Local News Articles

Long Time City Official Burnace Vandergriff Resigns Citing Harassment as the Reason

August 23, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

After eighteen years as City Recorder and Secretary-Treasurer for the City of Smithville, Burnace Vandergriff is calling it quits.

Vandergriff says he is tired of dealing with what he calls the "harassment" of a few people who frequent city hall on a regular basis, disrupting the work of city employees with their almost constant demand for city records as well as a majority of the city aldermen, who seem to cater to them.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson read Vandergriff's letter to the Aldermen Monday night. In it, Vandergriff states that "I would like to thank the people who have allowed me to do my job and have had the confidence in me to allow me to work for this city for the past 18 years. I have enjoyed my service and I will miss most aspects of my job. I appreciate the encouragement, and vote of confidence from the current Mayor Taft Hendrixson. Until now, the Board of Aldermen have also been very supportive of my efforts and accomplishments and I would like to thank Mr. Aaron Meeks, Mr. Steve White, Mr. W.J. White, Mr. Paul Young, and all other previous members of this council. I have enjoyed working for you all."

"Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the majority of the current Board. Without knowing anything about the day to day operations of the city government, they have chosen to listen to three or four disgruntled citizens who are doing nothing but breaking this city down as if we are ignorant and uneducated. When I started work here, this city could barely afford to pave any of its streets, and we were in terrible need of new equipment. We now have a surplus of funds, new police cars, new garbage truck, and fairly new equipment at the shed. I cannot and will not be a part of this evil and vindictive agenda, but I will stay long enough to prove that I, as City Recorder, have done nothing wrong."

Also in his letter of resignation, Vandergriff stated that " I have worked hard in this position and have been called upon during all hours of the day, night, and weekends to help with water leaks, water line breaks, sweeping the streets after the Jamboree, and plowing the streets after a big snow. I have been responsible for making sure this city is financially stable and that we have operated within our yearly budget for the last eighteen years. I was also instrumental in helping the city to receive the Small City Progress Award presented by the Tennessee Municipal League in 2003. This award was not achieved by back door deals or good ole boy tactics. This award was achieved by hard work, financial planning, and a highly competent staff. This award is proof that Smithville has progressed to a model of efficiency"

Vandergriff added that " Unfortunately, all of this does not meet the so-called standards of a very small handful of citizens who grew up here, went off and have come back to imply that, all of a sudden, things are not being done right. The continuous harassment from these people have prevented me and other long time employees from doing our jobs as required and expected by this City. I have always taken pride in everything I have ever done. I came to work for this city with a good name, and I will leave with a good name. I refuse to stay in a position where the continuous harassment, newspaper articles, speak outs, and radio propaganda tarnish my name and reputation and prohibit me from doing my job."

Vandergriff states that "The audit of the city has begun and I will stay on the job until auditor John Poole has signed off on it, to prove I have done nothing wrong. Mr. Pool has advised me this should happen sometime between September 4th and September 14th."

After Mayor Hendrixson read Vandergriff's resignation letter, several people spoke out in support of him including Alderman Steve White, Alderman and former Mayor Cecil Burger, former Alderman W.J. (Dub) White, city employee Jimmy Taylor, former city attorney's Bratten "Butch" Cook and Sarah Cripps, and former Alderman and local businessman Cordell Walker.

Cripps spoke highly of Vandergriff and admonished the mayor and aldermen not to follow the dictates of a few. "Although you may not have agreed with every decision he made, he gave the best years of his life to public service and his honesty and his integrity are beyond repute. They are beyond question. You all have allowed our tax dollars to be frittered away with harassing, intimidating, disparaging tactics of a few. In other cities, a job like Mr. Vandergriff has pays $70,000 to $80,000 a year. He has qualified individuals over other departments. That has never been the case in this city. He has never been given the credit he deserves for the hours he has put in. His cell phone is never turned off. I or any other person was always able to reach him with a concern."

Vandergriff, during the meeting gave credit to his predecessors, namely former Mayor Waniford Cantrell and former city attorney Bratten Cook for setting the city on the right financial path in 1982.

