Local News Articles

Chapman Charged with Indecent Exposure

May 6, 2015
Dwayne Page
Eric Chapman

A 27 year old man has been charged with two counts of indecent exposure for allegedly unzipping his pants and exposing himself to store clerks at the drive through windows of both the "On the Way" and Broadway" convenience markets.

27 year old Eric Chapman is under a $5,000 bond and he will make a court appearance on May 14.

According to Smithville Police Captain Steven Leffew, K-9 Officer James Cornelius took the first report on Tuesday, April 28 from an employee at the "On The Way" market who said that a man had come up to the drive through window with his pants unzipped and was exposing himself.

Six days later on Monday, May 4 Officer Cornelius took another report from an employee at the "Broadway" market who said that a man had come up to the drive through window exposing himself.

After conducting surveillance on the markets, Officer Cornelius took Chapman into custody on Tuesday, May 5 at the "On The Way" Market on South Congress Boulevard.

Meanwhile in other cases from the Smithville Police Department, Officer Lance Dillard cited 37 year old Jason Zenn Cripps for shoplifting on Thursday April 23 after he was observed by Wal-Mart employees putting merchandise from the store inside his pockets. He will make a court appearance on June 11.

Corporal Lance Avera arrested 34 year old Roger Curtis Gregory for DUI on Saturday April 25. According to Police, Gregory was observed inside a vehicle located on West Broad Street in front of Tiger Drive. He was passed out in the driver's seat with the engine running and the transmission in drive. When Gregory was awakened he appeared to be intoxicated. The officer noticed that the driver's side of the vehicle had extensive damage and it is believed Gregory had run off the road sometime before he passed out. Gregory submitted to field sobriety tasks and performed unsatisfactory. He is under a $1,500 bond and will be in court on May 7.

Corporal Lance Avera arrested 33 year old Kenneth Adam Wright for public intoxication on Saturday April 25. Wright was inside the business of Kwik N Ezy and appeared intoxicated as he had red watery eyes, slurred speech, and was unsteady on his feet. He also had a confrontational attitude. Wright was placed under arrest for his safety and that of the public. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court May 7.

25 year old Michael Joseph Lee was arrested for domestic assault on Sunday, April 26. Officer Andy Snow responded to a domestic call where the victim reported that Lee had asked him for money and when he told him no Lee grabbed a weapon and threatened him. Lee's bond is $5,000.

Sergeant Travis Bryant received a call of a suspicious person possibly with drugs on Friday, May 1. Upon arrival Sgt Bryant spoke with 33 year old Nathan Joe Trapp and a search of his person revealed pills believed to be Xanax. Trapp was cited for simple possession of a schedule IV drug. His court date is May 14.

Officer Matt Farmer arrested 37 year old Jennifer Lea Jasak on Friday, May 1 for disorderly conduct. The warrant states that Jasak created a disturbance by yelling, cursing and attempting to hit another person with her fist. Her bond is $1,500.

30 year old Joshua R Cripps was arrested on an outstanding warrant for violation of probation on Saturday, May 2 after Sergeant Travis Bryant and Officer Joey Myers were dispatched to an area on East Main Street in reference to a suspicious vehicle. Sgt Bryant initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle in question and spoke with Joshua Cripps. A warrant check through Central Dispatch revealed the outstanding warrant from Cannon County. Cripps was taken into custody without incident

DeKalb County EMA and Department of Health Host Point of Dispensing Exercise

May 5, 2015

The DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency, DeKalb County Health Department, DeKalb County Local Emergency Planning Committee and the Upper Cumberland Regional Health Office are hosting a Point of Dispensing, or POD, exercise May 12 at the DeKalb County Community Complex. DeKalb County Emergency Services and volunteers with the DeKalb County Medical Reserve Corps will assist with the activity. The event is part of a larger middle Tennessee exercise in which PODs will simultaneously operate in three other regions to test our capability to work together to serve residents in a large-scale public health emergency.

Two possible POD sites have been selected by local emergency planners for use in the event of a situation requiring mass vaccinations or dispensing of medications to residents of DeKalb County. One is the Community Complex and the other is DeKalb County High School. In an emergency, people would come to the POD, fill out forms, ask questions and receive the recommended medications or vaccinations. This exercise will test DeKalb County’s capabilities to set up and operate the POD. The DeKalb County Health Department, along with staff members from other local health departments in the region, local law enforcement and emergency responders and the Upper Cumberland Medical Reserve Corps unit are responsible for staffing the POD sites.

