LC Council Chaos

The usually calm, choreographed Lenoir City Council meeting was anything but, Monday night. Finger pointing and accusations were rampant to the end.

One of the first controversial items to be addressed was item 6 on the agenda. "Discussion/Consideration of possible legal action in reference to missing records." Lenoir City attorney, James Scott, reported that he was prepared to sue the Knoxville News Sentinel to force them to divulge where they acquired the now infamous employee reprimands the brought to light a number of incidences at City Hall. Council ultimately voted to table the measure till the DA's investigation is complete. It's not very likely the city will sue the News Sentinel and even less likely they could be successful if they did but it makes good press.

The meeting really heated up at the end. Councilman Eddie Simpson asked to make a statement pertaining the whole missing reprimands story. His statement began with his version of what happened in the meeting between him and Johnson. Simpson maintains that he simply asked Johnson to be fair. Johnson's version of the meeting was far different. Simpson went on to tell how he discovered that former Treasurer/Recorder, Bobby Johnson spent some $700 on office paraphernalia, ink pens, calendars, little footballs and baseballs with Johnson's name and Treasurer/Recorder printed on them. Simpson said he felt this was not an appropriate use of city funds. Johnson repaid the city for the office trinkets.

Simpson went on to take a local web site to task, not mine. Simpson took issue with a story at that brought into question elected officials who hold more than one elected position may be double dipping on benefits paid for by tax payers. Simpson likened the story on the web site as potentially causing the same outcome as the Arizona shooting of congresswoman Gabriel Giffords. 

Click Here For Simpson's Full Statement

As Simpson finished, Bobby Johnson Sr. said he wanted to make a statement then things really got hopping. Johnson Sr. reminded Simpson of the time he got caught taking water from the city system for personal use. Johnson was referring to an incident back in 2006 when a resident of Simpson's Executive Meadows informed council that Simpson had been using unmetered water in the development.

David Hudson, a resident of Executive Meadows, also attended the council meeting to inform the board of a local contractor he alleged was stealing water. Hudson claimed he had seen Councilman Eddie Simpson use water from a fire hydrant to wash a street. Hudson said he "couldn't even get the police to make a report."

Simpson did not deny using the water, saying he had a meter he usually used but neglected to do so on this occasion.

According to LCUB General Manager Fred Nelson, Simpson came to the office to inform him he had used the water without metering it. Nelson said he told Simpson he "wasn't going to treat him any different" than anyone else, charging Simpson a $250 tampering fee. Nelson said the complaint received by LCUB alleged Simpson used approximately one-half hour of water. Simpson agreed to pay for an hour's worth of water in addition to the fine.

Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire said, in relation to the incident, "as far as I'm concerned that's been taken care of through LCUB."
News Herald 1-16-06

Chaos and dissention among elected officials is never good for the citizens. There seems to be at least a couple of different versions of the same story. Maybe at some point we'll learn the truth. Till then, hold on to your hats, it may be a rough ride.

Legal action on Lenoir City records tabled

By Hugh G. Willett
LENOIR CITY - City Attorney James K. Scott on Monday night told the Lenoir City Council that he would, if requested, take legal action to determine the source of employee records obtained by a News Sentinel reporter.

In January, the News Sentinel obtained copies of July 2010 reprimands written by Bobby Johnson Jr., the city's former recorder/clerk/treasurer. The reprimands were written by Johnson to discipline clerks who worked in his office. The paperwork was not in the personnel files during a public inspection by a reporter.

Mayor Tony Aikens said that he could have moved discussion of the records into executive session but that he wanted full disclosure of the issue to the public.

Scott said that prior to the viewing of records by the reporter, he had redacted personal information from the files per city policy. The records produced by the reporter were not redacted, an indication that they were copies of originals that had been illegally removed from city hall, he said.

When the reporter brought the missing reprimands to the attention of Mayor Tony Aikens and Scott, they asked District Attorney General Russell Johnson to investigate. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has questioned Johnson and Debbie Cook, also a former clerk/recorder/treasurer.

Scott said that he considered the disclosure of private personnel records to be a serious matter. He also suggested to the City Council that they wait until the TBI probe was concluded before taking any action. The council voted unanimously to table the issue until the TBI investigation was complete.

Johnson and Cook, who retired from her position in 2007, said they reprimanded clerks Shelley Herron, Rebekah Haydon, Julie Harvey and Jennifer Jackson for offenses including falsifying time cards, writing faulty arrest warrants, sending pornographic email at work and cashing personal checks out of the city till.

An independent audit confirmed that the clerks sometimes cashed checks out of the City Hall cash drawer but did not immediately deposit the checks.

Both Johnson and Cook said they met resistance from city leaders when attempting to discipline the clerks. Johnson told TBI he was threatened by Councilman Eddie Simpson.

At the close of Monday's meeting, Simpson read from a prepared statement denying any threat was made to Johnson. Simpson said he discussed the issue of the clerks with him and agreed that verbal reprimands would be sufficient.

Simpson also said he was concerned about media coverage, including local Internet blogs, "promoting hatred" toward members of city government.