Cook, in speaking out in support of Vandergriff, reminisced about how far the city has come since those days. "Mayor Cantrell was elected in 1982 and he named me city attorney, which began a sixteen year period of me being city attorney. One of the first things we had to do was go to the old First Central Bank to borrow the money to catch an overdraft to pay the payroll that week. The Farmers Home Administration was about to foreclose on us because a payment had not been paid in a couple of years and from that meager beginning, today the city has six million dollars and has had no tax increase since before 1982. That does not come from anything except good management. Burnace is a friend of mine and has been for many years and I'm proud to call him a friend. That letter of resignation is just that. I didn't hear ya'll accept it. This man needs to stay right where he's at for the betterment of this city."

Walker says Vandergriff has been overworked for years and should have had some help. "I listen to people complain about Mr. Vandergriff and I've always defended him as I defend him today. I think he's done a fantastic job for this city. I know he's done a lot of hard work. When a man has to eat his lunch in his truck, he is overloaded. Ladies and gentlemen, get this man some help if he will stay. He's needed help for a long time. There may be times when Mr. Vandergriff has been ill with people, but as a business person I know, when you're overloaded, you have a tendency to be ill with people that you would ordinarily not be ill with. Mr. Vandergriff, If there is anything I can do for you, let me know and I thank you for the service that you have given to this city."

Aldermen Vote to Return Richard Jennings to the Police Department

August 23, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Lieutenant Richard Jennings has got his job back.

By a vote of 3 to 2 Monday night, the Board of Aldermen, following a lengthy hearing, overturned the termination of Jennings.

Alderman Willie Thomas made a motion that Jennings be returned to the police department with "full pay". Alderman Jerry Hutchins', Sr. seconded the motion. Alderman Tonya Sullivan joined Thomas and Hutchins in voting to reinstate Jennings, but aldermen Cecil Burger and Steve White voted to uphold the firing.

After the vote, Mayor Taft Hendrixson called for a recess, which was approved by the aldermen. Hendrixson left the meeting room and went down stairs, apparently to ponder casting a veto. But when he returned later and called the meeting back into session, Mayor Hendrixson stated that he would not veto the board's decision, which was met with applause from members of the audience.

Lieutenant Jennings was accused of removing weapons, inventory files, ammunition, and other items from the police department, some of which were allegedly found in his personal possession.

On Friday, August 3rd, Jennings was placed on suspension with pay pending termination, following an internal police department investigation, and Thursday afternoon, August 9th, the case against him was presented to the city's discipline hearing authority, which is made up of Mayor Hendrixson, Police Commissioner Cecil Burger, and City Recorder Burnace Vandergriff. After hearing the evidence, the vote was 3 to 0 to terminate Jennings.

Jennings waived his right to appear before the three member discipline board and sent word through his attorney, Adam Parrish, that he would appeal his case to the entire board of mayor and aldermen, which had the final say.

As the hearing began Monday night, Police Chief Tom Stufano read a lengthy prepared statement describing in detail the allegations against Jennings, including alleged violations of Smithville Police Department Policies and Procedures in failing to take proper care of city equipment, or theft of city property.

The specific allegations included the removal without authorization of (1) AR-15 machine gun and (3) concussion hand grenades and a 14 inch tactical shotgun from the department armory which were found in (Jennings) personal possession (personal vehicle, personal residence).; removal of Smithville Police Department Official Inventory files, inclusive of dates April 20th, 2007- July 29th, 2007.; and removal and personal possession of miscellaneous items depicted on Smithville Police Department Evidence Receipts 3044-3051 to include: (905) rounds of .223 ammunition, (97) shotgun rounds (various calibers), H&K parts, tools and (1) machine gun streamlight laser/flashlight from the Smithville Police Department.

During the internal investigation, Jennings apparently returned the weapons and ammunition, but according to Chief Stufano's statement, "He has yet to bring back any inventory control files from his residence inclusive of the dates April 20th, 2007 to July 28th, 2007 during his tenure as the agency's inventory control Supervisor. As a result of his unauthorized and prohibited actions the city and Police Department have incurred unnecessary expenses in having to contract a certified auditing team to complete an inventory of the department's assets."

Stufano would not address allegations against Jennings of possible state and federal law violations, citing an on-going investigation, the results of which may be presented to the December term of the DeKalb County Grand Jury.

Parrish, who questioned Stufano throughout the hearing Monday night, told WJLE after the meeting that Jennings was authorized to have these items, insisting that he was issued them a few years ago and that the authorization had not been rescinded. "They attacked his integrity, they attacked his honesty. It was always an attempt to discredit him. The board has heard the evidence and voted correctly. To me, the biggest issue was that he always had permission to have these items. As a matter of fact, they issued them to him and at no time did they ever rescind that authorization for him to have them."