The Medical Reserve Corps unit is community-based and functions as a way to organize and use local volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. Volunteers supplement existing public health resources and include medical and public health professionals such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians and epidemiologists. The MRC also includes other community members such as interpreters, chaplains, office workers and legal advisors who fill vital support positions.

Individuals interested in joining the Medical Reserve Corps and participating in this exercise should contact, Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator Dawn Hickey at (931) 520-4208.

"Tech Talk" Debuts Next Week on WJLE Presented by Smithville Computer Repair

May 5, 2015

Smithville Computer Repair is real excited to be sponsoring a new radio show called Tech Talk that will start on Thursday May 14th at 8:00am till 8:30am. Tech Talk will be a radio show that will spotlight one local professional from the Smithville and Dekalb County area each week. They will have a topic that they will discuss and give all the listeners some interesting and valuable information on that topic. But that is not all Tech Talk wanted to involve the listeners so towards the end of the show the listeners will get to call in with their question for the guest. Now if you want more information about Tech Talk you can call Smithville Computer Repair at 615-318-1471 and speak with Elaine and she will be glad to answer all your questions.

Here is Tech Talk line up for the next 6 weeks so make sure to mark your calendars Thursday @ 8:00am
May 14th Dr. Jamie Fornabio with Wheeler Veterinary
May 21st Gary Malone with Eagle Point Financial
May 28th Michael Hale with Dekalb Funeral Chapel
June 4th Jeff James with Dekalb County Insurance
June 11th (myself) Dan DelaCruz with Smithville Computer Repair
June 18th Chris Summers with Fast Pace Urgent Care

Tech Talk is hoping for a big warm welcome to WJLE and that a lot of listeners will tune in on Thursday mornings at 8:00am to listen and call in with their questions.

Also Smithville Computer Repair hours will be changed slightly, normally the store opens at 8am, closes at noon for lunch and then reopens at 1pm till 5pm Monday through Friday. But on Thursday the store will open at 9am, just wanted to let everyone know, again though if you have questions just give us a call at 615-318-1471.

Mayor and Aldermen Hear from Caplinger Supporters

May 5, 2015
Dwayne Page
Gary Durham

Although it will be open to the public, supporters of Randy Caplinger will not be afforded an opportunity to speak on his behalf during a due process hearing Friday morning at city hall as the former police chief tries to get his job back. But several took to the podium Monday night during the public comment period to put in a good word for Caplinger during the regular monthly meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Caplinger and his attorneys Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox will have to convince a majority of the five member board of aldermen Friday morning to reinstate him as police chief after Mayor Jimmy Poss fired him in March.

Local resident Gary Durham was among Caplinger's friends who tried to persuade the aldermen Monday night. "I've known Randy for over 30 years. I've probably talked to 100 people or thereabouts. Not one has said one thing or heard one thing bad about him. Why if this is true (reasons for termination) wasn't it documented and brought forth to the commissioner and chief of police? I ran a business for 30 years. I was in big time management. I've fired a lot of people. You don't do it this way. You bring the person in with all the information and document it. Then you talk to him. If the talk isn't satisfactory, it's up to you to terminate him then. And why is this meeting on Friday morning at ten o'clock when everybody knows there are people working who can't be here. I know we can't speak. But the way this is being done is totally not correct. There is no professionalism in this whatsoever," said Durham

Dr. Hugh Don Cripps praised Caplinger for fostering a good relationship between the police department and the hospital. " I wanted to come up here not to ask the board to do anything for me. I do think it's important for me to say how good the relationship with the hospital was with the entire Smithville Police Department. I don't know specifics about anything but I hope there is more to this than a political witch hunt. I hope we have valid reasons for charging a man who I think the entire community respects. I hope it's more than a Republican/Democrat thing or who is the mayor now or who used to be the mayor because we don't have very many good men in our community who are willing to serve. I have more than just a passing interest in seeing our town do well. I own several buildings and homes in this town and pay a lot of taxes and I have never been about politics in the city and county or the federal elections. I hope you guys will be more upstanding than picking a fuss over things that don't matter in the big scope of things," said Dr. Cripps.

Pat Zornow, operator of a local food pantry, also commended Caplinger ."I operate the local food pantry. Many churches and many people are very supportive of it. Last year we fed over 24,000 people. We fed over 8,000 families here. It's a big operation. Every time we had an issue and we called Randy Caplinger or one of his other police officials they reported immediately. They took care of every issue we have had including break-ins, accidents, and suspected thefts. We've had serious issues with that pantry. Each and every time I needed something he was there and it didn't matter if it was night, day, whatever. You're looking at a good man," said Zornow.

