If you haven't paid your 2013 property taxes, you may want to catch up before April 1.
Although interest and penalties are already accruing, if the 2013 taxes remain unpaid by the end of the month, the Trustee's Office will turn them over to the Chancery Court for collection. Your last day to pay is March 31. "When it leaves the Trustees Office there is 21% interest and penalty added to your 2013 taxes plus all the court fees through the Chancery Court. Don't miss out on getting those 2013 taxes paid," said Trustee Sean Driver.
"Remember we do have different options to pay your property taxes. You may come by the office in person or you may mail in your payment. Make sure the mail-in is post marked by March 31. We also have an on-line bill pay service at www.tennesseetrustee.com. Just go in there and select DeKalb County and follow the directions. If you do pay online there is a 2.75% fee added to your total tax bill for using a debit or credit card. You may also send an e-check for $2.50. The online service accepts Mastercard, Visa, Discover, and American Express. These fees are not collected by DeKalb County. It is through Business Information Systems which is our vendor that handles our online bill pay. We also accept partial payments through March 31," said Driver.
The Trustee's Office is located at 732 South Congress Boulevard in room 103 at the county complex. Phone 615-597-5176.
The DeKalb County Democratic Party has a new chairman.
Jordan Wilkins, who has been serving as one of the Vice Chairmen, was elected as the new party leader during Saturday's Biennial Reorganization Convention at the courthouse. Jim Judkins, the retiring chairman who held the post for five years, did not seek another term.
Wilkins is a 2014 graduate of DeKalb County High School and currently a Freshman at Tennessee Tech University. Active in Democratic politics since he was a child, Wilkins thanked the group for placing their trust in him to lead the party.
"Without each of you, this wouldn't be possible for me and without each of you it wouldn't be possible to have such an active and strong party in DeKalb County," said Wilkins in his first address to the party faithful as chairman.
"I have been active (in the party) since I was really young. I got started in the sixth grade, getting the Young Democrats together. I realized the importance of government. I realized the importance of young people being involved to educate the next generation and for them to carry on the legacy of the Democratic Party. I continued to be involved. I worked on Mr. (James) Hale's (State Representative) campaign and local campaigns when we had our nominees. I learned a lot. I got the experience of interning at the Tennessee Democratic Party. It was a great experience for me. I had an opportunity to go down and visit with our Democratic state legislators. Just last week I spoke to the House Democratic Caucus. I gave them ideas. They wanted my opinions on what they need to do to beat (State Representatives) Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody. We discussed that. Our new TNDP Chair Mary Mancini is working hard to fund raise for us. She's working hard to recruit good candidates. I really feel like this next year we're going to see some big changes going on specifically in the state of Tennessee," he said.
"The future plans I have for the party include going into each community. We're going to have to educate people. We've allowed FOX NEWS to name us and label who we are. We need to go into each community center and educate on what is going on at the state and let people know what they're doing to teachers. Let people know what they're doing to women, Let people know what they're doing to senior citizens. I can tell you our message is the winning message. We've just got to get that out to people. I really feel like if we go into these community centers and we invite the people in that area they will realize that the Democratic party is the one standing up for them and their values," he said.
Wilkins and all the other officers of the party were elected by acclamation without any opposition and they will serve for two years.
James Hale is the new Vice Chairman. Joyce Hendrixson was re-elected Secretary and Myra Miller remains Treasurer.
Members of the new DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee were also selected during the convention, each to serve two years. Those named to the committee are as follows:
First District: Luke Willoughby and Pat Parkerson
Second District: Ronnie Redmon and Debbie France
Third District: Jack Barton and Deborah Goodwin
Fourth District: David McDowell and Billie Ann Tubbs
Fifth District: Dennis Boland and Beth Gill
Sixth District: Gary Prater and Deana Green
Seventh District: Tommy Webb and Joyce Poss
Ex-Officio members are: Carelis Garcia- Hispanic representative; Katie Parker- Young Democrats representative; and Billie Ann Tubbs- African American representative.
Young Democrats Officers are: Katie Parker President, Hannah James- Vice President; and Delaney Johnson- Secretary/Treasurer.
