wheels. Nokes was pinned inside the truck and had to be extricated by members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Rescue Team. Others on the scene were members of the Keltonburg and Short Mountain Highway Stations of the Fire Department, county deputies, and DeKalb EMS.

Meanwhile two people were transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital after a two vehicle wreck on Whorton Springs Road Thursday afternoon.

Trooper Knowles says 17 year old Kiesha M. Kunze of Smithville was east on Whorton Springs Road in a 2005 Toyota and 39 year old Benjamin D. Barlow of Smithville was traveling west in a 1996 Mazda pickup truck when they made contact in a curve.

Both Kunze and a passenger of her vehicle, 69 year old Marga Spruill of Smithville were transported to the hospital with minor injuries. Two others in the Kunze vehicle, Sandra Kunze and an eighteen month old child were not injured. Barlow was also uninjured.

Election Commission Seeks Extension in Filing Answer to Lawsuit

July 16, 2009
Dwayne Page

Members of the DeKalb County Election Commission met Wednesday and voted to seek an extension in filing an answer to a Chancery Court lawsuit brought against them last month by the former administrator of elections Lisa Peterson.

The commission has thirty days to answer the lawsuit, but still does not have an attorney to handle the case, and the thirty days are up next week.

Peterson also filed a federal court lawsuit last week against three members of the commission and they have twenty days to answer that complaint.

The special meeting of the election commission Wednesday was supposed to be for the purpose of possibly hiring an attorney, but an issue has arisen which has forced a delay.

Walteen Parker, Chairman of the Election Commission, says the State Attorney General has rendered an opinion that members of election commissions and administrators are county employees, while previous judicial rulings stemming from a case in another county, have held that they are state employees.

Parker says the issue is who is to provide and pay for the defense, the county, through attorneys for the county's liability insurance carrier, or the state. "There are two lawsuits at stake and the reason we needed to meet tonight (Wednesday) is to determine where we're going with this as a commission."

"The Chancery Court lawsuit was sent to (County Attorney) Mr. (Hilton) Conger who did what he was supposed to do in contacting the County Mayor and contacting the insurance company and seeing where to go from here because the issue is, are the commission and the administrator of elections state employees, and that term is used very loosely, or county employees?. The (State) Attorney General's opinion was written that we are county (employees). A judge in Bradley County, I believe, issued an opinion that it's state (employees). Therefore there is an issue. Is it the county or the county's insurance carrier's responsibility to provide counsel and advisement or is it the (State) Attorney General's Office who is to provide counsel and advisement?"

"The insurance attorney has said that until this issue is resolved they are not going to take any kind of action which is reasonable. As it turns out, we don't know what to do about counsel until we get a judgement as to whether it's state or county. If it's considered a state issue, the Attorney General will provide counsel, if it's a county issue then we can go with the county insurance carrier and their attorney. The county attorney (Conger) is not responsible in this. He is not the one we would turn to, it would be the insurance carrier's attorney. Mr. Conger was here (tonight) to guide us in information that we needed. We can hire an attorney at our own choosing and that could be played out in the courts as to whether the state would reimburse this attorney or whether the county would so that is an option."

In the meantime, County Attorney Conger apparently will petition the Chancery Court on behalf of the election commission for an extension in filing the answer to the lawsuit in that court.

Parker says she is hopeful the issue is resolved by the time the election commission meets in regular session again on the first Thursday in August.

Meanwhile Parker says she wants to assure the public that the litigation in court will not distract the commission nor the staff in the office from discharging their duties.

School Board Authorizes Purchase of Portable Classrooms

July 14, 2009
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Tuesday night approved executive action to purchase portable classrooms to meet needs at DeKalb West and DCHS.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says each portable contains two classrooms with a restroom. One of the portables will be set up at DeKalb West School for the third grade to help relieve overcrowding. The other portable will be set up in the area behind the high school and middle school primarily to meet needs of some students, who have previously been served by contracted services outside the county. "We're going to start providing those services here in the county to meet the needs of those students."

Willoughby, during an interview with WJLE earlier in the day Tuesday, said growth in the enrollment among the lower grades at DeKalb West has become a concern, particularly the third grade. "In K- 3rd grade, 20 students is all you can have per class and we're actually a little bit over our numbers in the third grade. After you get out of the third grade we're in good shape at the West School, then the numbers (we're allowed to have) go up to 25 per class. They go up to 30 as you get up to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. But we're crowding that 20 every way in the world right now in the third grade."

