Local News Articles

DUD Petition for Temporary Injunction Against City to be Heard Friday

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Chancellor Ronald Thurman

A Chancery Court hearing is scheduled for Friday, February 28 on the DeKalb Utility District's petition for a temporary injunction to keep the City of Smithville from imposing it's higher water rate to the DUD pending a final ruling on the utility's lawsuit against the city.

Chancellor Ronald Thurman will have that hearing Friday, February 28 at 1:00 p.m. in Cookeville. That's where Chancellor Thurman is holding court that day.

Officials of the DeKalb Utility District are turning to the Chancery Court for relief from what they call an unreasonable water rate imposed on the utility by the City of Smithville.

In the lawsuit, the DUD is asking the Chancellor to find that the city's new water rate to the utility of $5.00 per thousand gallons, which went into effect January 1st, is unreasonable; that the rate be set at $2.25 per thousand gallons, which the DUD believes is the actual cost of providing water services; that the city be enjoined (prohibited) from charging any rate to the DUD in excess of $2.67 per thousand while this litigation is pending; and that the city be enjoined (prohibited) from disconnecting the DUD from its water system while this lawsuit is pending. The DUD also wants the court to order a speedy hearing on this action for a declaratory judgment and to advance it on the court's calendar.

In the hearing Friday, the Court is being asked by the DUD to enter a temporary injunction while this litigation is pending. "The rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons charged by the City to the DUD effective January 1, 2014 has caused and will continue to result in immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and damage to the DUD and its customers. The issuance of the temporary injunction will not cause undue inconvenience or loss to the City of Smithville, but will prevent irreparable injury to the DUD," according to the lawsuit.

Arnold Sentenced to Eight Years on Aggravated Kidnapping/Drug Charges

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Savanah Arnold

A 19 year old woman, charged with three others in an aggravated kidnapping last fall, pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday.

Judge David Patterson presided.

Savanah Arnold received a six year sentence to serve for the aggravated kidnapping plus a two year sentence on a separate charge of delivery of a schedule III drug (Suboxone Strips). The two terms are to run consecutively for a total of eight years to serve at 30% before parole eligibility as a standard range one offender. Other charges against her are to be dismissed but she is to pay a $2,000 drug fine. Arnold was given jail credit of eighty five days.

Arnold and three others were named in Grand Jury sealed indictments in December, 2013 for allegedly kidnapping and raping a woman they thought stole money and Suboxone strips from them in October. The cases against her co-defendants, Abigail Vogel and Johnny Devault are still pending in court. The fourth defendant, another woman, has not been arrested. Last month, Arnold was among sixty four persons named in sealed indictments by the Grand Jury as a result of a three month undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department.

In the aggravated kidnapping case, Smithville Police said the four defendants held the victim against her will at Arnold's home on October 24. Arnold and the other woman then allegedly strip searched the victim, penetrated her body cavity looking for the money or drugs, and stole her clothes. The next day, October 25, Arnold allegedly dressed in the victim's clothes, went to a local industry where the victim was employed and tried unsuccessfully to pick up the victim's paycheck.

The victim came to the police department the day after the assault, October 25 to report the kidnapping, rape, and theft.

Lieutenant Matt Holmes related the story to WJLE on Wednesday, December 18 at the police department. "The victim said that on October 24, she went to Savanah Arnold's house to watch the kids of some friends. While there, Arnold, Vogel, Devault, and the other woman showed up allegedly intoxicated on drugs and accused her of stealing from Arnold $575 and 60 suboxone strips. The victim denied it".

According to Lieutenant Holmes, Arnold and the other woman took the victim to a back room and strip searched her. "One of the suspects placed a trash bag on her hand and penetrated the victim, searching for the money or drugs. She did not find anything. The victim resisted the assault and asked if she could leave. They refused to let her leave and took her cell phone so she couldn't call anyone. Johnny Devault allegedly threatened to assault the victim if she continued to resist. They stole the victim's clothes, placed her in a car half dressed, drove off and then dumped her out on the side of the road," he said.

The next day, October 25 Arnold dressed in the victim's clothes and went to the victim's place of employment. She entered the industry, walked up to the counter wearing the victim's ID and asked for her paycheck, representing herself as the victim. An industry official noticed that Arnold was not the victim and asked why she was there. Arnold then changed her story stating falsely that she was there to pick up the paycheck for the victim who was in a Nashville hospital. When the industry official told her the victim would have to come and get the check herself, Arnold left. The industry later received a call from a female, falsely identifying herself as the victim, saying it was okay for them to give her paycheck to whoever came to pick it up.

