Arp, Ross-No Show

Official conducts interviews at Rarity

Mike Ross                                   Doyle Arp

Prosecutor probing Vonore site talks with witnesses

Hugh Willett
A special prosecutor investigating irregularities in property assessments and document changes at the Rarity Bay gated community in Vonore was in Loudon County last week to interview witnesses in the case.

Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General for the 25th Judicial District in Western Tennessee, said he visited Rarity Bay and met with witnesses, including Loudon County Assessor Chuck Jenkins.

Dunavant was assigned the case in February following a yearlong TBI investigation predicated by 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson.

"It was a productive trip," Dunavant said. "It's been a process of getting up to speed."

Dunavant said he attempted to meet with Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp but was unable to do so. The reductions in property values of lots owned by Rarity Bay developer Mike Ross were reduced when Arp was Loudon County Assessor in 2005.

"I was able to speak on the phone with Arp, but it was not a lengthy conversation," Dunavant said.

Dunavant also said he attempted to interview Ross. He was not able to arrange a meeting with but did speak with an attorney representing Ross, Dunavant said.

"I do intend to follow up with Ross through his attorney," he said.

In Knoxville Dunavant said he interviewed representatives of the regional property tax assessor's office. He also plans to speak with representatives at the state level. Among the issues he is trying to get a handle on are the correct definitions of fair value of property.

"I thought it was important to be as thorough as possible," Dunavant said.

Jenkins said he met with Dunavant for several hours. Jenkins said he was impressed with Dunavant's interest in the details of the case.

Neither Ross nor Arp could be reached for comment.

Establishing a timeline of events is necessary to make sure the activity under investigation is weighed in the proper context, with an understanding of the motivation behind the actions, Dunavant said.

TBI did an outstanding job of gathering evidence in the case, he said. "They did a great deal of work."

Dunavant said he plans to review the evidence further before deciding whether prosecutable offenses have occurred.

"I hope to have some decision made by the end of June," he said.