Ex-Lenoir City clerk alleges councilman pressured him about reprimands
By Natalie Neysa Alund knoxnews.com
The Lenoir City treasurer/recorder/clerk who recently resigned his elected post said he was threatened by a Lenoir City councilman about pushing the matter of disciplining several workers in the recorder's office.
Bobby Johnson Jr., who stepped down Dec. 31 citing stress, said he told Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Jason Legg in a recorded interview that Councilman Eddie Simpson threatened him about reprimanding four assistant clerks and placing their written reprimands into their personnel files.
Johnson would not say what the threat was.
Simpson denied the allegation Thursday when reached by phone.
Agents have been questioning people about missing paperwork involving assistant clerks Jennifer Jackson, Shelley Herron, Rebekah Haydon and Julie Harvey, who were reprimanded by Johnson and his predecessor, Debbie Cook, who retired early from her post in 2007. The two former officials said they wrote the assistants up for reasons that include falsifying time cards, writing faulty arrest warrants and sending pornographic e-mail at work.
Cook and Johnson said they tried to reprimand the clerks but that often nothing happened when they alerted city officials about the reprimands.
In January, the News Sentinel obtained copies of July 2010 reprimands written by Johnson, but they were not in the clerks' personnel files during a public inspection by a reporter.
Loudon County District Attorney General Russell Johnson then asked TBI to investigate.
The missing paperwork bears the signatures of Johnson and City Administrator Dale Hurst, who said he signed it but he did not know why the paperwork was not in the employees' personnel files. Johnson said he placed the paperwork in a filing cabinet behind his desk before preparing to place the forms in the employees' personnel files. He said the cabinet had a lock, but that it was broken.
The same day the reprimands were signed, Johnson said he told Legg, he got in a heated argument with Simpson over the written reprimands and left them in the filing cabinet.
"There were threats," Johnson said he told Legg in his recent recorded interview.
"I've never made a threat to Mr. Johnson," Simpson said Thursday. "He was new at the job. I told him as long as he was fair and treated everyone equal I didn't have a problem. It's all been blown out of proportion. He did verbally reprimand three or four people and he just did never put them into their file because his verbal reprimand was satisfactory to him."
Simpson has said he never saw the written reprimands and said he could not recall details about the incident.
Johnson took a $26,000 pay cut when he returned to his former maintenance position with the city's Parks and Recreation Department. He had been slated to take a polygraph test Thursday but declined.
Simpson said he had not been asked to take a polygraph. Neither has Cook.
"Everyone's trying to direct it toward Bobby and me and direct attention away from what (the clerks) have done," Cook said Thursday. "I wonder if any of those girls took a test. Any one of them could have taken the files."