District 17 State Executive Committee Man and Woman Aubrey and Rachel Givens were among those attending Saturday's meeting.
Smithville Volunteer firefighter Hoyte Hale received the "Highest Attendance Award" Friday night during an appreciation dinner for city firefighters at the Smithville First United Methodist Christian Fellowship Center.
The award was presented to Hale by Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker.
Hale, currently deputy chief and a 30 year veteran of the department, attended the most incidents, training, and activities during 2014. "Because we are a small department, it's hard for us to pick one firefighter of the year due to the dedication shown by all our members so we've taken the position that the firefighter who makes the highest attendance of calls, trainings, etc. we will mark their accomplishments. You can look at that as dedication because they are dedicated to rolling out of bed in the middle of the night, taking off work in the middle of the day, and leaving family dinners, etc. We mark their accomplishment as being one of the most dedicated by being the highest respondent to incidents and training. Out of the 220 incidents we had, Hoyte made 172 of them so that shows the dedication he had to the department," said Chief Parker.
Other firefighters with high attendance responses to their credit were Lieutenant Jon Poss with 148 calls, Randall Hunt 146, Lieutenant Danny Poss 141, and Captain Jeff Wright attended 95 calls.
Two firefighters, Cody Fults and Dalton Roberts, were recognized as "Rookies of the Year". "We want to recognize them for their extra work and dedication. They walked in off the street and wanted to know what it would take to be a firefighter. We started from there. That's a real good accomplishment these days to have somebody this young who is that interested and dedicated," said Chief Parker.
Meanwhile city firefighters were recognized for years of service including the following:
C.J. Tramel- 1 year
Dalton Roberts- 1 year
Cody Fults- 1 year
Bradley Johnson-1 year
Patrick Edge-2 years (in his 2nd tenure with department)
Becky Atnip-2 years
Shawn Jacobs-(Alderman and Auxiliary member)
Tyler Ludwig-2 years
Kevin Adcock- 4 years (2nd tenure with department)
Cory Killian- 4 years
Glen Lattimore- 7 years
Stephanie Wright- 9 years
Randall Hunt- 10 years
Gary Johnson-10 years
Wallace Caldwell (Chaplain)-11 years
Wink Brown- 17 years
Greg Bess (Photographer)- 20 years
John Poss (Lieutenant)- 24 years
Jeff Wright (Captain)- 29 years
Hoyte Hale (Deputy Chief)- 30 years
Donnie Cantrell (Lieutenant)- 35 years
Danny Poss (Lieutenant)- 35 years
Charles Parker (Chief)- 35 years.
In addition to the firefighters and their spouses, the event was attended by Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen Danny Washer, Gayla Hendrix, Josh Miller and Shawn Jacobs and members of their families. City officials expressed appreciation to the firefighters for the work they do and their commitment to helping improve the operation of the fire department to keep residents safer.
The DeKalb County Commission will enter into a new agreement with Southern Health Partners to provide inmate medical care at the DeKalb County Jail. The cost to the county will increase by 4% going from $96,463 to $100,322 per year.
The commission approved the contract during Monday night's regular monthly meeting.
During a workshop meeting with the County Commission Thursday night, Sheriff Patrick Ray said it's time for a renewal of the contract but that Southern Health Partners is asking for a 4% increase. The county currently pays $96,463 for the service each year. With the increase, the cost to the county would go to $100,322 per year.
According to Sheriff Ray, the county could choose not to pay the 4% increase, but if it exercised that option, the county would have to pick up the tab for all the inmates major prescription drug costs while in jail, an expense Southern Health Partners currently covers. "Our current contract is for $96,463. They want us to do either a 4% increase and them cover major drugs or keep it the same that we have it and let us cover the drugs. Those drugs are medications used to treat HIV AIDS, Renal failure, Hepatitis, Cancer, MS, Crohn's disease, tissue organ rejection drugs, etc. I asked them to go back and look over this last year and see how much they were paying for those type drugs. We had an inmate during that time in jail who stayed there quite a few months who had one of these major diseases. Their (Southern Health Partners) costs was over $3,400 a month. You can see that a 4% increase would be less than $4,000. It would probably be cheaper on the county to do a 4% increase than to take a chance on inmates coming in with these type diseases if we have to furnish their medication. Any inmate that we have that comes in, whatever their disease is we have to treat," Sheriff Ray told the county commission.