Willoughby says a portable at the West School will "give us some relief there".

According to Willoughby, some parents, in recent years, have enrolled their children at the West School because it is more convenient for them, even though they probably should be going to other schools in the county. " For some parents who are going to work at Lebanon or other places (in the mornings), that's a convenient place for their students to go to school and in the afternoons the grandparents or someone else is picking them up. Under our board policies, students should go to school where their bus routes go, even if parents take them, but with permission they can go to a different school if the parents provide transportation, if it doesn't cause overcrowding. In the situation at the West School, we're probably going to have to look at that more closely because if it (overcrowding) continues, we'll have to hire more teachers for that (at West School) when we have room at other places (schools).

The cost of the portables is $56,795 per building, but Director Willoughby says the money to buy them was included in the budget. "When we did the budget, we had anticipated $72,000 (per portable) and of the $350,000 we put in capital outlay, $150,000 was meant to go for the purchase of the two portables."

In other business, Director Willoughby updated the school board Tuesday night on personnel moves since the last meeting.

Those employed for the 2009-2010 school year since June are as follows:

Jonathan Fontanez, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12. He will succeed Dr. Carol Hendrix in that position since she has retired.

Joe Cope, teacher at DCHS. He is also the new DCHS girls basketball coach

Amanda Mullinax, teacher at DeKalb West School

Todd Cantrell, teacher at DCHS

Tiffany Wheatley, transferred to a Smithville Elementary School CDC vacancy
Wendy Colvert, transferred to a SPED teacher position

In other business, the board voted to reccomend that Director Willoughby fill a health occupations teaching position from January until the end of the school year, so the person employed can qualify for health insurance benefits.

During the June meeting, at the request of Director Willoughby, the board voted to create a half time teaching position in health occupations at the high school in the proposed tentative budget for 2009-2010. Willoughby says the school system currently has a health occupations teacher but there is a need to expand the program. "In our health occupations (program), there has been an over abundance of requests for classes in the next school year." Willoughby says funds are available in the tentative budget for this positon.

The school board approved the 2009-2010 individual school budgets and fundraisers Tuesday night but Sixth District member, Bruce Parsley voted "no" because of his concern about young children selling products to help raise money for things that the school system should be providing. "My biggest thing is I don't think we need young kids, elementary aged kids, selling candies and magazines and stuff like that. It puts a big burden on five, six, and seven year old kids to keep up with that much money on a bus with high school kids. We just need to find another way besides having little kids out peddling candy and magazines."

Third District Board member Kenny Rhody says the board took steps a few years ago to limit the number of fundraisers that each group could have per year. "There's a whole lot less of it now than were was. It still seems extreme but there's so many different programs out there that these fundraisers benefit that I wasn't even aware of until we really got to reviewing it. It helps the kids in a lot of different ways that you just don't normally think about. I wish we could do something else."

First District member John David Foutch added " If you cut any of this out, you're going to have to cut some activities in the schools that the children are doing."

Director Willoughby. "We do not have money in the budget to make up the difference."

Second District member Charles Robinson:" Fundraisers teach children, in my opinion, to be a little bit more assertive in salesmanship. It's got some positive aspects to it."

Board member Parsley: "Nobody is sending their kid to the elementary school to learn how to be a salesman. There's nothing wrong with being a salesman. My father-in-law was a salesman for years, but that's not what people send their kids to school for, to learn how to sell. We just need to find a way to provide this money without having our kids out there peddling goods. I don't have a problem with clubs like high school groups, I'm talking about little kids selling stuff so that they've got enough of whatever in school. We need to provide that."

The board adopted three policy amendments on first reading including one that allows all full time employees one day paid absence per school year for the death of an immediate family member as defined in the policy, beginning with the 2009-2010 school year. Bereavement days are non-cumulative.

New language was inserted in the sick leave policy that allows full time support staff employees to use two of their earned/accumulated sick days per school year as personal days. No additional days will be earned. This actually took effect beginning with the 2008-09 school year.

Meanwhile, sealed bids are still being accepted for the sale of a new house, recently constructed by students in the DCHS Carpentry Class.

The original deadline for submitting sealed bids was Thursday, June 11th but no bids were received. The board, Tuesday night, for the second time voted to extend the deadline. Bidders have until next meeting date of Thursday, August 13th to submit a sealed bid.