Industry officials alerted Smithville Police to a possible identity theft. Lieutenant Holmes and Officer James Cornelius responded to the call. Arnold was taken into custody at the industry and charged with identify theft.

Sex Offender Gets Two Year Sentence for Stalking

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Walter Smouthers

A 52 year old registered sex offender was sentenced on three counts of stalking Friday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge David Patterson presided

Walter Smouthers received a two year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. He was given jail credit from August 5, 2013 to February 21, 2014

According to Smithville Police, Smouthers used a pre-paid cell phone to make sexually explicit calls from his home in Paris, Tennessee to female store clerks in Smithville.

Chief Randy Caplinger told WJLE that Smouthers, a former resident of Smithville, was arrested last August by Detective Brandon Donnell and Corporal Travis Bryant at Smouthers' home in Paris.

Police believe Smouthers used the cell phone he purchased at a Walmart to make hundreds of sexually explicit calls between July 30, 2012 and August 12, 2013 to female clerks at six Smithville businesses.

According to Detective Donnell, Smouthers was arrested in 2007 for making similar types of phone calls to some of the same victims as in the latest cases. "It started happening again over the past year," said Detective Donnell. "We got enough evidence to obtain a search warrant for the phone number and records and it pinged at an address in Paris, Tennessee. Through an investigation, we found that Smouthers, who lives in Paris Tennessee and is a registered sex offender, made the calls. After an investigation, it was determined a prepaid phone from Wal-mart was used to place the calls," said Detective Donnell.

Smouthers placed his last call only minutes before police arrived to arrest him. "Twenty minutes before he was picked up and arrested, he had placed another call to Smithville," said Detective Donnell.

"We believe this phone was used just for this purpose. He didn't report having the phone and that would be a violation of the sex offender rules he is under in Paris, Tennessee," said Detective Donnell.

Police found Smouthers' cell phone hidden under a dresser in his Paris, Tennessee home.

The case was investigated by Detective Donnell and Corporal Bryant.

State Lawmakers Concerned About Common Core Standards

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Controversy over Common Core standards is growing at the state and national level creating an issue for legislators to confront.

Complaints range from data collection, teachers and students being under too much pressure in meeting the standards, to a perception by some of a pro-Muslim, anti-Christian attitude in textbooks, among other issues.

State Senator Mae Beavers, speaking at a town hall meeting Thursday in Smithville, said she would like to see the standards banned, reversing approval granted almost four years ago. "I have filed a bill to do away with it. I'm against the federal government telling us what to do with our educational system in Tennessee," said Senator Beavers.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, who also spoke at the meeting, agreed saying she is getting more calls from teachers and parents who are opposed to the new standards. " I do not like the pressure and the accelerating speed that the federal government is pushing this down our throat. I have always said Common Core is to education as Obama Care is to health care. It's too much federal input and too much law, especially when they start picking and choosing what we teach our kids," said Representative Weaver.

" When teachers who thought it was a good thing at first are starting to call us and they are upset about it now, then you know something is truly wrong. They feel the pressure and see the things that are wrong. It's starting to be questioned everywhere," added Senator Beavers.

The State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards for math and English/language arts in 2010, following up on legislation approved on a bipartisan and almost unanimous basis at the urging of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen. The move was part of an effort to win federal funding under the federal "Race to the Top" law -- an effort that succeeded, earning Tennessee $500 million in federal money for education.

The new learning objectives are meant to better prepare kids for college, and to make sure students here are on the same page as students across the state and across the country. Until now, each state had its own, often very different, set of standards.

Senator Beavers said she is concerned that Common Core is putting too much pressure on teachers and students. "I have a grandson in the city school system in Murfreesboro. They have fully implemented Common Core. He is in Discovery School. They have to test to get in. He was reading fourth grade level in the first grade. He loves learning but he hates school this year because he said all they do is test all day. That's what Common Core is all about. They are constantly testing. The teachers are under a lot of stress right now with Common Core. I hate that for the kids. I have studies that show it damages children in their early years, kindergarten through third grade because of the pressure," said Senator Beavers.

The overall focus of the new standards is to get students to think more critically rather than memorizing facts. Representative Weaver said she believes it goes too far. "When I was in the third grade, we memorized multiplication tables. My grandson is in the third grade and they are not allowed to do that anymore. They have to show the process. I'm all about analytical thinking but some things you've just got to know. You've got to know what's right and wrong but there seems to be a teaching mechanism here to make it be not absolute," she said.