Southern Health Partners provides medical, dental, and mental health services to inmates in county jail facilities including on-site nurse staffing and regular physician visits— both of which also remain on-call.
The county commission could take no action Thursday night because it was only a workshop.
Sheriff Patrick Ray has negotiated terms of a new contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide extra patrols at five designated lake sites this summer.
The commission approved the agreement during Monday night's regular monthly meeting.
During a workshop meeting with County Mayor Tim Stribling and members of the County Commission Thursday night, Sheriff Ray said that while there will be fewer patrols and the overall revenue from the deal will be less this year, the county is to receive more money per patrol. The contract runs from May 4 through September 7. "I got with the Corps and negotiated back and forth and came to an agreement. We're looking at somewhere around 95 patrols at $202.50 each which comes to around $19,440 for the year or $40.50 per site. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays their crowds down there are near nothing through the week. Weekends is when they have most of their camping and things like that. We will only run one time on Fridays, two times on Saturdays, two times on Sundays, and then Labor Day and Memorial Day we'll be running two times. On Friday before the 4th of July, we'll run twice that day. Of course, If they have trouble we'll go anyway," Sheriff Ray told the county commission.
For three decades the Corps has contracted with and compensated the county to provide extra sheriff's department patrols at certain lake sites.
Sheriff Ray said the new terms are better than the deal originally offered by the Corps for the upcoming year which would have reduced the number of patrols as well as the rate of compensation to the county. The Corps had proposed 219 patrol periods this year at five lake sites. The county would have received a total of $35,040 to provide the service. That would have been down from the 229 patrol periods in 2014 and 236 in the year 2013. The Corps' rate of compensation to the county has also been declining in recent years going from $37,760 in 2013 to $36,640 last year.
The sheriff's department must only use full time POST certified officers to conduct the patrols during the designated time periods specified by the contract.
During February's county commission workshop meeting, the emergency services committee recommended that Sheriff Ray ask the Corps to increase the rate of compensation from $32 to $40.50 per lake site in the proposed new contract which would be $202.50 per patrol period.
Members of the DeKalb Animal Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals are seeking financial support from the County and City of Smithville to help build an animal shelter.
Sue Puckett Jernigan, a member of the Coalition addressed County Mayor Tim Stribling and members of the County Commission in an informal workshop meeting Thursday night at the courthouse. Other members of the Coalition in attendance were President Marsha Darrah, Jason Ray, Dr. Hugh Don Cripps, and Renee Ferguson. David McDowell and Jason Murphy, also members of the Coalition, were unable to attend.
The Coalition, a 501 (c) 3 charity organization, is reaching out to city and county leaders for help in next year's budgets but also plans to have fundraisers and seek grants and tax deductible donations from the public to obtain the money needed to build and start up a shelter.
The Coalition's goal is for the county to have a permanent and safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in permanent homes.
The Coalition would like to build a shelter on a four acre site near the solid waste transfer station, behind Tenneco off of Highway 70 east. The property is currently owned by the Smithville Industrial Development Board.
In her remarks Thursday night, Jernigan asked county leaders to consider partnering with the city and share in the estimated cost of $150,000 to build a shelter. The Coalition would raise money for the furnishings. Under the proposal, the city and county would share in the cost of hiring two persons to staff the facility.
"I'm really excited about our DeKalb Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals," said Jernigan. "This has been a headache for the city and county for many years and it's the aim of our Coalition to assume the burden of the operation for a suitable animal shelter that is yet to be built."
"We hope to locate the building over behind Tenneco. There's a few acres over there that would be just perfect for us. We're hoping that the city and county will share in the approximate cost of $150,000 estimate for constructing the building. This is not going to be any frills building. It's just going to be bare essentials that's necessary to do what it is supposed to do. It's going to be about 3,500 square feet. It would house 28 dogs and I don't know how many cats because cats are not as big as dogs so we can have more of those," she said.
