|With a unanimous vote of the Loudon County Election
Commission, the roster of candidates for the November Lenoir City
election was accepted. The list did not include mayoral candidate Joe
Sims. Sims will not be on the ballot.
meeting of the board began with a conference call with
Beth Henry-Robinson, deputy
director of elections in Nashville. Ms. Robinson was called to explain
the states position on the qualifications or lack there of for Joe Sims
to run for office. Robinson explained that in 2007 a new law took effect
that required additional steps for anyone who had been convicted of an
infamous crime would have to complete to be permitted to run for office.
According to her, Sims had met all the requirements that were required
in 1998 when he ran for city council. But with the addition of the new
2007 law, Sims would not be qualified to run this time.
The Nashville office's story
has changed since the question of Sims qualification was first raised
last week. Originally, Nashville's position was that they had made
a mistake back in 1998 and they would not compound problem by making the
same mistake twice. Then beginning Tuesday, Nashville officials came up
with the new story of the change in the law. Regardless the results were
the same, Sims was disqualified. One note of interest came up when Pat
Hunter asked Ms. Robinson where they, state officials, received the
information that brought Sims qualifications into question. Robinson
stated that the information was brought to their office anonymously.
Hunter further asked Robinson had the information not been brought to
their office, would Sims still be on the ballot to which Robinson
essentially said yes.
With concern about how their
decision would be perceived by the public, board members wanted to know
how the whole matter came up. According to Loudon County Election
coordinator, Dana Zehner, the first thing that happened was some time
ago, Lenoir City Councilman, Tony Aikens came to her office and asked to
see a copy of Joe Sims restoration. Zehner showed Aikens the document.
Aikens asked for a copy of it, paid for it and left. The next thing she
heard of it was when mayoral candidate Robert "Tooter" Robinett showed
up ten minutes before the deadline to qualify, threw some papers on the
table and told her, "you can't let him (JOE) run." It was not till after
she called Nashville that she found out that documents had also been
delivered to Nashville days earlier.
Contrary to statements by Dana
Zehner, and according to Lenoir City Councilman Tony Aikens, he
never went to the election commission office and asked for a
copy of Joe Sims restoration documents nor did he ask for or pay
for a copy of the document. Aikens stated that several months
ago he was asked by a city voter how it was possible that Sims,
a convicted felon, could run for office. Aikens phoned the
election commission office at which time Zehner told him that
Sims had been restored.
Aikens has asked for a letter of
correction from Loudon County coordinator of elections, Dana
Zehner, stating that he did not ask for or receive a copy of
Sims restoration documents.
It was very obvious that the
Loudon County Election commissioners were very unhappy with the
direction of events but felt they had no option but to follow the
direction of Nashville. One commissioner even stated "this stinks". But
as board member J. C. Almond stated, we have no option but to follow the
law as defined by the Nashville office. Sims addressed the board and
thanked them for their support and expressed his appreciation for the
work they had done. All board members expressed sorrow and
disappointment at the outcome.
With the elimination of Sims
from the mayor's ballot, there will now be only three candidates, Matt
Brookshire, Tooter Robinett and Gary Aikens.
Loudon panel bars ex-sheriff from mayor
By Hugh G. Willett, knoxnews.com
LOUDON - The Loudon County Election Commission voted
unanimously Thursday night to disallow the candidacy of a former sheriff
in November's Lenoir City mayoral race.
The commission ruled that former Loudon County Sheriff Joe Sims, who was
convicted of a felony gambling charge in 1996, must first petition a
court to have his rights restored before running for public office.
The decision effectively removes Sims from the race. He had been
considered a strong candidate against incumbent Mayor Matt Brookshire
and challenger Robert "Tooter" Robinette.
Before deliberating, the election commission heard an opinion from Beth
Henry-Robertson, deputy coordinator of elections at the State Election
Commission in Nashville, who participated in the meeting by
According to Henry-Robertson, Sims cannot participate in the upcoming
mayoral election, even though he was cleared by the state commission to
run for Lenoir City council in 1999, because of a 2007 change in the
wording of the election laws.
Sims was cleared to run in 1999 because the law at that time stated that
anyone convicted of a felony and sentenced to the state penitentiary
could not run for public office unless their rights were restored by a
Because Sims was not sentenced to the penitentiary for his 1996
conviction, he was technically eligible to run for any office except
sheriff or constable in 1999, Henry-Robertson said.
In 2007, the Legislature changed the law to read that anyone convicted
of a felony was not eligible to run for public office unless they had
their rights fully restored by a court order.
"We have to judge the qualifications under the present law. There is no
grandfather clause," she said.