Representative Weaver said the standards are also unfair to special education students and teachers who are held accountable. "They are demanding that special education kids be at a certain level when those children are never going to be at that level. These children are being prepared to fail and that is not fair to the teachers who are evaluated on the progress of these kids. It's failure before you even start and that's frustrating. I believe we should let the good teachers do what they do best. Let them teach. They know the kids and how to work with them," added Representative Weaver.

Senator Beavers said she also supports legislation to restrict the collection and distribution of student data except for the child's parents. "There are bills to stop the data collection. This data keeps everything on your child. If they ever get suspended for even one day, it's on their record for the rest of their lives. Their first employer will get to see that information. That scares me to death that this data could be going to the federal government. Yet, I've had parents tell me they've gone to school to see their child's work and are told, that work belongs to the Commissioner of Education. We can't let you see it. There's something wrong here folks" she said.

The content of some textbooks is also a cause of concern for Senator Beavers. "I went to a forum in Brentwood last year on Common Core. They had a lot of experts testify about things that were left out of the curriculum. Pearson is the book Tennessee contracts with and we require such a high bond on our textbook companies that come into Tennessee that they (Pearson) are the only ones who qualify. They are the ones we heard parents in Williamson County complaining about with the sex in the books and the pretty much pro Muslim, anti Christianity (referring to) Christianity as a cult. I mean we've heard all kinds of stories about the textbooks. I've read some stuff about the sex that is being taught that is alarming," said Senator Beavers.

Another issue is the cost of developing online PARCC testing (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Not only must schools have up-to-date computers and operating systems, they must have adequate bandwidth to accommodate these computers. Additionally, an iPad or other tablet alone won’t work for PARCC testing. Keyboard usage is mandatory with the PARCC system. The Tennessee Department of Education is aware of these issues and is working to address the problem. Still, it could be cost prohibitive for some counties. "My poorest county is Clay County and they are telling me their school system is almost bankrupt already and then you lay this on them. What are they going to do? We can't afford to keep it (Common Core)," said Senator Beavers.

While the DeKalb County School System received some $260,000 in extra money from the state for infrastructure, the district still needs more than $320,000 to purchase all the computers and accessories that are needed to be ready for the launch of PARCC testing in the 2014-15 school year.

Eagle Scout Ethan Judkins Honored by County Commission

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Ethan Judkins

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night honored Eagle Scout Ethan Judkins.

Judkins' project consisted of fundraising for the construction of a handicap ramp and viewing platform for the physically challenged at the DeKalb County Fair.

The viewing platform and ramp are located at the hilltop arena and will be available for use during the 2014 DeKalb County Fair in Alexandria.

Judkins joined the Boys Scouts in 2007. He is a senior at DCHS. He enjoys outdoors, hunting, camping, canoeing. He is an active deer and turkey hunter. He has completed 21 merit badges and his project, the wheelchair observation deck, is expected to benefit people in wheel chairs to view activities at the T.C. McMillen arena during the fair.

Ethan plans to attend a diesel mechanic school after graduation. He is a friendly, outgoing young man. He has a positive attitude and a great outlook on life and he always has a plan.

The county commission honored Judkins by declaring Monday, February 24, 2014 Ethan Judkins Day in DeKalb County

Murfreesboro Woman Allegedly Steals from Nursing Home Patient

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Robin Ann Baquedano
Reginald Hill Miller
Joshua Lesley Johnson
Deanna Brooke Pedigo

A Murfreesboro woman has been charged with theft for allegedly stealing money and a car from a nursing home patient.

31 year old Robin Ann Baquedano is facing one count of theft of property over $10,000 and one count of theft of property over $60,000. Her bond is $200,000 and she will be in court on April 14.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Wednesday, January 15 a deputy went to a residence on McMinnville Highway in answer to a complaint of suspicious persons in a Ford Fiesta belonging to a patient at NHC Healthcare Center in Smithville. The officer spoke with Baquedano and another person and inquired about the victim's car, which was not at the residence. Baquedano said she did not know where the car was but believed that her mother had it. The officer went to NHC and spoke with the victim who said no one should be driving her vehicle. The deputy later related that message to Baquedano. Almost three weeks later on Tuesday, February 4, Rutherford County officers spotted Baquedano driving the victim's car in Murfreesboro. She was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle and held for the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department who picked her up. The case was investigated by a DeKalb County Sheriff's Deputy and Criminal Detective.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ray said Baquedano also allegedly took approximately $105,000 from the same victim's money market account at Regions Bank in Smithville from November 8, 2013 to February 5, 2014. Baquedano has allegedly admitted to taking the victim's money from the victim's account.