" We hope to assume the responsibility of raising the funds to furnish the interior of the facility and that would be the cat cages, the washer, the dryer, the tub, the office equipment, doors, beds, bowls, and things like that which would be a substantial cost of $75,000 to $100,000 but our coalition will assume that cost".
"Once we have the building we'll be eligible for grants to defray some of the operating expenses. We're hoping that the city and county will cooperate and join together in a way that will be acceptable to both entities to have two qualified energetic hard working employees for the shelter. We would assume oversight of the employees and carefully help screen them for the day to day operation of the facility," she said.
"We want to have an active fostering and adoption program as well as an animal control operation. We will have a spay and neuter program which we are in the process of applying grants for at this time and we will have a very active education program".
"We would appreciate any help you can give us. We're all in this business together. We're in a county that we love and cherish and we want to take care of God's little creatures," said Jernigan.
Following Jernigan's remarks, members of the commission asked some questions of the Coalition.
Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip: "Why this location?"
Sue Puckett Jernigan: "It's an Ideal place with easy access. There are no residents around where neighbors would be complaining about dogs barking. It's a perfect site we would hope to use"
Atnip: How did you arrive at the $150,000 figure?
Marsha Darrah: "We had a contractor go over this roughly for us. Our next step is to meet with Mary Johnson in Cookeville. She was the architect for the Cookeville Animal Shelter and she has volunteered to help us with some things. We're hoping that she will do a little free service with us since ours is going to be so small compared to what they did there. We're hoping that from our meeting with her we'll be able to get some renderings . But whatever we say (cost estimate), a building is going to have to be put out for bids so it's only going to be what the acceptable bid is."
Second District Commissioner Joe Johnson: "What is your time frame?"
Dr. Hugh Don Cripps: "Realistically we were looking at a completion maybe by the end of this year. I don't know how long it will take to build a building but it's going to be a shell. We're hoping that between the county and city they will appropriate enough money to do that then we will individually and through personal donations and money raising events raise enough money to put the inside part to it and that's probably going to run about as much as the building. Everything said and done it would probably be $300,000. We hope to be able to help staff it with volunteers. We have lots of people who want to volunteer. I know things have been started in the past and not followed up on but we intend to follow up on this even if it's just us against the world. We'll try to raise the money. But we hope that you will help us by realizing your responsibility."
Betty Atnip: "What type of grants are available?"
Renee Ferguson: "There are grants available that would allow us to buy certain equipment. There are grants available for spay and neuter programs. There are grants available for food. There are grants for education purposes. There are lots of grants available but we must have a physical address to apply for a lot of these grants".
Betty Atnip: " Who would these people report to? Who would be their boss?"
Marsha Darrah: "We envision it being with the Coalition simply because I doubt that the county would want to fool with the day to day operations of an animal shelter. I know the city is tired of it. We would assume the oversight and let them report to us. That way nobody could call you up and complain. The complaints would go to us".
Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock: "Who would do the hiring?"
Marsha Darrah: " We would hope that the city and county would do the hiring but that they would let us (Coalition) have an opportunity to recommend or review their employment".
Joe Johnson: "I think any hiring and firing should be left to you. I don't think the county and city should be involved in the hiring and firing. Just let you be a separate entity and if we give you the money, you take care of it. It would be best to let you have control of that. I think you could make better decisions than we could".
The county commission's budget committee will soon begin work on the 2015-16 budget but whether funding for this project will be included has not yet been decided .
Meanwhile, the public is invited to attend monthly meetings of the DeKalb Animal Coalition which are held on the first Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Smithville city hall building
Sixty-one students entered their projects into the annual DeKalb West School Science Fair. Held March 12 and 13, students in Kindergarten through 8th grade participated in one of three categories-- research, experiment or model.
There were several intriguing entries. For the experiments students tested their hypothesis. Jaxon Humphrey investigated the practical question of “Which Carpet Cleaner Works Best?” while Dawson Bandy wanted to find out how two different candies, Skittles and Mentos, would perform in Diet Coke. Aniston Farler made a sharp point with her bed of nails experiment that demonstrated the importance of weight distribution. Students researched volcanoes, where electricity is derived, stinging insects, and whether Atlantis was fact or fiction, and numerous other topics. Mileena Rodriguez decided to compete in the model category with her “Earth Layers.” Mariah Mofield had a model of “Organs of the Digestive System” and Hailey Bogle explored the solar system. While there were many excellent entries, judges picked the following students as the official winners.