Sims said he does not understand why he was not notified of the change
in the law, and he questioned the timing of the commission's ruling,
which makes it impossible to seek a court order restoring his rights in
time for the election.
"I filed my papers on time, then, at the last minute, someone delivered
papers to the election commission to disqualify me," Sims said.
Henry-Robertson said the paperwork detailing Sims conviction and the
changes in the law were delivered anonymously to her office in the past
Loudon County Election Commissioner Dana Zehner confirmed that mayoral
candidate Robinette delivered to her a similar package of information
about Sims the day before the election filing deadline.
Robinette said he felt it was his responsibility to bring the
information to the attention of the election commission.
"I don't think he (Sims) was trying to do anything wrong. I think he was
misled about his eligibility," Robinette said.
Among some members of the election commission, there was obvious support
"This was an old wound. I thought it was over with," said Commissioner
After the ruling, Sims thanked panel members for their time and
apologized for any inconvenience he might have created. He said he has
no plans at this time to seek a court order restoring his rights.
Sims won’t be on ballot
Author: Mary E. Hinds
The Loudon County Election Commission voted unanimously
Thursday night to exclude former Loudon County Sheriff Joe Sims from the
ballot for the November election. Sims was seeking a term as the mayor
of Lenoir City.
Loudon County Election Administrator Dana Zehner opened the meeting by
consulting via a teleconference line with Beth Henry-Robertson, deputy
coordinator of elections at the State Election Commission to get an
expert opinion. Henry-Robertson said Sims was not eligible to run in the
upcoming mayoral election, even though he was cleared to run for Lenoir
City Council in 1999 because the law at that time read that a person
convicted of a felony and sent to the penitentiary could not run for
public office unless his or her rights were restored by a court order.
Since Sims was convicted of one count of felony gambling in 1996 but was
sentenced to rehabilitation, not the penitentiary, he technically could
run in 1999. In 2007 the state legislature changed the law to read that
anyone convicted of a felony, regardless of their sentence, could not
have their rights restored unless by court order.
Sims, who attended the meeting, joined in the teleconference to ask
Henry-Robertson why no one, including the election commission, had been
informed about the change. “I was not notified,” Sims said. “The local
election commission didn’t know about this law either.” She replied that
the state election commission was not charged with notifying candidates.
“The candidates must educate themselves on the qualification of that
office,” Henry-Robertson said.
Newly elected school board member Van Shaver, a former county
commissioner, asked Henry-Robertson if that law was not retroactively
punishing Sims for a crime committed before the new version of the law
was passed. She said that was not the case — since Sims was trying to
qualify in 2008 he was bound by the law in force now and he can only
qualify if his rights are restored by a court order.
At that point Sims said he saw no reason to beat a dead horse, but he
did express dissatisfaction with the decision coming so close to the
election, leaving him no time to pursue a restoration of his rights in
time to be on the ballot. “I wish you had done it earlier,” he said and
then he thanked Henry-Robertson and the commission for their time and
Earlier Henry-Robertson said the matter was brought to her attention
when someone left papers detailing the situation at the election
commission office in Nashville. She said she didn’t know who left the
documents, they were merely dropped off and no name was attached. Local
activist Pat Hunter asked her if the papers had not been delivered to
her office would Sims have been disqualified. Henry-Robertson said she
could only speculate about that, adding the state election commission
could not keep track of every candidate on the ballot in every county
across the state.
Zehner said while the identity of the person who delivered the papers to
Nashville was a mystery, the person who delivered them to the Loudon
County Election Commission was not. She said Robert “Tooter” Robinett, a
candidate for Lenoir City Mayor, brought the matter to her attention
minutes before the deadline to qualify for the November Lenoir City
With Sims out of the running in the mayor’s race, that leaves incumbent
Matt Brookshire, Gary L. Aikens and Robinett on the ballot. The
commission also certified the candidacies of Tony Aikens, James Brandon,
Bobby G. Johnson Sr., Michel Long, Donald Pace, Eddie Simpson, Jon
Waliga and Curtis Williams Jr. for Lenoir City Council seats. Rick
Chadwick, Mitch Ledbetter, Glenn McNish and Steve Shoemaker were
qualified to run for the Lenoir City School Board. Bobby Johnson Jr. was
the only candidate qualified to run for the Lenoir City
Recorder/Treasurer position and incumbent Tom Peeler was the only
candidate running to be the mayor of Greenback.
No one has thrown their hat into the ring to be the mayor of
Philadelphia. Zehner said according to state election officials, unless
there is a write-in candidate who takes the job, the only alternative
was to dissolve that city government.