In another case, 50 year old Reginald Hill Miller of Walker Creek Road, Alexandria is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court February 27. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, February 16, the Sheriff's Department received a complaint of a physical altercation in progress at a residence on Walker Creek Road. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with a woman who had a busted lip, swollen eye, and two cuts to her left cheek. She said that her husband assaulted her in a disagreement over the family dogs. Miller allegedly admitted to committing the assault and he was taken to jail.

32 year old Joshua Lesley Johnson of Hendrixson Road, Smithville was arrested on Wednesday, February 19 on a Grand Jury sealed indictment. He is charged with one count of sale and delivery of a schedule III drug (Subutex) and one count of violating the drug free zone. He was arraigned last Friday, February 21. His bond was $30,000.

31 year old Deanna Brooke Pedigo of Miller Road, Smithville is charged with disorderly conduct. Her bond is $2,000 and she will be in court on March 6. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, February 22, while a detective was conducting an investigation at DeKalb Market, Pedigo started yelling, cursing, and throwing things. She was arrested and taken to the jail for booking.

Weight Loss Challenge partners with local businesses

February 25, 2014
by: 
Shan Burklow

The Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge is back and better than ever! The 90 day challenge is sponsored by DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospitals as a county versus county competition to promote healthy diet and exercise for DeKalb and Cannon County residents. Last year’s event brought in three hundred twenty-two participants with a total combined weight loss of 943 pounds. To participate in the challenge, the communities have come together to join us at the DeKalb County Complex on February 25th or Stones River Hospital Cafeteria on February 27th – both events from 5:30pm to 6:30pm for the Kick-Off Celebration. To participate, you must work or live in Cannon or DeKalb Counties. If you are competing as a team, teams must have more than 50% of members from DeKalb or Cannon County. This way, out of county friends or family have an opportunity to join a team as well. No out of county ‘individual’ registrations are allowed. If you are unable to attend the Kick-Off Celebration, you have the option to stop by the DeKalb Co. Complex or Stones River Hospital Emergency Department to weigh-in and sign-up by Sunday, March 2, 2014.

“It’s simple. Everyone has 90 days to lose as much weight as they can. At the end of the challenge, the person (or team) that has lost the largest percentage of total weight wins $500 cash. There will be a $500 grand prize winner from both Cannon and DeKalb Counties, and additional prizes for second and third place teams or individuals,” said Shan Burklow- Marketing Director of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospitals, “This is a fun way for us to support each other and get in shape. We have healthy cooking classes coming up as well as diet and exercise classes. Walking and running support groups are already starting to form on our facebook page. (WeightLossChallengeDeKalbCannon) We are excited to partner with Smithville Subway, Social Blendz Espresso Bar and Eatery, along with The Blue Porch Restaurant and The Gathering Place Cafe in Woodbury, TN. Each sponsor is offering a different discount or promotion when you show your Challenge Card and can help you choose lighter options to keep your calories on track.”

Local businesses that have partnered with the Weight Loss Challenge include Social Blendz Espresso Bar and Eatery and Subway Restaurant, both located on Hwy 70 / Broad Street in Smithville, along with The Blue Porch Restaurant located at the Arts Center of Cannon County in Woodbury, TN; right off John Bragg Highway and The Gathering Place Café on West Water Street in Woodbury. Sponsors will be offering a healthy menu for participants along with special discounts, coupons or offers when you show your Weight Loss Challenge Rewards Card.

“Social Blendz is excited to partner with the Weight Loss Challenge and have developed a special ‘Slender Breakfast’ and ‘Skinny Lunch’ Menu discounted for Challenge participants,” said Social Blendz owner Ron Sifford, “We use fresh ingredients and homemade bread….our paninis are delicious and our coffee is fresh ground. You can eat a delicious, low-calorie breakfast or lunch guilt-free!”

“We are proud to partner with the Weight Loss Challenge again this year,” said Pat Ford-Manager of Smithville Subway Restaurant, “Subway’s Fresh Fit Menu will work great within the Challenge and we are providing discount coupons, prizes and nutrition guides for each participant.”

