Local News Articles

Listen for "Reeling in the Years" Friday night on WJLE

September 23, 2014
Listen for "Reeling in the Years" Friday night on WJLE

Many of us have often had a longing for the past, a yearning for yesterday. With nostalgia in mind, another edition of "Reeling in the Years" will air on WJLE the night of September 26.

Former WJLE announcers Dennis Stanley and Shawn Jacobs host the program that will feature the pop/rock music and artists from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

"We'll be playing many of the songs that today's 50 to 60 year old residents remember as teens and young adults," said both Jacobs and Stanley. "The music you will hear on our show will bring back many fond memories. We've made sure our playlist includes songs that were popular during this month from a variety of years. It's those little details we want to incorporate into our show to make it even more enjoyable."

The September 26 program will air from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on WJLE-FM 101.7. It is the final "Reeling in the Years" show for the year and the program will pick up again early in 2015.

Stribling Named Chairman of County Commission

September 22, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Attorney Hilton Conger, County Mayor Tim Stribling, and County Clerk James. L. Poss
County Commission

The new county commission met for the first time Monday night and in its first act named County Mayor Tim Stribling as Chairman.

Seventh District member Larry Summers was returned as Chairman Pro Tempore.

The county commission must annually elect a chairman and a chairman pro tempore. The commission may elect the county mayor or a member of the body to be the chairman, although the county mayor may refuse to serve. If the county mayor is chairman, he or she may vote only to break a tie vote. If a member is chairman, the member votes as a member, but cannot vote again to break a tie. If the county mayor is not chairman, he or she may veto most resolutions of the county legislative body, but this veto may be overridden by a majority vote. The majority vote that is required for this and the passage of resolutions or other measures is a majority of the entire actual membership of the county legislative body, and not a majority of the quorum, nor a majority of the authorized membership.

The county commission consists of fourteen members, two from each of the seven districts in the county.

The new make-up of the county commission is as follows:

Elmer Ellis, Jr. and Mason Carter from the first district; Jimmy Midgett and Joe Johnson from the second district; Jack Barton and Bradley Hendrix from the third district; Wayne Cantrell and Jonathon Norris from the fourth district; Jerry Adcock and Anita Puckett from the fifth district; Jeff Barnes and Betty Atnip from the sixth district; and Larry Summers and Kevin Robinson from the seventh district. Their terms are for four years.

One Injured in Friday Wreck

September 22, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tina Marie Roberts of Lebanon Injured in Wreck (Photo by Gary Mucha)
Dodge Durango involved in wreck later moved to restaurant parking lot

One person was injured in a two vehicle accident Friday afternoon at West Broad and Atnip Street.

According to Smithville Police, 33 year old Cynthia D. Carter of Smithville, driving a Dodge Durango, pulled from Atnip Street into the path of a Mercedes, driven by 52 year old Tina Marie Roberts of Lebanon who was west on Broad Street. A five year old child was a passenger with Carter.

Roberts told police that she had no time to avoid the collision once the Durango pulled onto the highway. Carter said she didn't see the Mercedes until it was too late to avoid a collision.

Roberts was reportedly taken to the hospital by DeKalb EMS. Carter was apparently uninjured.

The accident was investigated by patrolman Matt Farmer of the Smithville Police Department. Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

Brandi (Fish) Bennett competes in Military Armed Forces Softball Tournament

September 22, 2014
by: 
Danny Fish

Former Tigerette and 8AA Hall of Famer Brandi (Fish) Bennett competes in the Military Armed Forces softball tournament. She was selected to be a part of the United States All Navy Softball Team. In being selected, she is considered to be among the top athletes within the United States Navy. As a member of this team, she will represent the United States Navy in the Armed Forces Softball Championship held in Ft. Sill, OK. During this tournament, she will be competing against the finest athletes from the United States Army, Marines and Air Force, for the gold medal. Upon completion, she was then selected to be on the all-tournament. This team represents the top athletes from the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force. The Armed Forces Team will represent the United States in the ASA National World Cup, held in Oklahoma City, OK.