In a prepared statement to WJLE, Alderman Sullivan explained her vote to overturn the termination, saying "The evidence was conclusive that Mr. Jennings was certified to operate named equipment. He acted as an armour during his time employed. Weapons assigned to an officer is the responsibility of that officer."

"The policy and procedure manual is inconclusive of job descriptions and proper care of said items and there was no directive to inventory equipment at the time of Stufano's employment. The items were returned and charges of theft were unfounded in accordance to the evidence presented."

Later in the meeting, Faye Fuqua praised Jennings and presented a petition to the Mayor and Aldermen signed by some 200 persons in support of him.

Nude Swimmer Arrested on Drug Charges

August 23, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested a nude swimmer at Center Hill Lake Sunday after officers saw him trying to get rid of some drugs while getting dressed.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 30 year old Scotty Farmer of Sykes Road, Hickman was arrested at Long Branch Boat Ramp near Center Hill Dam. Upon the deputies' arrival, Farmer and his friends were found swimming without any clothes on. Farmer came out of the water and put his pants on and the deputy noticed Farmer had thrown something in the lake. The officer quickly recovered the package and found pills believed to be Percocets. Farmer was charged with possession of a schedule III drug (Percocets) and fabricating/tampering with evidence. Bond is set at $6,000 and his court date is September 20th.

Meanwhile, in other cases, 21 year old Jason Sturdivant of Page Drive Smithville was arrested on Friday after officers received a call about a suspicious vehicle on Willis McGinnis Road. Sturdivant had no identification on him and gave his brothers name as his own to the deputy. The officer later learned Sturdivant's real name and charged Sturdivant with driving on a suspended drivers license and criminal impersonation. His bond is set at $3,500 and his court date is September 20th.

50 year old Jane Hall of William Boles Road, Hilham Tennessee was arrested Saturday on Highway 56 North. Hall was seen by a deputy weaving across the centerline. Hall's speech was slurred and after the deputy administered field sobriety tasks, she was arrested for DUI. Bond is set at $1,500 and her court date is September 20th.

Also on Saturday, 35 year old Tammy Currie of Circle Drive Dowelltown was charged with burglary and theft of property under $500. Currie took a wallet that contained approximately $200 in cash from a vehicle on Circle Drive, Dowelltown. The wallet was recovered but no cash was found. Sheriff Ray says Currie admitted to the theft. Bond is set at $7,500 and her court date is September 20th.

37 year old Mark Graham of Bright Hill Road, Smithville was arrested Sunday for possession of a schedule II drug (Cocaine) after deputies responded to a call at Grahams' residence. A white powdery substance believed to be cocaine was found in Graham's pocket. His bond is set at $2,500 and he will be in court September 20th.

Three Injured In Separate Weekend Wrecks

August 23, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 19 year old man was airlifted after a one auto traffic accident early Sunday morning on Highway 70 near Alexandria.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Brandon Likens of 3982 McMinnville Highway, Smithville was traveling east on U.S. 70 in a 2000 Pontiac Montana Minivan around 3:00 a.m. Sunday when he went off the right shoulder of the road, overcorrected, and then went back across the westbound lane and off the left shoulder. Trooper Jennings says Likens overcorrected again and spun around facing west. The vehicle slid back across the east bound lane, went off the shoulder, and struck a tree.

He was airlifted from the scene to Vanderbilt Hospital.

Trooper Jennings says Likens may have fallen asleep while driving, causing the crash.

Others responding included DeKalb EMS, the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, and the DeKalb County Fire Department's Extrication Team.

Meanwhile, two Hickman teenagers, a brother and sister, were seriously injured in a one vehicle crash Saturday afternoon on State Route 264 (Temperance Hall Road), just two miles outside of DeKalb County in Smith County.

Trooper Jennings says the 17 year old girl, of Hackett Valley Road Hickman, was driving a 2005 Dodge Neon north when she went off the steep right shoulder of the road and struck a tree. The girl and her 15 year old brother were pinned in the vehicle for a long period of time and had to be extricated. The boy reportedly lost his right leg due to the accident.

The two were flown from the scene to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.

Trooper Jennings declined to release the names of the teens because they are juveniles.

