Lenoir City clerk fired for allegedly sneaking contraband to an inmate

By Natalie Neysa Alund knoxnews.com

A Lenoir City deputy clerk involved in a lengthy TBI probe last year has been fired after allegedly being caught sneaking a smoke to a jail inmate during a hearing in city court.

Julie Harvey, an employee with the city since 2007, was terminated Jan. 10 for reasons that include unauthorized distribution of nonwork material or soliciting during working time, willful falsification and poor workmanship, according to city documents.

On the morning of Jan. 5, Harvey provided a cigarette to a Loudon County jail inmate during municipal court, according to paperwork signed by her supervisor, City Recorder/Clerk/Treasurer James Wilburn III, and City Administrator Dale Hurst.

The inmate, who a jailer identified as 28-year-old Jessica Smith, was caught with the cigarette, which is considered contraband.

The relationship between Harvey and Smith was not immediately known.

Harvey could not be reached for comment.

A Loudon County General Sessions Court clerk said Smith was serving a six-month jail sentence at the time for violating her probation stemming from a February 2009 DUI charge.

This was the latest in a string of work-related incidents that Harvey's supervisors noted in a report on her termination.

The paperwork also cites that on Dec. 30, 2011, Harvey, while posting property tax payments, mistakenly perceived an amount on a check to be $6,771 when in fact the check was for $1,771.

"Upon this you changed the 1 to a 6," the report reads. "After this act was committed, and upon realizing the amount was actually $1,771 you attempted to correct your mistake with white-out."

The report also states she failed to notify her supervisor before making the change.

Documents show Harvey also received a written reprimand at work for violating a computer policy at work. On April 12, 2011, her supervisor noticed her connected to an unauthorized Internet site, records show. When she was told her actions were considered inappropriate conduct she replied that she, "did not care."

Harvey, who previously worked as an assistant clerk for city hall, and three other clerks were found by an audit last year to have inappropriately used the city hall's cash drawer.

Harvey, Shelley Herron, Rebekah Haydon, and Jennifer Jackson were at the center of a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe that began in January 2011 after the News Sentinel obtained copies of July 2010 reprimands written by Bobby Johnson Jr., the city's former recorder/clerk/treasurer. Johnson wrote the reprimands to discipline clerks in his office. The paperwork was not in the personnel files during a public inspection by a News Sentinel reporter.

When the reporter brought the missing reprimands to the attention of Mayor Tony Aikens and City Attorney James Scott, they asked District Attorney General Russell Johnson to investigate. Shortly after, the prosecutor asked the News Sentinel to reveal who supplied the missing records. The newspaper declined to reveal its source.

State investigators closed the case in August after it presented the information to a Loudon County grand jury, which returned no indictment.

During interviews with a TBI agent, the four clerks claimed they didn't know how the records went missing.

The TBI also questioned Johnson and Debbie Cook, a former clerk/recorder/treasurer.

Herron is the daughter of Loudon County Mayor Estelle Herron. Jackson is Cook's niece. Haydon is the daughter of Lenoir City Judge Terry Vann's secretary.

Johnson and Cook, who retired from her position in 2007, said they reprimanded the four clerks for offenses that included 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 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 the TBI he was threatened by Councilman Eddie Simpson. Simpson has denied any threat was made, saying he discussed the issue of the clerks with Johnson and agreed that verbal reprimands would be sufficient.

Johnson abruptly resigned his elected post in December 2010, taking a maintenance job with the parks and recreation department that paid $26,000 less. He cited personal reasons for his resignation, including stress.

Click Here For Termination Letter