Dr. John Carpenter, minister of the Smithville First United and Bright Hill United Methodist Churches said Caplinger is a man of character. " I consider him a very loyal and respectful and Christ centered individual. I don't know all the charges that are brought against him. I don't know the details. But of his character I can speak and of that I am sure," he said.

Gingie White said she felt Caplinger has not been treated fairly. "I don't know a lot of detail about what's happened with Randy. It did seem an unjust cause to me. Randy is a man of good character. He has served well. I just feel like he has not been done fairly by the board, the elected officials and I just hope that you question yourselves as to whether you did the right thing to Randy or not. It wouldn't matter if it was Randy or someone else. To do the right thing is the right thing and I'm not sure this particular incident was handled properly with Randy. I'm disappointed in the way the board has carried this out," she said.

Mack White admonished the aldermen to do some soul searching on this matter. "Some of you are acquaintances and friends of mine. I respect your decision. I'll be your friend after your decision is completed. But I will make you a promise. I have never had a political sign in my yard but unless I can hear just cause, I will have the opponent of each of you, their sign in my yard come election time. Right is right. You are expected to be ethical and to carry out your work with principle, with respect, and with ethics. My neighbors expect that of me. I do of them. We're a small town. I expect that of you. Search your soul. If you have just cause I support you 100%. Make it public. If you don't you need to back up and do what's right," said White.

Beth Rhody, a friend of Caplinger, also spoke on his behalf." Randy has been a great friend of mine for many years. He is a great, wonderful guy. I hope and pray that with all the good things that has been said about Randy tonight, that when we leave here your conscience would be clear too so that people can say good and just things about you. That you just didn't throw somebody out on a whim. That there was justice done, right or wrong. Look into your own hearts and make sure what you're doing is right so people can say all the good things about you that they have said about Randy," she said.

Caplinger attorney Brandon Cox questioned why the former police chief was not being afforded a hearing before a three person board prior to a due process hearing in front of the entire board of aldermen; why the need for a morning hearing which comes at a time when many spectators are unable to attend; and why City Judge Hilton Conger was not being asked to serve as arbiter of the due process hearing, as attorneys for Caplinger have requested. "On behalf of Chief Caplinger, we would request a hearing before the three person board as is required by city code 42057 prior to conducting a hearing before the full board. We await the reasons why we can't have that hearing," said Cox

"This morning meeting serves only one purpose and that is to hush the public. To keep the public away. If there's a better reason I'd like to hear it. Each regularly scheduled city council meeting, just like this one (Monday night) is held at six p.m. The reason being is for the public to be here to be heard. At ten a.m., people have more obligations. I would ask the board that if you feel so just in your cause to terminate Chief Caplinger, why shy away from public scrutiny?"

" It has been determined that city judge Hilton Conger will not be present at this due process hearing to serve as an arbiter to any issues that arise, evidentiary or otherwise. He has not been contacted by the city. We asked the board to include Judge Conger in this due process hearing," he added.

Cox said the manner in which city officials are handling this case has given rise to mistrust among some members of the public. "This board and the actions in proceeding in this manner on this termination have had a negative impact on the City of Smithville. We too have been approached by a vast majority of the citizens of this great city and they have expressed a concern about the lack of leadership that has been displayed by this board, by the mayor, and all involved. The failure of this body to operate in a transparent and open manner has caused a bit of distrust in this city. As a result, the city has lost confidence in you guys. There's been no effort to this point that I have seen to regain that confidence or to address the issues or concerns that have been raised. In any government, openness and transparency is key. If you lose that, you lose trust. If you lose trust, you lose the people. The people of this city have a right to be here and have a right to be heard. Let them be part of this," said attorney Cox.

In response to Cox concerning a hearing before a three person disciplinary board, City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson explained that the provision which called for that board in a city ordinance was repealed last year and replaced with the new procedure whereby terminated employees now may make an appeal directly to the entire board of aldermen.

Caplinger's due process hearing Friday, May 8 begins at 10:00 a.m. at city hall. WJLE plans LIVE coverage.

City Approves Liquor Applicant's Certificate of Compliance (VIEW ENTIRE VIDEO OF CITY COUNCIL MEETING HERE)

May 4, 2015
Dwayne Page
Hannah Eckert, Manager of Smithville Discount Wine and Spirits if Liquor License is Approved by the State

The city's first applicant for a license to open a retail liquor store in Smithville has passed his first hurdle.

The Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday night voted to issue Jim Smith of 275 Gene Vaughn Road a certificate of compliance, which signifies that he has met all the city's ordinance requirements to make application to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the agency which has the sole authority to grant a liquor license.