Bredesen, Buck Announce Coordinated School Health Partnership Grants

August 19, 2007

Governor Phil Bredesen and Representative Frank Buck today announced $12,322,000 in grants for school systems to launch or continue Coordinated School Health Partnerships (CSHP). In the 2007-08 school year, Tennessee school systems will administer this national model intended to improve children’s health and capacity to learn. Last year, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to mandate and fund coordinated school health partnerships for every school district in the state. DeKalb County Schools will receive $95,000 to implement its CSHP.

“I am pleased to see these local school systems embrace a greater role in protecting the physical, mental and emotional health of Tennessee’s students,” Governor Bredesen said. “Education and health are a natural partnership given the amount of time children spend in school. With initiatives like Coordinated School Health Partnerships, CoverKids and Get Fit Tennessee, we can raise a stronger, healthier generation of Tennesseans.”

Tennessee piloted 10 CSHP beginning in 2002 based on a model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The model partners families, community members and schools to create a culture focused on health awareness, physical activity, and health, nutrition and counseling services. A review of the pilot sites found significant improvements to the school environment and the well-being of students and school employees, prompting the legislature to expand the initiative statewide.

“An issue as important as the social and emotional health of children demands focus and a coordinated effort,” Representative Buck said. “These grants, among other things, ensure each school system has a leader dedicated to providing the resources necessary for strong students.”

Among the roles of the CSH partnerships will be to educate the community about CoverKids, Tennessee’s program to provide comprehensive health insurance to uninsured children 18 and under in Tennessee. Under this plan, a family of four with a yearly income of $51,625 can qualify for coverage with no monthly premiums, no co-pays for well-exams and low co-pays for sick visits and generic medications. This year, schools are sending CoverKids information and applications home with every student in an effort to reach as many uninsured children as possible.

New City Public Records Ordinance up for Final Passage Monday Night

August 19, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen are scheduled to vote on a proposed new ordinance Monday night governing access to public records. The vote was four to one for passage on first reading on August 6th.

Alderman Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, Jerry Hutchins', Sr., and Cecil Burger voted for it. Alderman Steve White voted against it, saying he had concerns with some passages of it.

If approved, the new ordinance will replace an existing ordinance, which poses some legal concerns.

Under the proposed new ordinance, " all records maintained by the City of Smithville, that are not Federally or State protected are hereby declared open records."

"Copies of open records that are requested during regular business hours are required to be provided to the requester. If the request is five pages or less, the copies will be free. However, copies will cost twenty five cents per page, starting with the sixth page and every page thereafter, unless otherwise excepted in this ordinance. If the request is of five pages or fewer and is readily available, the request will be fulfilled the same business day. If the request is more than five pages or not readily available, the request will be fulfilled within five business days. If the request is complex or of a personnel file then the request shall be fulfilled within ten business days. The fee for copies of items such as cd roms, computer disks, and audio/video cassettes, etc. will be charged at the rate paid by the city for such recording medium. However, if the requester provides the recording medium, there will be no additional charge from the city. All fees and charges for records shall be due and payable at the time such costs are incurred. City staff may require pre-payment of fees and charges for copies where the fees and charges would exceed twenty dollars."

"Removal of original open records, including personnel records, from the offices of the city is strictly prohibited."

"Copies of the City Charter, current City Code and Ordinances, and all Minutes of City Council meetings and Resolutions passed in the previous five years shall be readily available for review by the public. An area shall be designated for these items to be reviewed by the public."

"If copies of personnel records of city employees are requested, the City Recorder, or other city staff authorized by the City Recorder, shall notify the employee, for whom the records are requested, which documents have been copied, and to whom they have been provided. The employee shall be notified that the information has been requested within 48 hours. No copies of a personnel file shall be turned over to a third party without being reviewed by the City Attorney."

"Accident Reports provided by the Smithville Police Department shall be provided to anyone requesting the reports at a cost of four dollars per report. The city has determined that this is a reasonable charge, inasmuch as it is the same amount that is charged for such reports by the Tennessee Department of Safety (Tennessee Code Annotated) and other cities in Tennessee."

"It shall be the policy of the City of Smithville to cooperate fully with any Tennessee resident requesting the right to inspect an/or receive copies of open records at a reasonable charge; however, the city staff is prohibited from undertaking research projects to place records requested in any other form than normally maintained by the city, unless the requester agrees to pay for changing the form.'