Brandi’s experience has been nothing short of notable throughout her softball career. Brandi was a standout for Danny Bond and the DeKalb County Tigerettes from 1993-1997, and was part of two state championship runs for the Tigerettes. Coach Danny Bond had this say about Brandi, “She had 2 attributes that all players would like to have; she was physically and mentally tough.” After graduating, she continued her softball career at Vol State (97-99) for head coach Johnny Lynn. Coach Lynn stated “Brandi was one of the hardest working young ladies I have ever coached. Her mental and physical toughness was one of Brandi’s strengths that will carry over in anything she decides to do.” She then followed in the footsteps of her brother Danny Fish and headed to Tennessee Wesleyan College (99-01). There she played for TWC Hall of Fame coach Jeff Rice. He remarked, “Brandi was a tireless worker who was always the first to practice and the last to leave. She always put the team's success above her own.” Brandi graduated with a 3.3 GPA and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Exercise Science from TWC located in Athens, TN.

Brandi is currently stationed in Manama in the Kingdom of Bahrain. She has the title of IT1 (Information Systems Technician First Class) (IDW/SW) and she is the Command Commander US Navy Central Command. She is the daughter of Danny & Regina Fish and Myron & Cindy Rhody. Brandi and her husband Anthony Bennett of Baytown, Texas will relocate to Pensacola, Florida in December.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County Dedicates New Home

September 21, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tia Adcock and her children Caven Ponder and Caitlyn Adcock
Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County Dedicates New Home

A dedication ceremony was held Sunday afternoon by members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County to commemorate the recent completion of the fifth partner family home at 202 Hayes Street in Smithville.

Tia Adcock and her children Caven Ponder and Caitlyn Adcock are expected to move into the home soon. "I appreciate everything everybody has done for me. It meant a chance to give my kids a home. It means more to me than I could ever tell you," said Tia.

The dedication ceremony included a consecration of the home led by Dr. John Carpenter of the Smithville First United and Bright Hill United Methodist Churches.

Committee and Board members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County gathered with the Adcock family and their friends for the dedication.

Larry Green, Local Habitat President thanked all suppliers, donors, and volunteers for their help in the construction of the home.

Habitat is accepting applications from those wishing to become the next partner family in DeKalb County.

Area residents are invited to get information about this program and to learn how to apply during a meeting on Thursday, September 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithville First United Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center, which is located across from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Applications must be postmarked by Tuesday, September 30.

Judge Says Foster Must Pay His Own Attorney Fees

September 19, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars
Mike Foster

UCDD will not be paying former County Mayor Mike Foster's attorney fees.

During a brief hearing Friday morning in DeKalb County Circuit Court, Judge Amy Hollars found that UCDD could not legally reimburse Foster for his $61,675 in attorney fees, a cost he incurred following his indictment last September. Judge Hollars based her decision on a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in an 1870's case "Smith versus Nashville" in which the high court found that a governmental entity "could not appropriate money to defray the cost of an official who had been prosecuted for official misconduct, although he be acquitted."

"I'm bound to follow what appears to me to be the controlling Tennessee precedent from the Tennessee Supreme Court in "Smith versus Nashville". It would be this court's ruling that the UCDD cannot reimburse these attorneys fees," said Judge Hollars.

WJLE was the only media represented at the hearing.

Foster wanted the Upper Cumberland Development District to pay his legal expenses in a federal criminal case which was brought against him stemming from the "Living the Dream" investigation. The charge against Foster was dropped in February. UCDD declined to reimburse Foster and sought a Chancery Court ruling on whether it was legal to do so. On June 18, the UCDD filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Putnam County Chancery Court asking the court to "declare whether it would be legal or illegal for the UCDD to indemnify or reimburse Foster for the fees, costs, and expenses he claims, under Tennessee constitutional, statutory, or common law."

Smithville attorney Hilton Conger, who represented Foster at the hearing Friday, argued that the Alabama Supreme Court, while concurring with the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in "Smith versus Nashville" also stated in the case of "Birmingham versus Wilkinson" that "the same policy which demands the holding of public offices to strict account in matters of public trust, also demands their protection against groundless assaults upon their integrity in the discharge of public duty".