Here are the results from K-2 grades (Research): 1st place, Michael Justice with “Rocks of Tennessee” and 2nd place, Caitlin Shoemake with “Trees”; K-2 (Experiment) tied for 1st place, Kenson Moss with “Inside Out Easter Egg” and Thomas Damron with “The Science of Hot Wheels”, and tied for 2nd place, Chaylea Lunsford with “Rainbow Water” and Conner Talley with “The Super Magnet.” There were no model entries in the K-2 grade band.
Here are the results from 3-5 grades (Research): 1st place, Isaac Brown with “Stinging Insects,” 2nd place, Luke Driver with “Gardening in New Ground,” and 3rd place: Devon Maxwell with “Life Cycle of a Butterfly”; 3-5 (Model): 1st place, Gavin Conger with “Two Ideas for Setting a Single Circuit,” 2nd place, Izzy Haugh with “Volcanoes,” and 3rd place, Jarrod Smith with “Life Cycle of a Tadpole”; 3-5 (Experiment): 1st place, Zoi Hale with “Tooth or Dare,” 2nd place, Matt Nokes with Gears: Torque vs. Speed, and 3rd place, Madison Martin with “Rocket Car.”
Here are the results from 6-8th grades (Research), 1st place, Holly Evans with “How Do Some Body Noises Occur,” 2nd place tied between Callie Mulloy with “Mercaptopurine and You” and Grayson Redmon with “Sea Frogs,” and 3rd place, Haley Dies with “The Heart”; 6-8 (Model): 1st place, Garrett Driver with “Electricity,” 2nd place, Janelle Rodriguez with “Organization of Life,” and 3rd place, “Hailey Bogle” with “Our Solar System”; 6-8 (Experiment): 1st place, Christian Trail with “Heart Health,” 2nd place tied between Emma Damron with “Walking on Water” and Peyton Harris with “Re-evaluate Your Drinks,” and 3rd place, Elijah Aucoin with “Glowing Water.”
Receiving Honorable Mention from all grades were Mariah Mofield, Cody Woodham, Jaxon Humphrey, John Ellis, Brayden Antoniak, Kortnee Skeen, Aly Griffith, Noah Evans, Aniston Farler, Jake Christian, Bonnie Hale, Ellie Vaughn, Cameron Bailey, and Bralin Moss.
Being physically active is one of the best things you can do to improve and maintain your health, yet nearly two-thirds of Americans aren’t getting the activity they need. Consider taking up walking with friends or your family by participating in Walk Across Tennessee, which is an eight-week program that will spark some friendly competitions in DeKalb County. The event is being conducted by the University of Tennessee Extension office in partnership with DeKalb Community Hospital. Beginning Thursday, March 19th teams of eight will compete to see who can log the most miles walking, jogging, biking, and other forms of exercise in their community. Biking or jogging teams can have a team of four. The miles walked are not literally across the state, but reported on a map posted at the UT Extension Office, Greenbrook Park, Smithville Review and online.
Since everyone participates in a variety of sports, the Walk Across Tennessee program also has an exercise conversion chart so that participants can count aerobics, swimming, weight lifting, etc. For example, 16 minutes of high intensity aerobics would equal one mile. To make the contest more fair participants are not allowed to count any exercise done while on the job.
The Walk Across Tennessee kickoff for DeKalb County is set for Thursday, March 19 at Greenbrook Park at 6:00 PM. “Teams will keep track of their miles, which will be posted in the Extension office, Greenbrook park, Smithville review, and online. Teams can be composed of coworkers, teachers, students, neighbors, etc. This is an excellent team competition for the workplace, neighborhoods, and families” said April Martin, DeKalb County Extension Agent. For general reporting purposes, 20 minutes will equal one mile, but people can use a pedometer or measure out their distances.”
According to Martin, “There will be cash and other prizes for the winning teams and individuals. There is a small $10 registration fee for each team member. At least half of each team should be residents of DeKalb County to participate.”