"Ordinance number 382 (existing ordinance) of the City of Smithville is hereby repealed in it's entirety. Citizens that were charged fees under Ordinance Number 382 that are in excess of fees under (new ordinance) shall be entitled to a refund of those excess fees upon showing proof. This refund does not apply to prior requests of five pages and under."

The ordinance will be considered for second and final reading passage following a public hearing August 20th at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

Sheriff's Department Catches Man Operating Meth Lab

August 19, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, answering a complaint about a suspicious vehicle Thursday night, discovered a 39 year old man operating a meth lab.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Alvin Sink, Jr of Fairview Road, Crossville was arrested and is charged with manufacturing a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession of a schedule II controlled substance, and possession of a weapon with intent to go armed. His bond is set at $35,000 and he will be in General Sessions Court on the charges August 30th.

Officers also seized a Keltic 9 millimeter gun.

Sheriff Ray says officers found the meth lab after responding to a complaint of a suspicious vehicle parked at a residence at 175 Hickory Street, Smithville. He says one of the deputies noticed a handgun in the back of the vehicle and then he and another deputy heard what sounded like the noise of a running generator coming from behind the residence.

The officers walked around back and saw an outbuilding, opened up the door to the shed, and found Sink operating a meth lab. Sink was using the generator to provide electric power to the outbuilding.

Sheriff Ray says the officers executed a search warrant and discovered in the outbuilding muriatic acid, iodine, pseudoephedrine, components of a meth lab, and some finished product. Meth lab components were also found in Sink's car.

According to Sheriff Ray, Sink did not reside at this Hickory Street address and the home appeared to be unoccupied. He says there was no electric service to the house. Upon a search of the home, officers found some meth lab components. Officers have been unable to locate the owner of the property.

Sheriff Ray says members of the Meth Task Force Response Unit of Chattanooga and Cookeville were notified and came to provide support and to help process the crime scene. The Hazmat Team was also there.

Meanwhile in a separate case, 29 year old Joel Hayes of Bobby Hayes Road, Smithville was pulled over on Evins Mill Road for a traffic violation Thursday.

Hayes was charged with driving under the influence, sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Hydrocodone), and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff Ray says officers found on Hayes a small container of pills believed to be Hydrocodone. Deputies also recovered at the scene a pill grinder and snorting straws.

Bond for Hayes is set at $7,500 and he will be in General Sessions Court on August 30th.

If you have concerns about suspicious activity in your neighborhood or have information that could help solve a crime, Sheriff Ray urges you to call the anonymous tip line at 464-6400. You do not have to give your name.

$2.43 million partnership delivers affordable rental housing in Smithville

August 19, 2007

Rural Development Housing Program Director Don Harris joined Short Mountain Village General Partner and Developer Dale Lancaster Wednesday for the ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of a new 56 unit affordable rental housing development in Smithville. The ceremony was held at Short Mountain Village located at 310 Christine Street.

“The goal of the Rural Development housing loan guarantee program is to work with the private sector to ensure there is enough quality, affordable rental housing to meet the needs of families in rural areas,” said Harris. “By working together, this partnership has accomplished much more than any of us could accomplish alone to help improve the quality of life for families in DeKalb County.”

The Rural Development $2.43 million loan guarantee makes it possible for the developer to secure the necessary private-sector financing through Lewiston State Bank-Bonneville Mortgage Company. The loan funds will be used to convert short-term construction financing to a traditional long-term mortgage on the $6,585,398 multi-family development. The general partner of Mountain Village, LP is providing $460,034 in equity and THDA will provide $3,692,488 in tax credit equity to help make the venture commercially viable.

Short Mountain Village includes 56 three-bedroom, two bathroom detached rental homes with garages and an on-site community center at the heart of the development.

“Short Mountain Village is an exciting addition to our company and we have already achieved full occupancy with great residents much quicker than normal,” said Lancaster. “What a great feeling it is to add to the affordable housing inventory in such a beautiful area like Smithville, and to work with the great people at Rural Development and THDA is icing on the cake.”

The loan guarantee is funded through the new Rural Development multi-family housing (538) program, which helps public bodies and private lenders make loans to developers who build new or renovate existing apartments and other rental properties in rural areas. Guaranteed housing loans are made to serve rural areas with a population less than 25,000.