“We are looking forward to the 2014 Weight Loss Challenge and hope that the community joins us in our enthusiasm,” said Sue Conley-CEO of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital, “Last year, in honor of the 943 pounds of combined weight both counties lost, our hospitals donated over 1,000 pounds of food to our local backpack food programs that support Cannon and DeKalb County Schools. Thanks to everyone who came out and joined the challenge last year. Due to the success of the Challenge, hundreds of needy kids were able to take a meal home with them from school throughout the year. We hope that even more people participate for 2014.”

For more information on how to participate in the Weight Loss Challenge, join their facebook page: www.facebook.com/WeightLossChallengeDekalbCannon or contact Director Shan Burklow sburklow@dchtn.com or call (615) 215-5448.

Five Queens Crowned in Project Graduation Sweetheart Pageants

February 24, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mini Miss Sweetheart Pageant Winners
Little Miss Sweetheart Winners
Miss Junior Sweetheart Winners
Miss Sweetheart Winners
Miss Diva Pageant Winners

Five queens were crowned Saturday in the first ever Sweetheart Pageants sponsored by the Class of 2014 Project Graduation.

The events were held at the DeKalb County Complex Auditorium.

The winners are as follows:

Mini Miss Sweetheart Pageant Winners:

Queen-Kaylee Brooke Kent-Daughter of Kevin & Beth Kent
1st Runner Up-Jordyn Allison Agee -Daughter of Joey & Casey Agee
2nd Runner Up-Kloe Elizabeth Parsley- Daughter of Tyler & Shawna Grandstaff
3rd Runner Up-Ella Grace Kirksey-Daughter of Graden & Sabrina Kirksey
4th Runner Up-Brooklynn Fuson-Daughter of Billy & Sarah Fuson
5th Runner Up-Emily Danielle Johnson-Daughter of Clint & DeDe Johnson

Miss Cutie Pie-Kaylee Brooke Kent-Daughter of Kevin & Beth Kent
Miss Photogenic-Ella Grace Kirksey-Daughter of Graden & Sabrina Kirksey

Little Miss Sweetheart Winners:

Queen-Annabella Eleni Dakas-Daughter of John & Mandy Dakas
1st Runner Up-Isabella Faith Rackley-Daughter of Gordon & Jessica Rackley
2nd Runner Up-Allyson Roxanne Fuller-Daughter of Anthony & Amanda Fuller
3rd Runner Up-Macy Lynn Anderson-Daughter of Bobby Joe & Tabitha Anderson
4th Runner Up-Annabella Grace Culwell-Daughter of Tommy & Erin Culwell

Miss Cutie Pie-Avery Nicole Agee-Daughter of Joey & Casey Agee
Miss Photogenic-Annabella Grace Culwell- Daughter of Tommy & Erin Culwell

Other contestants were:
Brianna Nicole Carr-Daughter of Sherry Hattaway
Madison Dawson-Daughter of Jarred & Jamie Dawson
Kiana Nicole Driver-Daughter of Derek & Sandy Driver

Miss Junior Sweetheart Winners:

Queen: Alexis Grace Atnip-Daughter of Veronica Atnip
1st Runner Up-Katherine Grace Colwell-Daughter of Trent & Christie Colwell
2nd Runner Up-Haidyn Renee Hale-Daughter of Chad & Melissa Hale
3rd Runner Up-Addison Jean Puckett-Daughter of Jimmy & Anita Puckett
4th Runner Up-Kenlee Renae Taylor-Daughter of Ken & Cindy Taylor

Miss Cutie Pie-Ellie Elizabeth Webb-Daughter of CD & Cindy Webb
Miss Photogenic-Alexis Grace Atnip-Daughter of Veronica Atnip

Other Contestants were:
Kadee Beth Ferrell-Daughter of Anthony & Trena Ferrell
Katherine Dell Gassaway-Daughter of Julianna Gassaway & Kelly Gassaway
Kennedy Grace Agee-Daughter of Josh & January Agee
Natalie Morgan Snipes-Daughter of Tim & Michelle Snipes

Miss Sweetheart Winners:

Queen-Addison Grace Oakley-Daughter of Clark & Lisa Oakley
1st Runner Up-Sarah Anne Colwell-Daughter of Trent & Christie Colwell
2nd Runner Up-Brooklynn Storm Estes-Daughter of Chris & Shanna Bogle
3rd Runner Up-Abigail Hope Taylor-Daughter of Ken & Cindy Taylor
4th Runner Up-Julia Grace Curtis-Daughter of Bruce & Amy Curtis

Miss Cutie Pie-Sierra Nicole Johnson-Daughter of Susan Stacy
Miss Photogenic-Addison Grace Oakley