To participate in Walk Across Tennessee, first get a team together. Biking and jogging teams are limited to four people. Choose a team captain and name your team. Team captains need to download a captain’s packet, available at the UT Extension of DeKalb County website at http://dekalb.tennessee.edu, at the DeKalb County UT Extension Office or County Complex located at 722 South Congress Blvd. in Smithville. Packets will also be available the day of the sign up on March 19.
Each team member will need to complete a registration form which is included in the team captain’s packet or online. Individual as well as team forms should be returned to the Extension office. Cash awards and prizes will be given to the individuals who walk the most miles as well as the team who walks the most miles.
For more information, call the Extension office at 597-4945 or visit the website.
Hundreds of people from DeKalb County and other areas will be able to obtain free health care services on Saturday and Sunday, March 28 & 29 in Smithville
Remote Area Medical will be setting up a Free Health Care Clinic at DeKalb County High School for anyone including those without medical insurance, or those who are un-insured, under-insured, unemployed, under-employed, and/or who cannot afford to pay for services.
(VIEW VIDEO BELOW)
The clinic operates on a "first-come, first-served basis" and will open for registration at 6:00 a.m. each day. Patients may show up as early as 3:00 a.m. to obtain a ticket. Be prepared for a long wait.
The following services will be available at this RAM clinic: Dental (cleaning, fillings, and extractions), Vision (eye exams, eyeglass prescriptions, and eyeglasses made on-site - as time and supplies allow), and Medical (general medical consults, women's health exams).
"Patients needing care will be seen on a first-come, first served basis regardless of income qualifications," said County Mayor Tim Stribling. "Patients will have to choose between dental and vision services but they will be able to seek women's health or a general medical consultation in addition. They will be doing pap smears for women. They're talking about maybe being able to do mammograms. They are not for sure yet. They will be giving flu shots. Dental care is limited to cleanings, extractions, and a small number of fillings. Vision care will involve an eye exam, with glasses often made on site depending on the complexity of a patient's prescription," he said.
Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a non-profit, volunteer corps dedicated to serving mankind by providing free health care, dental care, eye care, and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the United States and the world.
Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization. Volunteer doctors, nurses, and support workers participate in expeditions (at their own expense). Medical supplies, medicines, facilities and vehicles are donated.
"The number (patients) to be served depends upon how many medical professionals they have. The more dentists they have on site the more tickets they can give out. The same way with the vision. The more doctors they have there to do eye tests the more tickets they will be able to give out. I talked with them Wednesday and they plan to have a good general support staff coming and they look for a good clinic," said County Mayor Stribling.
Medical professionals along with anyone else wishing to volunteer may sign up at www.ramusa.org. or you may call the County Mayor's office at 615-597-5175.
The county will be responsible for making sure the medical professionals and staff who visit here have a place to lodge for two nights and that their meals are provided. "We are going to feed them and we've got some churches and organizations that have volunteered to do that. On Saturday morning, the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church will be feeding breakfast. Lunch on Saturday will be by the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department. Supper on Saturday night will be by the Smithville Church of God. Then on Sunday morning the Smithville First Baptist Church will provide breakfast and lunch will be by the Smithville Church of Christ. We must house the doctors and their staff. We'll be doing that at Lakeside Resort. We'll put them up Friday and Saturday night. They will try to finish by noon or 1:00 p.m. Sunday so they can pack up all their equipment and move off campus by about 4:00 p.m." County Mayor Stribling said.
Anyone who wants to make a donation may contact the County Mayor's Office at 615-597-5175. "We've had some businesses and civic organizations that have donated. None of the money donated will go to pay medical professionals. It's just to house and feed them and for other expenses while they are here," said County Mayor Stribling
Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger is apparently ready to fight for his job.
(VIEW VIDEO OF CITY COUNCIL MEETING BELOW)
During a special meeting of the Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday evening, Caplinger appeared with his attorneys, Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox seeking due process after being placed on suspension pending termination by Mayor Jimmy Poss last Friday. Speaking on his behalf, Cripps said that Caplinger, a veteran law enforcement officer, has done nothing wrong and will not resign. A contingent of Caplinger supporters filled the meeting room to back the embattled Police Chief.
