District Attorney Decides Not To Prosecute Arp After Investigation

No Evidence, Time In Arp Case

Greg Wilkerson News Herald

Former Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp will not be prosecuted for allegedly reducing tax assessments for property in Rarity Bay and Rarity Pointe owned by  developer Mike Ross.

In a  letter to Special Agent Jason Legg  with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation by District Attorney General Pro Tem D. Michael Dunavant he states there is not sufficient evidence to prosecute Arp, Ross or Tracy Riedl, one of Ross's associates, and that the statute of limitations prohibits him from prosecuting.

"Although your investigation reveals that Mr. Arp, Mr. Ross, and Ms. Riedl engaged in conduct that seemed improper and suspicious to allow Ross to gain a windfall tax benefit, there is not sufficient evidence to show that they did so with criminal intent to violate any state law. As a result, I am unable to prove all of the essential statutory elements of the alleged criminal offenses of either perjury or official misconduct.  Additionally, as noted, I am time-barred from initiating any prosecution in these matters due to the applicable statute of limitations for the possible offenses. Therefore, I will not be presenting this case to the Loudon County Grand Jury for possible indictment of any person for any offense," the letter states.

The alleged offenses occurred in 2005 when Arp was property assessor. Arp was elected County Mayor in 2006 and former Loudon County Commissioner Chuck Jenkins was appointed to the tax assessor's position for the remainder of his term. 

"According to Jenkins, he discovered the alleged developer discounting by Arp in February, 2008, and after consulting with state officials, began to reverse the downward valuations of the affected Rarity Bay parcels and reinstate the original 2005 reappraisal values for the 2008 tax year. However, the suspicions and allegations of possible wrongdoing by Arp, Ross, and Riedl were not publicly revealed until the same was released on a local political website and blog just before the August, 2008 midterm election cycle, in which Jenkins was a candidate for the Assessor's position which he had held for two years by appointment," the letter states.

Jenkins denies there was any political motivation on his part. "He's implying that I had political motivations by releasing the information when I did. What he doesn't know or chose not to reveal is that I was unopposed in the August 2008 election," Jenkins said. "He chose to throw that into his report which really has nothing to do with the gist of the report,  which seems to be kind of a cheap shot at me, which like I say was not even grounded in reality."

Dunavant states the practice of "developer discounting," was once an accepted practice by property assessors and that Arp would have to have benefitted financially from the arrangement in order to have broken the law. 

"There is no evidence to suggest that Arp in any way benefitted financially from such alleged favoritism in the exercise of his duties and discretion to set appraised values as assessor," according to the letter. It states Rick Arp, Doyle Arp's son, was hired by Ross in 2005, but that there is no evidence it was a result of actions taken by Arp as property assessor.

Dunavant's letter goes on to say the statute of limitations for official misconduct, a Class E felony, is two years from the date of the crime.

"I apologize for the delay in making a final charging decision and disposition in this matter, as I know that this investigation is of great interest to the citizens of Loudon County.  However, as you know, the TBI investigative case file is voluminous, and contains numerous real estate and tax records which I had to thoroughly and painstakingly review in order to understand the entirety of the evidence collected in this case, and to make a decision on such complex and unusual criminal issues," the letter states.

It also states the total amount reduced comes to more than $11 million in appraised value and more than $150,000 in lost tax revenue for the county.