"This case (Birmingham versus Wilkinson) says there are no hard and fast rules. It's a case by case situation," said Conger during Friday's hearing. "I think that leaves the door open for this court (Judge Hollars) to follow our sister state (Alabama) in which they don't depart from "Smith versus Nashville" but set out another scenario by which courts can order that (payment of attorney fees). There are situations where an entity or in this case the UCDD board has an interest in seeing that their (board) members are not wrongfully maligned," said Conger.

In making her ruling, Judge Hollars also referred to a 1997 Wilson County case in which members of the school board , who were ousted and later reinstated, sought attorney's fees for their defense from the Wilson County Board of Education and were denied by the Chancery Court as well as the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Citing the Tennessee Supreme Court decision in "Smith versus Nashville", the appellate court wrote in the Wilson County case that "Despite our desire to overrule the Chancery Court, we were unable to find a legal or equitable ground upon which to base such a ruling. The history of the case reveals that appellants had done nothing wrong, but were forced to incur substantial attorneys fees nonetheless. Should the Tennessee Supreme Court take this issue up for consideration, we hope they are able to devise a just result."

In 1879, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided the "Smith versus Nashville" case in which the state brought a bill, on the relation of a number of Nashville citizens, accusing the Mayor and Common Council of Nashville, the Mayor, and individual members of the City Council, and other city officials with gross misconduct and with having brought the corporation to the verge of bankruptcy. On June 5, 1869, the Mayor retained an attorney to aid the City Attorney in the defense of the case. The Mayor and the City Council ratified the Mayor's action in September 1869. Thereafter, the attorney filed an action for his fees. The trial court concluded the municipal corporation had no interest in defending the bill and that neither the City Council nor the Mayor had the authority to bind the municipal corporation. Thus, the trial court entered a judgment against the attorney. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and stated: Where a municipal corporation has no interest in the event of a suit, or in the question involved in the case, it would seem clear that it could not assume the defense of the suit, or appropriate its money for the payment of expenses incurred....Most clearly, the corporation could not appropriate money to defray the costs of an official who had been prosecuted for official misconduct, although he be acquitted.

"This is a very harsh ruling (Tennessee Supreme Court) but the rationale is that a municipal corporation does not have a direct interest in the suit and that the board or development district cannot appropriate its money for the payment of these expenses incurred," said Judge Hollars.

"It's especially disturbing in this case (UCDD) because the court has read transcripts, statements, and the indictment in which there is the barest mention of Mr. Foster. When elected county officials and city officials serve on boards like this and they are misled by unscrupulous people who are involved in the day to day running of the entity, the ruling seems all the more harsh. But I think I'm bound to follow what appears to me to be the controlling Tennessee precedent from the Tennessee Supreme Court in "Smith versus Nashville". Therefore, it would be this court's ruling that the UCDD cannot reimburse these attorney fees. It's not a satisfying result but I think that's what the law dictates," Judge Hollars concluded.

Conger told WJLE after the hearing it's too early to say if Foster will appeal Judge Hollars' ruling.

UCDD was represented in this matter by Daniel H. Rader, IV of Cookeville.

The case, which was filed in Putnam County Chancery Court, was to have gone before Chancellor Ronald Thurman but he recused himself. Judge Hollars took the case and heard it in DeKalb County Friday because it was her day to have court here.

Governor Haslam Awards $24.2 Million in Highway Safety Grants

September 19, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer and Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole have announced the Tennessee agencies that received grant awards totaling more than $24.2 million to support highway traffic safety efforts.

The Alexandria and Smithville Police Departments have each been approved for grants. Alexandria will receive a $5,000 High Visibility Enforcement grant for Police Traffic Service and Smithville is to get a $25,000 grant for Smithville Alcohol Enforcement.

The funds support the mission of GHSO to save lives and reduce injuries on Tennessee roadways through leadership, innovation, coordination and program support in partnership with numerous public and private organizations.

“Having safe roads is critical to our mission of making Tennessee a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Haslam said. “These grants will support the efforts of highway safety agencies and advocates to reduce the number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes in Tennessee each year.”

There are multiple elements that contribute to a safe roadway system. Some of those aspects are an accurate traffic safety data collection and analysis system, well-trained and well-equipped law enforcement personnel, and effective emergency medical and trauma systems. A major part of roadway safety is educating motorists about laws and good driving behaviors.

