Sims qualified to hold office, despite felony

Greg Wilkerson News Herald

Former Loudon County Sheriff Joe Sims is back on a ballot for public office next month, despite a criminal record that previously prevented him from running.

Sims, who was sheriff from 1978 to 1990, was convicted in 1996 of financing an illegal gambling machine business in Loudon County. During the sentencing Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Cook said Sims also accepted bribes while sheriff from those running the video gambling machine operation.

He was sentenced to six months in Midway Rehabilitation Center.

Sims attempted to run for mayor of Lenoir City in 2008, but was disqualified by the election commission because of his felony conviction. Later in 2008 he petitioned the court to have his rights restored.

Susan Harrison, Loudon County administrator of elections, said Sims is now qualified to hold a public office. "He had his rights restored," she said.

An order to restore rights of citizenship to Sims was filed and entered on Dec. 15, 2008, and signed by Circuit Court Judge Eugene Eblen. 

The judge said it is common for convicted felons to have their rights restored, but wouldn't comment on Sims' case specifically. "I don't comment on any cases," Eblen said.

The order states, "The full rights of citizenship are, hereby, restored to Petitioner, Joseph L. Sims and who is vested with all rights, privileges, and entitlement of citizenship as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee."

The order does not allow Sims to possess a firearm or ammunition, but it does open the door for him to seek the mayor's seat. "The Court finds that any disqualification ... which prohibits the Petitioner from holding public office is removed by entry of this Order," it states.

Early voting for the Nov. 2 election begins Oct. 13 with polls at Roane State Community College in Lenoir City and the Loudon County Office Building in Loudon.