The house, located at 140 Evergreen Lane, Smithville, has approximately 1,652 square feet of living area with an attached 528 square foot 2-car garage, master bedroom with master bath and walk-in closet, utility room with half bath, kitchen with eating area, and downstairs den area. The upstairs includes two bedrooms, sitting room, and full bath, 12 x 20 deck, 2 central heat and air gas units, gas hot water heater, 5' x 22' front porch, concrete driveway, hardwood flooring in the living room and den area, tile in the bathrooms and kitchen, and carpet in the bedrooms.

The minimum bid was $140,000, but the board voted Tuesday night to reduce the minimum bid to $135,000. Bids are to be mailed or delivered to the DeKalb County Board of Education,110 South Public Square, Smithville in a sealed envelope clearly marked as a "Bid" and will be received until 4:00 p.m. August 13th. The house can be viewed by appointment. Call the Board of Education to request a viewing at 615-597-4084.

The sealed bids will be opened at the next school board meeting at 7:00 p.m. on August 13th.

Victim of Severe Beating Dies at Erlanger Hospital

July 14, 2009
Dwayne Page
James P Vernon

A 24 year old man, the victim of a severe beating on a houseboat July 7th at Center Hill Lake, has died from his injuries at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Dead is David Joseph Clark of White County.

Meanwhile, the man arrested in the attack, 38 year old James P. Vernon of Green Hill Road, Rock Island, is now charged with first degree murder in the case. Vernon is currently in the DeKalb County Jail under a $750,000 bond. He made his first court appearance on Thursday, July 16th and will return to court on Thursday, August 13th.

The case was investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Authorities initially thought the incident occurred in White County, because it was in an area where DeKalb, White, and Warren County meet, but a GPS reading revealed it to be only a few feet inside DeKalb County.

The arrest warrant states that "On July 7th, law enforcement began an investigation regarding serious injuries to Clark, who had been discovered unconscious in a vehicle parked at Horseshoe Bend Marina. A subsequent investigation by Dan Friel of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement officers has determined that Clark had been severely beaten on the eve of July 7th on a houseboat on Center Hill Lake."

" Eye witnesses have provided information concerning the beating of Clark by Vernon on the houseboat. The beating was accomplished by hitting the victim repeatedly in the face and head with his fist and concluded with kicks to the victim's body. Witnesses describe the continued beating of the victim even after he was unconscious."

" A subsequent investigation also determined the location on Center Hill Lake where the houseboat was anchored at the time of this beating to be located just inside the DeKalb County line. The victim was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga and remained there in the intensive care unit in a comatose state with massive head injuries" until his death this week.

Fourth Annual First Day of School Education Celebration Set for July 30th

July 14, 2009
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

The Fourth Annual First Day of School Education Celebration for DeKalb County will be held on Thursday, July 30th from 6-7:30 P.M. downtown around the Court House Square.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade, says the event is free and all parents and students are urged to attend to help kick off the new school year." We are once again this year having our Education Celebration on July 30th at 6:00 p.m. through 7:30 p.m. downtown Smithville. All the schools will participate and our PTO officers will be part of each school booth. We'll have a lot of vendors who will be coming out just to provide information to the parents about different resources in the community. We plan to have a fun night to kick off the beginning of the school year. Once again, we have several businesses and churches who have donated money or who have brought in supplies. Each child will be given supplies that night at their individual school booth. Please show up at your individual school booth to pick up the supplies. We want to invite everyone out on the evening of July 30th. It focuses on pre-k through 12th grade and everything is free. There is no charge. We'll have pizza and different treats available around the public square so please come and partake."

This Education Celebration is nationally known as First Day of School America and is held annually in a lot of the bigger cities in the United States. Since 1997 the First Day Foundation organization has been assisting schools, families and communities to come together for a celebration on the First Day of each new school year to support education and begin a year-long partnership to promote student success. This is also a time that parents and students can become more familiar with the faculty, staff and PTO of the school that they are entering.

The community can support First Day in a number of ways. Community based organizations can provide materials and resources to parents to make them aware of services available to them in the community. Community leaders- mayors, city council members, clergy, businesses, corporate leaders and others can show their support. Local businesses may partner with schools by donating products, services and volunteers to the First Day Celebration.

All five schools in DeKalb County and their Parent Teacher Organizations will be represented at the celebration. Many organizations will also be there distributing information about resources available to them. Enjoy FREE refreshments and take advantage of FREE school supplies .