“These grants help fund a variety of enforcement, legal and educational initiatives across the state including speed enforcement, first responder equipment purchases, DUI prosecutors and child passenger safety training,” Schroer said. “These grants will make a difference in the effectiveness of our highway safety partners.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides the funding to GHSO. The grants, totaling 449 for the 2014-2015 funding cycle, were awarded to 386 agencies that successfully applied for funding based on a defined problem and statistical need. Each year, GHSO accepts applications from agencies across the state for available highway safety funds. Applications are reviewed and scored by GHSO and external highway safety advocates. The agencies that meet the criteria for funding received awards.

“Our grantees are the backbone of GHSO,” Director Kendell Poole said. “It takes everyone working together to make a difference. We are dedicated to saving lives across Tennessee and pledge to work with grantees statewide to accomplish our mission.”

For more information about GHSO, visit www.tntrafficsafety.org.

For a complete list and description of each grant, visit http://www.tn.gov/tdot/news/2014/GHSO-FY2015GrantAwards.pdf

Foster Wants UCDD to Pay His Legal Expenses

September 18, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

Former County Mayor Mike Foster wants the Upper Cumberland Development District to pay his legal expenses in a federal criminal case which was brought against him last September stemming from the "Living the Dream" investigation. The charge against Foster was dropped in February. But UCDD has not yet reimbursed Foster and wants the Chancery Court to weigh in on whether it is legal to do so.

As a result of being indicted, Foster was required to retain counsel to defend himself and incurred $61,675 in attorney's fees. Foster has requested that the UCDD reimburse him for attorney's fees, costs and expenses incurred in defending the criminal charge against him.

In June the UCDD filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Putnam County Chancery Court asking the court to "declare whether it would be legal or illegal for the UCDD to indemnify or reimburse Foster for the fees, costs, and expenses he claims, under Tennessee constitutional, statutory, or common law."

UCDD also requested that "Foster be made a party to this proceeding as he has an indispensable interest in the outcome of this decision".

WJLE obtained a copy of UCDD's petition for Declaratory Judgment and Foster's response to UCDD's motion for Summary Judgment from the Putnam County Clerk and Masters Office Wednesday.

According to the UCDD's petition, Foster claims that he was indicted exclusively because of his participation in his role as Chairman of the UCDD Board, and not because of anything that he did in his personal and individual capacity. Foster contends that he only read what he was asked to read in a meeting as Chairman and did not otherwise or separately engage in improper conduct personally.

Foster was referring to a UCDD board meeting in 2012 which resulted in a federal indictment charging him with a single count of making false statements involving the use of federal money regarding the Living the Dream project.

The controversy stemmed from Foster's tenure as the chairman of the Upper Cumberland Development District, at the same time that longtime UCDD boss Wendy Askins was allegedly diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of agency money into that million-dollar Living the Dream facility in rural Putnam County. What was supposed to become a home for needy seniors also became Askins' home.

Federal prosecutors indicted Foster for a moment caught on television cameras where Askins gave him language asking the UCDD board to retroactively approve a bogus set of minutes in an attempt to justify a $300,000 transfer. Foster's attorney, Hal Hardin, argued that Foster should never have been charged with making false statements because the video showed he was being manipulated by Askins and because he had expressed some uncertainty about whether the minutes were really accurate. Faced with a motion to dismiss, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the charge against Foster in February and the federal judge signed the order to make it official.

However, under the "Agreed Order of Dismissal" Foster had agreed that he "shall not authorize, file, or otherwise pursue any alleged claims he may have against the government for failure to prosecute him, for a claim that he is a "prevailing party" or any other claims he may have."

According to the petition, the UCDD has considered but not determined whether it should indemnify or reimburse Foster for the costs incurred. But the UCDD cites an old Tennessee Supreme Court case in which the high court stated that in "Smith versus Nashville" the governmental entity could not appropriate money to defray the cost of an official who had been prosecuted for official misconduct, although he be acquitted.