Since no action could be taken by the aldermen on a severance package, the reason for which the special meeting was called Tuesday evening, Mayor Poss now has the option of sending a letter to the chief informing him that he is being terminated. If so, Caplinger has seven business days to request a hearing before the entire board of aldermen who has the power to sustain or overturn a termination . Caplinger's request for a hearing must be made to the mayor. The mayor then has five business days to respond. If the process were to get that far, both Mayor Poss and City Attorney Vester Parsley say Caplinger would be granted a hearing.
Saying he felt the department needs new leadership, Mayor Poss took the action to suspend Chief Caplinger Friday with the support of Police Commissioner Jason Murphy. Both Alderman Murphy and City Attorney Parsley were at the meeting.
According to Cripps, the Chief was first presented a letter of resignation at that meeting with the mayor but Caplinger refused to sign it. "On Friday March 13 suddenly and without any foreknowledge, Mr. Caplinger was presented a letter of resignation prepared beforehand by city officials of whom we know not. He was requested to sign that at a meeting attended by Mayor Poss, City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson, Police Commissioner and Alderman Jason Murphy, and Attorney Parsley. At that time he (Caplinger) declined to sign the letter presented to him," said Attorney Cripps.
But Parsley told the Aldermen Tuesday evening that Caplinger brought up the subject of a buyout in consideration for his resignation at the Friday meeting. "We met with him last week. He requested that he appear before the board and ask that they consider a payment of six months to a year of his upcoming salary in consideration of his resignation," said Parsley.
According to Parsley, the reason for the special called meeting Tuesday night was to consider the "buy out" or "severance pay" option since only the aldermen can make that decision. Parsley, however said he would not recommend authorizing a "buy out" because Caplinger does not have an employment contract with the city and that it sets a bad precedent for the future. "I would point out first of all that we don't have a written contract with the Chief and in the past we have not paid anyone an annual salary when they weren't actually working. That being the case I think it does set a bad precedent for the city to pay someone who isn't on a written contract. Therefore he is an employee at will. It would be my recommendation that the city not do that," said City Attorney Parsley.
Cripps said Chief Caplinger has not tendered a resignation nor has he been given a reason for his suspension. " Chief Caplinger spent 30 years in public service with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and then came to this job in May 2010 desiring to continue to serve the public. As I address you tonight, Chief Caplinger and his counsel still have not been apprised of the reason or reasons behind his sudden suspension without pay that occurred on March 13. Chief Caplinger comes here tonight asking very little of you. He will not resign under a cloud and he will not go quietly into the dark night. Chief Caplinger wishes to make it clear to everyone who is here that he categorically denies wrongdoing in any shape, form, or fashion. Moreover, he stands before you tonight ready, willing, and eager to defend himself in a public forum with zeal and energy and to allow the chips to fall where they may and upon whomsoever they will."
"The foundation and the cornerstone upon which our American Judicial System is founded is the concept of due process and that encompasses a few key elements. One of those is a written statement notifying the accused or in this case the person who is being asked to resign of the allegations and charges against him. Secondly, written notice of a hearing that is scheduled to hear these matters. Finally and maybe most importantly, an opportunity to be heard and to state his case in a full and fair hearing. We welcome that scrutiny. We demand due process because for 30 years with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and almost five years as Police Chief for the City of Smithville, Chief Caplinger has not received any reprimands. He has not been the subject of disciplinary action by this honorable board nor by officials in the State of Tennessee's government. In closing, as I stated we will not resign. We demand due process and I'd like to ask all of those present who support the Chief to stand and be heard," said Cripps
The crowd attending the meeting then rose to their feet and applauded and cheered their support for Chief Caplinger.