If you would like to help with this event please call Michelle Burklow at 215-2107.

This celebration is totally free of charge to those who attend so make plans now to join the fun downtown Smithville on Thursday, July 30th.

Please remember that one of the goals for the evening is to have a safe and fun event for all so the City of Smithville will block off traffic during the celebration. All those attending are urged to please cooperate and do not park in areas that have been closed to vehicle traffic. The safety of students and families is very important.

The First Day of School America-- Education Celebration committee would like to thank the sponsors who are making this event possible.

The DeKalb County Education Celebration committee would like to THANK the following churches, community members, and businesses for donating to the 2009 celebration.

Church of the Nazerene
New Hope Baptist Church/ Alexandria
Smithville Church of Christ
Jacobs Pillar United Methodist Church
Peoples Missionary Baptist Church
Salem Baptist Church
Liberty Methodist Church
Snow Hill Methodist Church
Bright Hill Methodist Church
Grace Bible Church
Keltonburg Church of Christ
Whorton Springs Baptist Church
Covenant Baptist Church
New Home Baptist Church
Indian Creek Baptist Church
Lighthouse In Home Ministries
New Union Baptist Church
Mt Zion Baptist Church
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Smithville Church of God

DeKalb County Farm Bureau
Janney and Associates
Dr.David Foutch O D
Dr. Cliff Duke, DDS
T. Koen Orthodontics

Hill Charged with Theft and Forgery

July 13, 2009
Dwayne Page
Craig Anthony Hill

A 37 year old Smithville man was arrested by the Sheriff's Department in a theft and forgery case last week.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Craig Anthony Hill of Holmes Creek Road Smithville was arrested last Wednesday, July 8th by detectives of his department for theft of property over $500 and forgery. Hill allegedly took jewelry from a residence on Hurricane Ridge Road without the owners consent and sold it to a local jewelry dealer. Hill also allegedly took checks belonging to the victim and forged them on June 29th and June 30th in amounts totaling $313.00. Hill's bond was set a $30,000 and he will appear in court on July 16th. The Smithville Police Department assisted in the investigation.

On Tuesday, July 7th, deputies received a call of a man who appeared to be intoxicated at the Hurricane Boat Ramp near Hurricane Bridge. Upon arrival, 35 year old Billy Haggard of Highland Avenue,. Baxter was found to be intoxicated having bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and he was unsteady on his feet. Haggard was arrested for public intoxication and his bond was set at $1,000. He will appear in court on July 23rd.

On Thursday, July 9th, 19 year old Daniel Reyes of Franchers Mill Road, Sparta was arrested for driving under the influence and no driver's license. Deputies were summoned to a property damage accident on Highway 70 and found Reyes to be the driver of the vehicle. Reyes had an odor of alcohol on his person. He was unsteady on his feet and he failed all field sobriety tasks. Reyes had also been driving an automobile without a valid driver's license. Bond for Reyes was set at $2,500 and he will appear in court on July 30th.

Also on Thursday, July 9th, 25 year old Brandon Lynn Tallant of West Broad Street, Smithville ran from deputies while they were trying to serve two violation of probation warrants on him. Tallant was caught without incident and charged with evading arrest. His bond was set at $2,500 and he will appear in court on July 23rd.

Deputies arrested 30 year old Rafael Carreno of Short Mountain Road, Smithville on Sunday, July 12th for driving without a valid driver's license. Cortes was caught driving on Highway 146. He could not produce a valid driver's license. Bond for Cortes was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on July 23rd.

Sheriff Ray wants to remind the citizens of the county who need a deputy to respond to make a report or complaint, to be sure you call the central dispatch at 215-3000. "In the past few months, we have seen an increase in emergency phone calls at the jail and the employees there are having to transfer the calls to the dispatch. Anytime there are complaints in which a deputy needs to respond, remember seconds count. You are urged to call the central dispatch instead of the jail because we cannot dispatch calls to deputies from the jail. If you need any other assistance, you may call the jail and we will be happy to assist you."

Suspected Shoplifter also Found with Marijuana

July 11, 2009
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police, responding to a recent call of a suspected shoplifter at Walmart, instead arrested the man on public intoxication and drug charges.

20 year old Christopher Allen Summers of 774 Dale Ridge Road, Dowelltown is charged with public intoxication, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a schedule VI controlled substance. His bond totals $3,000 and he will be in court July 16th.