However, in his response to UCDD's motion for summary judgment filed Friday, September 12, Foster's lawyer Hilton Conger contends that the Alabama Supreme Court, while concurring with the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in "Smith versus Nashville" also stated in the case of "Birmingham versus Wilkinson" that "the same policy which demands the holding of public offices to strict account in matters of public trust, also demands their protection against groundless assaults upon their integrity in the discharge of public duty".

According to Foster's response, "Mike Foster, along with 31 other County Mayors and Mayors of cities and towns in the Upper Cumberland area, were drafted into service on the boards of governmental agencies because of a statutory scheme devised by the General Assembly, not because of any financial gain or remuneration. If the citizens of the Upper Cumberland are to continue having good, decent representatives who are willing to serve and participate on the Boards of the various Public agencies gratuitously, those representatives must have the confidence that they have the backing of and protection of the Board if they should ever find themselves in the precarious position which Mike Foster finds himself."

UCDD is being represented in this matter by Daniel H. Rader, IV of Cookeville.

The case was to go before Chancellor Ronald Thurman but he has recused himself. Instead, Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars will hear the case.

Vazquez Celebrates U.S. Citizenship

September 17, 2014
by: 
Shan Burklow
Mila Vazquez holds a patriotic cake
Friends and co-workers gather with Mila Vazquez

Physical Therapy Director Mila Vazquez of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospitals celebrated with friends and co-workers for her recent acceptance as a United States Citizen.

“It has taken me a total of 10 years to make it through the process of becoming a United States Citizen,” beams Vazquez, “My daughter has been accepted at the same time and we are looking forward to the formal ceremony in Nashville soon. I definitely do not take my responsibility as an American lightly. It took so much for us to get where we are. This means a great deal to me.”

“We are so very happy for Mila and love that she has accomplished so much. She is a wonderful employee, community volunteer, and gives back every chance she gets,” said CEO Sue Conley of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital.

Vazquez, formally from the Philippines, came to America on a work visa as a physical therapist. She is excited to move forward as an American citizen and encourages others who may feel overwhelmed by the process of citizenship to simply take each challenge one step at a time.

Pictured: Mila Vazquez holds a patriotic cake celebrating her recent acceptance as a United States Citizen. Vazquez is the Director of Physical Therapy at DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospitals.

Pictured: Friends and co-workers gather with Mila Vazquez to celebrate her accomplishment as being formally named an official citizen of the United States. Vazquez came to the U.S. on a work visa from the Philippines over ten years ago.

Cody Randolph Named New PE Teacher and Coach at DMS

September 17, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Principal Randy Jennings with DMS Boys Basketball Coach Cody Randolph

A new Physical Education Teacher and Boys Basketball Coach has been named at DeKalb Middle School.

Cody Randolph will be taking over from former P.E. teacher and Coach Joey Agee who was recently named as the new Assistant Principal at DeKalb West School.

Principal Randy Jennings made the announcement Tuesday. "We're excited to announce that Cody Randolph is going to be the new Physical Education teacher as well as the Boy's basketball coach at DeKalb Middle School. We know he is going to do a good job. He's going to continue what Coach Agee has done. We're sad to see Coach Agee go but he has moved on to something he had been working toward for a while and we're excited for him but we're glad to have Cody with us and he will continue with the success that we've had and be a good role model for our kids," he said.

"I was born and raised in DeKalb County," said Randolph. I went to DeKalb County High School and played basketball. I am really excited to return to the county and start back in basketball with this good group of kids that I know we have on the team and in the school system. I'm going to try and do my very best," he said.

After graduating from DCHS, Randolph attended MTSU for two years and then completed his degree in physical education at Tennessee Tech. He taught school for half a year at DCHS in 2012 and assisted Coach Lynas Martin with the DCHS boys basketball team. Since then Randolph has worked in construction and for Nashville trucking companies that sell 18 wheeler rigs and parts.

Meanwhile, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby last week updated the school board on personnel moves since the August meeting

Those employed include the following:

Shannon Collins, Special Education Teacher
Teresa Billings, Substitute Cook
Janet Fish, DWS custodian
Julie Fitts, full time school bus driver
Daniel Hooper, Special Education Teacher
Edward Norris, Special Education Teacher
Brenda Pedigo, part time Special Education Teacher
Danny Pirtle, Jr., part time Computer Technician

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