Both Aldermen Josh Miller and Shawn Jacobs expressed frustration for not being made aware of the decision on Chief Caplinger until after he was suspended. "Friday a board member called me and told me about what had taken place with Chief Caplinger. I was in the dark about this," said Alderman Miller. " I did not know until after the fact. I immediately started making phone calls to find out why and what for. I wanted to know. I think I have a right just like everyone else. I started hearing about a list. Later that evening I also found out that many city police officers and many city employees knew this. I was one of the board members who did not know this. In business or anything in life if someone goes behind my back deliberately I question the motive. I met with Mr. (Hunter) Hendrixson yesterday (Monday) and I saw the list and after I read it I immediately asked him for any write-ups on Mr. Caplinger. I did not get any. All I want is facts. I don't care what "he" says or "she" says. I want facts. People have put their trust in us as a board and its our duty to make sure that the motives are pure and clean," said Alderman Miller.
""I was caught totally by surprise. I actually think I was the last Alderman to be notified of the Chief's suspension," said Alderman Jacobs. " I heard that from Mr. Miller who called me at work Friday. I was totally shocked. I had no idea this was coming down. I really did not know what to think. I really felt betrayed. I am the longest serving member on this board. I have been police commissioner. But no one took the opportunity to discuss it with the rest of the board before anything was done or at least with Mr. Miller and myself. I just think that this is not good government. That does not smell like good government to me. I think its reprehensible that something like that occurred in a vacuum without us being able to sit down together as ladies and gentlemen and discuss things. I'm not really aware of any problems at all with Chief Caplinger's performance. No one is perfect. I think the Chief has done a good job for us. The biggest complaint I have heard is about morale in the police department which is a huge shock to me because we have not lost but one police officer in almost five years. We've been retaining our officers. May I say I would like to compliment the entire department. They have been doing a fantastic job. Even if morale is low the department has been doing a fantastic job in my opinion under the Chief's leadership be it good or bad. And if you have a morale problem, I don't think firing someone is necessarily the way you address that every time. It's not always from the top that morale is set. I am truly bothered by the way this has gone down. I am truly bothered by the fact that it almost happened in a vacuum without input from other members of the board. I know this is a responsibility that the mayor does have. The mayor and the department head do have that option to do that (suspend) but given the magnitude of this position and given the fact that for ten years we've had a rotating chair in there with police chiefs, it's time it stopped. It's time we have a chief and allow him to build and run his department. If I am presented with evidence that shows that Mr. Caplinger has done something atrocious that deserves dismissal I might change my mind. But at the moment I think this has been a terrible rush to judgment and I think it has been a slap in the face not only to Mr. Caplinger but especially to this board which is duly elected by the citizens of this city, and of course to the great citizens of this city itself," said Alderman Jacobs.
Alderman Gayla Hendrix stressed that the reason for the special meeting Tuesday night was not to make a decision on terminating Chief Caplinger but to consider action on a severance package had he chosen to tender a resignation, which he did not do. "I appreciate Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Miller's comments but this is not a termination hearing. It's not a public forum. I was notified that the mayor, the administrator, and the commissioner did meet with the chief and that the chief expressed his desire to resign or retire and that he asked for a severance package, which they do not have the authority to grant or deny and that we (aldermen) were having a special called meeting tonight specifically for that reason. There has been no reason for anyone to give us any kind of information of wrongdoing. Nobody has told me anything of the Chief doing anything wrong. The only thing I have heard is that he resigned or retired and asked for a severance package. We're here tonight and people are bringing up things that are not on this agenda for this special called meeting. What I understand is that his attorney has announced that he is withdrawing a resignation or retirement, whichever it was. Therefore we have no reason to meet," said Alderman Hendrix.
"My understanding is he is not asking for a severance package at all tonight and if he is not requesting that then there is no other business that can be conducted tonight," added City Attorney Parsley.
"I just want to make clear that I was never officially notified of tonight's meeting but I did indeed know that this was merely a meeting to consider the severance package. I know we could not take any other action tonight. I just think the people have a right to know the way this was carried out. It was very distasteful to me. This is public policy. People have a right to know what is going on in government. It is an open meeting," Alderman Jacobs said in response to Alderman Hendrix.
"I agree with you on that Mr. Jacobs and when we get to a due process hearing I think all of that needs to be presented to us but at this point the only information I had was that the Chief was either retiring or resigning and its none of our business why he would do either one. There is no reason to look into that today," replied Alderman Hendrix.
Attorney Cripps repeated that Chief Caplinger has not tendered a resignation.