USDA Rural Development is committed to the future of rural communities in Tennessee by investing financial and technical assistance through housing, community and business development programs. In Fiscal Year 2006 Rural Development assisted more than 467,575 Tennessee families and businesses with more than $288 million in financial assistance through loans and grants.

For more information on business development, affordable housing or community facilities programs available in the DeKalb County area, contact the Rural Development Area Office in Cookeville at 931-528-6539 ext. 2, toll free at 800-342-3149 ext. 1493 or visit us online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.

$2.43 million partnership delivers affordable rental housing in Smithville

Rural Development Housing Program Director Don Harris joined Short Mountain Village General Partner and Developer Dale Lancaster Wednesday for the ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of a new 56 unit affordable rental housing development in Smithville. The ceremony was held at Short Mountain Village located at 310 Christine Street.

“The goal of the Rural Development housing loan guarantee program is to work with the private sector to ensure there is enough quality, affordable rental housing to meet the needs of families in rural areas,” said Harris. “By working together, this partnership has accomplished much more than any of us could accomplish alone to help improve the quality of life for families in DeKalb County.”

The Rural Development $2.43 million loan guarantee makes it possible for the developer to secure the necessary private-sector financing through Lewiston State Bank-Bonneville Mortgage Company. The loan funds will be used to convert short-term construction financing to a traditional long-term mortgage on the $6,585,398 multi-family development. The general partner of Mountain Village, LP is providing $460,034 in equity and THDA will provide $3,692,488 in tax credit equity to help make the venture commercially viable.

Short Mountain Village includes 56 three-bedroom, two bathroom detached rental homes with garages and an on-site community center at the heart of the development.

“Short Mountain Village is an exciting addition to our company and we have already achieved full occupancy with great residents much quicker than normal,” said Lancaster. “What a great feeling it is to add to the affordable housing inventory in such a beautiful area like Smithville, and to work with the great people at Rural Development and THDA is icing on the cake.”

The loan guarantee is funded through the new Rural Development multi-family housing (538) program, which helps public bodies and private lenders make loans to developers who build new or renovate existing apartments and other rental properties in rural areas. Guaranteed housing loans are made to serve rural areas with a population less than 25,000.

USDA Rural Development is committed to the future of rural communities in Tennessee by investing financial and technical assistance through housing, community and business development programs. In Fiscal Year 2006 Rural Development assisted more than 467,575 Tennessee families and businesses with more than $288 million in financial assistance through loans and grants.

For more information on business development, affordable housing or community facilities programs available in the DeKalb County area, contact the Rural Development Area Office in Cookeville at 931-528-6539 ext. 2, toll free at 800-342-3149 ext. 1493 or visit us online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.

Criminal Charges May be Sought Against Jennings

August 17, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Criminal charges may be sought against former Smithville Police Lieutenant Richard Jennings.

Police Chief Tom Stufano, in a brief news release, says "Smithville Police Detectives met with the Middle Tennessee District Attorney's Office Tuesday to file Theft and Official Misconduct charges in the upcoming December Grand Jury scheduled in December against former Smithville Police Officer Richard Jennings. Smithville Police have advised that the City has now turned the case over to the District Attorney's Office and the US Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for prosecution."

Jennings was terminated from the Smithville Police Department last week for alleged violations of police department policies and procedures as well as possible violations of state and federal law. He is accused of removing weapons, inventory files, ammunition, and other items from the police department, some of which were allegedly found in his personal possession.

The attorney for Jennings, Adam Parrish of Lebanon, in a telephone conversation with WJLE last Friday afternoon, said " We think the allegations against Mr. Jennings are preposterous. They are nothing more than an attempt to discredit and humiliate him, simply because Mr. Jennings is privy to information that is particularly damaging to Chief (Tom) Stufano and the department. It's our belief he will be completely vindicated before the five man board."

Jennings was placed on suspension with pay pending termination on Friday, August 3rd, following an internal police department investigation.

Last Thursday afternoon, the case against Jennings was presented to the city's discipline hearing authority, which is made up of Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Police Commissioner Cecil Burger, and City Recorder Burnace Vandergriff. After hearing the evidence, the vote was 3 to 0 to terminate Jennings.

Jennings is appealing his termination to the entire board of Mayor and Aldermen, which has the final say on the issue. The hearing is set for Monday night during the city council meeting at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

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