Smithville Police Officer Randy King was dispatched to Walmart on Sunday, July 5th to investigate a suspected shoplifter. Officer King talked to Summers and during the conversation, noticed that Summers' speech was very slurred. He smelled of marijuana and an alcoholic beverage. Summers also had trouble keeping his balance. Officer King asked Summers to empty his pockets on the counter. Summers pulled out a small bag of a green leafy material believed to be marijuana and rolling papers.

Meanwhile, 62 year old Danny M. Rigsby of 230 Bethel Road, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court July 16th.

Sergeant Joey Jones of the Smithville Police Department was dispatched to the parking lot of DeKalb Tire and Service on West Broad Street on Thursday, July 2nd at around 9:47 a.m. on a domestic assault call. Upon arrival, Sergeant Jones talked to a witness who stated he saw Rigsby assault his girlfriend, Priscilla Judkins in the parking lot. Rigsby allegedly struck her with a crutch and was choking her. Both Rigsby and Judkins left before Sergeant Jones arrived. A warrant was obtained charging Rigsby with domestic assault and he was later arrested.

In another case, 40 year old Jamie Lee Woodside of 564 Turner Road, Smithville is charged with theft of property under $500, evading arrest, and resisting arrest. Her bond is $3,000 and she will be in court July 16th.

Sergeant Joey Jones was dispatched to Rite Aid Drug Store on South Congress Boulevard on July 6th at 7:46 a.m. to investigate a suspected shoplifter. Upon arrival, Sergeant Jones talked to Woodside. When he asked her what was in her purse, she ran out of the front door of the store. Sergeant Jones chased her into the parking lot and caught her. When he tried to handcuff Woodside, she resisted and fought the officer. A search of Woodside's purse revealed over $200 in merchandise belonging to Rite Aid.

Smithville Police arrested Craig Steven Cairoli on Tuesday, June 30th and charged him with a second offense of driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on July 16th.

Officer Nathan Estes was dispatched to the BP Service Station on West Broad Street around 2:50 p.m. on June 30th after being given information that a man was trying to pump gas in his vehicle and nearly fell to the ground several times while pumping the gas. Upon arrival, Officer Estes made contact with Cairoli who was seated in his vehicle on the driver side. The engine was running. Officer Estes noticed a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on Cairoli's person. He submitted to several field sobriety tasks which he failed but he refused to take a blood alcohol test.

Meanwhile, 27 year old William Travis Malone of Curtis Avenue, Alexandria was arrested on Thursday, July 2nd and charged with public intoxication and introduction of drugs into a penal institution. His bond is $11,000 and he will be in court on July 23rd.

Officer Travis Bryant went to Bumpers Drive-In on East Broad Street for his evening meal around 7:40 p.m. on July 2nd and while there, Malone walked up to Officer Bryant's patrol car and began talking with him. After a short conversation, Officer Bryant realized that Malone was under the influence and was publicly intoxicated. Malone told Officer Bryant he had a prescription for Xanax. Malone was placed under arrest for public intoxication. While Officer Bryant was transporting Malone to the DeKalb County Jail for lock up, Malone stated that he had an empty prescription bottle in his pocket. Officer Bryant asked Malone if he had anything else on his person and Malone replied "no". Upon arrival at the jail, the jailors searched Malone prior to locking him up in the cell. During the search, the jailors, found ten blue pills believed to be Xanax and four and a half orange pills believed to be Suboxone hidden in Malone's sock.

DeKalb County Education Program Helped by Federal Grant

July 10, 2009

Unfortunately, the current economic downturn has forced many counties and school districts to cut back on funding for important education programs. Congressman Bart Gordon announced today that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded federal grant money for Head Start education services in De Kalb County.

“Each year, Head Start programs serve more than 19,000 children throughout Tennessee, providing them with a firm foundation to succeed in elementary school,” said Gordon. “Not only has the program been extremely successful in helping young children, but it has also assisted countless parents.”

Head Start was established in 1965 to promote school readiness and provide a comprehensive array of health, nutritional and social services to economically disadvantaged children and families, with a special focus on enhancing preschool development. The program engages parents in their children’s learning, and also helps parents make progress toward their own educational, literacy and employment goals.

HHS awarded a $654,446 cost-of-living-adjustment grant to the Livingston, Byrdstown, Jamestown and Cookeville (LBJ&C) Development Corporation, which administers Head Start in 12 Tennessee counties. A portion of the grant will be used to support the Head Start program in De Kalb County.