Other Contestants were:
Anna Rachel Blair-Daughter of Keith & Amanda Blair
Malia Nicole Stanley-Daughter of Larry & Phyllis Stanley & Steve Stanley
Carrie Suzanne Mooneyham-Daughter of the Late Billy Paul Mooneyham & Dori Keith

Miss Diva Pageant Winners:

Queen: Lauren Elizabeth Colwell-Daughter of Trent & Christie Colwell
1st Runner up-Haley Marie Hale-Daughter of Chad & Melissa Hale
2nd Runner Up-Taneah Brooke Cantrell-Daughter of Scott & Tammy Cantrell
3rd Runner Up-Shauna Faith Taylor-Daughter of Ken & Cindy Taylor
4th Runner Up-Lauren Ashley Medlin-Daughter of Greg & Teresa Medlin

Miss Cutie Pie-Chelsey Michelle Brannon-Daughter of Bryan Brannon & Amanda Brannon
Miss Photogenic-Taneah Brooke Cantrell

Other Contestants were:
Tyra Grace Graham-Daughter of Kyle & Doris Graham
Jessica Price-Daughter of Charles Stubbe
Laura Lynn Reed-Daughter of Thomas & Denise Reed
Hannah Renea Walker-Daughter of Scott & Misty Walker

Five Involved in Sunday Crash on Four Seasons Road

February 24, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Desiree Ferrell Injured in 2012 Chevy Equinox
Honda Civic driven by Takeshia Castillejos with three children passengers

Two women and three children were involved in a crash Sunday morning on Four Seasons Road.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 21 year old Takeshia Castillejos of Smithville was west on Four Seasons Road in a 2012 Honda Civic when she crossed the center line and struck an eastbound 2012 Chevy Equinox, driven by 38 year old Desiree Ferrell of Smithville.

Castillejos' three month old daughter was with her along with two other children, a nine year old and a six year old. Both girls.

Upon impact, Ferrell's vehicle overturned and came to rest on its side in a ditch. Ferrell couldn't get out of the vehicle on her own. Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were called to the scene to perform extrication services.

Ferrell was taken by DeKalb EMS to meet a helicopter which landed near the scene. She was reportedly airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital.

Castillejos was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital and later to Vanderbilt Hospital by ground ambulance. The children were not hurt.

Federal Lawsuit Against Election Commission Dismissed at Trial Court Level

February 23, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
John Harris, III

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit on the trial court level against the DeKalb County Election Commission and several others in Tennessee brought by former administrators of elections in 2009 who claim they did not get to keep their jobs for political reasons.

The order for entry of final judgment in the case was filed by U.S. District Judge Kevin H. Sharp.

Nashville Attorney John Harris, III, who represents the DeKalb County Election Commission in this case, said while this is good news for the election commission, the plaintiffs could still file an appeal to overturn the federal court's ruling that the position of Administrator of Elections is subject to political patronage.

"Last week the federal district judge entered an order dismissing the entire case in favor of the election commissioners. The consequence of that dismissal is that the plaintiff now has a period of time within which to appeal the case to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue that would be appealed if that is done is whether the court's prior ruling that the position of administrator of elections is a job under Tennessee law that has sufficient political significance that the individuals holding that position can be selected or deselected or fired based upon their party affiliation. Everybody was in agreement that the trial court's ruling on that issue really was so significant that it resolved all the issues in the case and not just part of them (issues)," said Harris in an interview with WJLE Friday.

Harris said since the trial court has entered a final judgment, any appeal would have to be heard by the appellate court. "This appeal process could easily take one to two years depending upon how fast the appellate court wants to move with it. Part of that is because they have a lot of cases on their docket. We would just sort of have to stand in line to be heard. There is an initial period of time where the parties have to order the record and then write their briefs and submit the briefs to the court and that will take several months to accomplish. We're making progress toward getting the issue resolved one way or the other," said Harris.

Former DeKalb County Election Administrator Lisa Peterson and other former administrators filed the lawsuit in July 2009 against the defendant county election commissions, claiming that their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when they were removed from their jobs because of their actual, or perceived, political party association. The former administrators asked the court to order their reinstatement, or in the alternative, order that they receive front pay for a reasonable amount of time. They wanted full back pay and a judgment for compensatory damages and punitive damages and an award for reasonable attorneys fees. Locally, the lawsuit named as defendants the three Republicans on the DeKalb County Election Commission James Dean, Walteen Parker, and Barbara Vanatta.

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