“We track the progress of children, from the time they enter until the time they leave, and we are above the national norm with respect to their progress,” said Dorothy Pippin, Head Start Director at the LBJ&C Development Corporation. “This is the first cost-of-living increase we’ve received in four or five years. We appreciate all the Congressman does for us and his support for this program.”

For more information about the Head Start program in De Kalb County, contact (931) 528-3361.

Controversy Brewing Over County Beer Board's Actions

July 9, 2009
Dwayne Page
D & D Market
Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church-
Nicoles Market (Formerly Kilgore's Grocery)

The DeKalb County Beer Board Thursday night voted to deny an application for an off premises permit to Debbie Sacran, the owner of D & D Market at 7166 Short Mountain Highway, because the store is only 840 feet from the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church.

DeKalb County has a rule forbidding the sale, storage and manufacture of beer and like beverages within 2,000 feet (or some lesser distance) of schools, churches, and other places of public gathering.

The problem is, the beer board, in November 2008, granted an off premises permit to Areceli Soto Godinez, the owner of Nicole's Market, formerly known as Kilgore's Grocery, at 7024 Short Mountain Highway, which is only 1,447 feet from the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church.

Members of the beer board say they were unaware that Nicole's Market did not meet the distance requirement when they approved the application, assuming that the applicant understood the rules when he filed. No one from the community appeared before the beer board at the time to object and the board apparently made no attempt to verify the distance between the store and the church, until last month, after the controversy came to light.

So after denying D & D Market's application Thursday night, the board also voted to schedule a hearing to consider revoking the license of Nicole's Market.

Sarah Cripps, attorney for David and Debbie Sacran, says that's not acceptable. She says since the beer board has already violated the 2,000 foot distance requirement by making an exception for one store, it cannot now enforce the rule on anyone. "When you have discriminatory enforcement of the 2,000 foot rule, that invalidates the total distance requirement. In other words when you've got the ordinance or the 2,000 foot rule that is not uniformly applied to every applicant, it invalidates the rule. There's case after case that say that."
Cripps says she plans to file an appeal to either the Chancery or Circuit Court.

County Attorney Hilton Conger says an erroneous permit issued by the beer board inadvertently can legally be revoked, without invalidating the distance requirement. " It's clear, it's the law that if the county has discriminatorily said it's going to be 2,000 feet for this one, but not 2,000 feet for another one and there's more than one instance of that, then there might be a situation where the courts would say, well you have discriminatorily enforced your rule. But, in this case, we've only got one that we're aware of, and the case that I cited is in the attorney general's opinion and it clearly says that just one inadvertent permit issued like that wouldn't invalidate it."

Debbie Sacran told WJLE that since Nicole's Market has been granted a permit to sell beer, it has adversely affected her business, which is almost next door, and she blames the beer board for contributing to the problem by not doing their homework. "We've been there for twenty years and we have to protect our investment. We have customers come in all the time, they put things on the counter and when they find out we don't have beer, they say, we're going to put all this back and go up there (to Nicole's Market) and just write one check. It has made a huge impact on our business and when you get into my pocket book, I'm not going away. I don't think anybody would. Once they (beer board) grant a license, they need to be sure what they're doing before they grant it. I have no qualm with Nicole's Market. These are good people. They're just like us, they're standing there fourteen hours a day, dead on their feet trying to make a living. I'm not asking anybody to come in and buy it (beer). But I am a commodity store. Beer is a legal commodity. I should be able to sell it. I'm sorry they (beer board) didn't do their homework, but no, I'm not going away because I need to be able to compete now."

Phillip Luna, Pastor of the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church, speaking on behalf of his congregation addressed the board speaking in opposition to a beer permit for D&D Market. The board was also made aware of a petition bearing the names of 54 people from the community who are also opposed.

Helen Hale, a resident of the community, told WJLE after the meeting that she is very pleased with the board's decision to deny D & D Market's application and to seek a revocation of Nicole Market's permit. "I'm very pleased with what the board did. We just got rid of all the drugs out there and we don't want this in our door. Nobody in the community knew that Nicole's had asked for a license. We didn't realize the store was Nicole's because all the signs on it still say Kilgores."

Members of the DeKalb County Beer Board are Harrell Tolbert, Frank Thomas, Dick Knowles, Jim Stagi, Mack Harney, Robert Rowe, and Edward Frazier.

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Republican Members of Election Commission

July 9, 2009
Dwayne Page
Lisa Peterson
DeKalb County Election Commission- (Front Row Left to Right- Nolan Turner and Walteen Parker. Back Row Kenneth Moore, Jim Dean, and Barbara Vanatta

Attorneys on behalf of former DeKalb County Election Administrator Lisa Peterson have filed a civil action in federal court against the Republicans on the local election commission who voted Peterson out of the job on April, 24th and voted in Dennis Stanley, a Republican.

The suit names as defendants, James Dean, Walteen Parker, and Barbara Vanatta, acting under color of state law and in their official capacity as members of the DeKalb County Election Commission, and individually.

In addition to Peterson, the attorneys, W. Gary Blackburn and John Ray Clemmons of Blackburn & McCune, PPLC in Nashville are representing seven other current and former county administrators in Tennessee, naming as defendants, Republican Party appointees to the county election commissions in Cannon, Henry, Loudon, Putnam, Rhea, Rutherford, and Weakley counties, along with DeKalb County.

Peterson, who had been election administrator for DeKalb County since 1998, also has a lawsuit pending in DeKalb County Chancery Court, claiming the local Republican controlled election commission violated the Open Meetings Act, State law, and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee "by a majority of its members' meeting, communicating, and deliberating in private, secretly decided and agreeing to terminate Ms. Peterson's employment, and secretly deciding and agreeing to appoint a Republican to the position of administrator of elections prior to the April 24th, 2009 public meeting of the commission."

In a prepared news release, Blackburn says ‘The civil action (in federal court) seeks to redress the politically motivated and unconstitutional actions of the Republican county election commissioners, who, at the apparent instruction of state and county Republican Party officials, terminated or threatened to terminate highly qualified and experienced administrators of elections across the state of Tennessee."

"It is irresponsible to threaten the facilitation of free and fair elections by using a political test to terminate highly qualified and experienced public servants who are responsible for protecting the very essence of our democracy. The Republican Party and its officials' politically motivated attempts to simultaneously replace administrators of elections across this state from a position which requires a great deal of institutional knowledge and understanding of the law is adverse to the very ideals on which our republic was founded. Tennesseans, like all Americans, expect and deserve to vote in well organized and legal elections and have their voice counted by someone who values democracy more than party politics."

The lawsuit alleges the rights of Peterson and the other former county administrators were violated under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article One of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, namely the right to exercise freedom of speech and equal protection under the law.

Peterson and the other plaintiff's are asking the federal court to declare that the defendants have violated their constitutional rights; that the defendants acts are unconstitutional; and to declare that the administrators of elections are county officials or employees, rather than state employees.

Peterson and the other plaintiffs are asking the court to order their reinstatement to the position each held at the time of their termination, or in the alternative, order that they receive front pay for a reasonable amount of time. They want full back pay and a judgment for compensatory damages and punitive damages against the defendants jointly and severally in each county, in their official capacity as members of their respective county election commissions, and individually with prejudgment interest. The Plaintiffs are further seeking an award for reasonable attorneys fees, costs, and expenses of this action, along with any other such relief the court deems equitable and appropriate.

The lawsuit alleges that "On December 20th, 2008, Debra Young Maggart, State House Republican Caucus Whip and member of the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee, published a memo to elected Republican members of the Tennessee legislature setting forth a requirement that an individual be a "bona fide Republican" for appointment to positions such as election commissions."

"Unlike the state election commission and the county election commissions, a political test may not be the basis for termination of an individual employed as administrator of elections, because the office is protected by article 1, section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee which states as follows: That no political or religious test, other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State."

"Upon information and belief, prior to each defendant's appointment as a county election commissioner, defendants met with members and officials of the state and county Republican Party and certain elected Republican members of the state legislature and committed, as a condition of their appointment, to terminate Plaintiff's employment and appoint a member or supporter of the Republican Party to replace Plaintiffs."

"Defendants' acts of meeting with and promising state and county Republican Party officials to vote to terminate their respective county election commission constitutes a conspiracy to terminate Plaintiffs solely because of their actual or perceived political party affiliation."

"Upon each Defendant's appointment to a county election commission by the state election commission, each individual swore to and filed an oath of office, as required by (state law). The oath states, in part, that each county election commission swears or affirms to support the Constitution and laws of the State of Tennessee...faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of (their) office."

"When each Defendant swore or affirmed his or her oath, he or she acted with full knowledge of swearing falsely, because he or she had already vowed to officials of the state and county Republican Party and certain elected Republican members of the state legislature to violate the Constitution and laws of the State of Tennessee and not to act impartially."

"Upon information and belief, prior to public meetings of each county election commission, Defendants in each county met in private and communicated, deliberated, and agreed to vote to terminate Plaintiff's employment and elect a specific individual who is a member or supporter of the Republican Party to the position of administrator of elections."

"Defendants' acts of meeting, deliberating, and agreeing to terminate Plaintiffs constitute a conspiracy to terminate Plaintiffs solely because of their actual or perceived political party affiliation."

According to the lawsuit, "Prior to public meetings of the DeKalb County Election Commission, Defendant Walteen Parker communicated directly to Plaintiff Ms. Peterson on multiple occasions and informed Ms. Peterson that she would be terminated as a result of her political party affiliation. On one occasion, Ms. Parker informed Ms. Peterson that she would be replaced by a specifically named individual who is a member or supporter of the Republican Party. Ms. Parker stated that the termination was strictly political."

"At the public meetings of the county election commissions on which Defendants respectively serve, save Rutherford County, Defendants elected a new administrator of elections who is a member or supporter of the Republican Party, thereby terminating the employment of Plaintiffs solely because of their actual or perceived support of the Democratic Party."

Parker, Chairman of the DeKalb County Election Commission, explained during the April 24th meeting that since the administrator position was "open" with a new election commission, Peterson was not being fired, just not re-hired. She added that the administrator serves at the pleasure of the election commission. " I don't look at this as a dismissal, but simply as not a re-hire. The position is open with the new commission and therefore the commission has spoken for Mr. (Dennis) Stanley."

Parker also denied assertions, during the meeting, that the Republican majority violated the open meetings law. "I would like to go on record as saying there have not been any secret meetings among anybody about what is going on."

The lawsuit alleges "At the public meetings of the county election commissions, Defendants failed to consider the knowledge and experience of such prospective appointee in the following areas: administrative, managerial, instructional, communication, budgetarial, purchasing, promotional, legal, and general office skills and other related skills necessary to fulfill the statutory requirements of administrators when evaluating its prospective appointee as mandated by state law."

However, Chairman Parker, during the April 24th meeting, stated that "Mr. Stanley is qualified I think in his managerial and all the duties he had to perform at the newspaper (Smithville Review)".

The lawsuit further alleges "At the public meetings of the county election commissions, at which Plaintiffs were terminated, Plaintiffs were individually praised for the quality of their work as administrator of elections, and no criticisms of Plaintiff's job performance, relating to their administrative, managerial, instructional, communication, budgetarial, purchasing, promotional, legal, and general office skills and other related skills were stated."

"But for the political affiliation, Ms. Peterson (and the other plaintiffs) would still be employed as administrators of elections."

"Defendants made a subjective determination based upon Plaintiff's private political speech to terminate Plaintiff's public employment or to take steps to terminate their employment."

"Plaintiffs' protected speech was a substantial or motivating factor in Defendants' terminating Plaintiff's employment."

"Public employees such as Plaintiffs do not surrender their First Amendment rights by reason of their employment as administrators of elections. The First Amendment protects a public employee's right to political speech and his or her right to support the political party or candidate of their choice."

"Defendants' policy is unconstitutional because it reaches more broadly than is reasonably necessary to protect legitimate state interests or promote the efficiency and effectiveness of the county election commissions at the expense of protected First Amendment freedoms.'

"Plaintiff's actual or perceived membership or support of the Democratic Party did not warrant the termination and threat of termination of their public employment."

"Defendant's outrageous, reckless, and wanton actions and omissions have violated Plaintiff's constitutionally protected speech, caused Plaintiff's emotional distress, lost wages and income, and substantially affected Plaintiff's earning capacity and potential."

The federal court lawsuit was filed Wednesday, July 8th in Nashville.

In the Chancery Court lawsuit, filed on June 19th, Peterson is asking the court to declare the action of the election commission terminating her as arbitrary, illegal, and void.
Peterson is further requesting that the court, pursuant to state law and upon a final hearing, order the election commission to immediately reinstate her to the position as administrator of elections and award her back pay, compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000 and the penalty allowed by law, and that the court grant all other relief it deems equitable and appropriate.


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