Smith, who intends to be the sole proprietor, plans to open a liquor store at 413 East Broad Street under the name "Smithville Discount Wine & Spirits". The building is currently the location for Clair's Consignment. Smith is the owner of National Sheet Metal Machine, Incorporated in Morrison.

According to the regulations under the city's liquor ordinance, the applicant (Smith) was subject to a background check by the Smithville Police Department and the city attorney. "We did run a TBI background check and it came back with nothing on it. Captain (Steven) Leffew did a drivers license background check and everything came out good," said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.

The location for the liquor store also meets the minimum distance requirement from the nearest places of public gathering. " I got a letter from Gotro Surveying Services showing that they meet the 400 foot distance requirement for packaged stores," Hendrixson said.

Alderman Josh Miller asked if the manager of the store must also undergo a background check. The manager, Hannah Eckert, who was seated in the audience, said that "every employee is required to have a background check."

Alderman Shawn Jacobs said he was asked by a constituent if Mr. Smith actually resides in DeKalb County since Gene Vaughn Road apparently extends into Warren County.

"I pulled the tax appraisal and it is in DeKalb County," replied City Administrator Hendrixson.

"From reading over the application, it looks like he (Smith) has met all the criteria that we have put in place," said Alderman Gayla Hendrix.

"All that is required of the city is to approve a certificate of compliance. It just shows that they meet all of our ordinance standards to send to the state. We do not issue the permit. The ABC board will do that," added Hendrixson.

Alderman Danny Washer made a motion to approve Smith's Certificate of Compliance application. Alderman Hendrix seconded the motion. Aldermen Jason Murphy and Miller also voted in favor. Alderman Jacobs passed.

Smith must now send his approved Certificate of Compliance to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission as part of the state requirements in qualifying for a liquor license.

Mother Arrested for Driving Under the Influence with Daughters in the Vehicle

May 4, 2015
Dwayne Page
Christy Lynn Berry
Kathy Jo Massengail
Travis Joe Davenport
Shauna Faye Stringer
Juan Carlos Sosa Salazar
Mark Edward Stewart

A Smithville mother was arrested last Friday after she was caught driving while under the influence with her seven and thirteen year old daughters in the vehicle placing them in imminent danger.

32 year old Christy Lynn Berry of Green Acres Drive is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence. She was also charged with two counts of reckless endangerment. Berry was further issued citations for simple possession of marijuana and failure to maintain lane of travel. Her bond totals $6,000 and she will be in court May 28.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, May 1 a deputy observed a vehicle leave its lane of travel on Highway 70 east. The officer made a traffic stop and spoke to the driver, Berry whose speech was slurred. Berry submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. She was found to be under the influence of marijuana and or other drugs. Berry's seven and thirteen year old daughters were passengers in the vehicle. The officer obtained consent to search Berry's automobile and found three smoked marijuana cigarettes in the ash tray. Berry was placed under arrest.

45 year old Kathy Jo Massengail of Jefferson Road, Smithville has been charged by a sheriff's department detective with leaving the scene of an accident and a second offense of driving on a revoked license. She was further issued a citation for violation of the financial responsibility law. Her bond totals $5,500 and she will make a court appearance May 14. Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, April 23 Massengail was involved in a property damage traffic accident on R. Arnold Road. Massengail allegedly ran through a fence causing $750 worth of damage, the same fence she had run into in a separate accident on April 7. Found at the scene of the accident were a driver side mirror and a piece of a blue fender, which came from Massengail's vehicle. She later confessed to having been driving the automobile and running through the fence. The investigating officer also learned that Massengail's driver license were revoked in Putnam County on July 25, 2007 for a DUI offense and that she had been charged with driving on a revoked license in Wilson County on November 19, 2010 and in DeKalb County on April 7, 2015 after being involved in the other property damage accident with the fence.

23 year old Travis Joe Davenport is charged with driving on a revoked license. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court May 21. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, April 29 a deputy saw Davenport driving a white Pontiac on Cookeville Highway (Highway 56 north). Knowing that Davenport's license were revoked, the officer made a traffic stop. The same deputy had arrested Davenport for DRL on February 23, 2015 and advised him at that time not to be driving anymore.

28 year old Shauna Faye Stringer of Tubb Street, Liberty is charged with public intoxication. Her bond is $1,500 and she will make a court appearance June 4. According to Sheriff Ray, on Thursday April 30 a deputy was dispatched to Liberty for a possible intoxicated person on Tubb Street. The officer found her at the Liberty Stop N Buy gas station. The woman, Stringer, was barefooted and her speech was slurred. Her eyes were glossy and she was unsteady on her feet. While the deputy was talking to her, Stringer began cursing and screaming, causing an annoyance to persons in the area. She admitted to drinking at least six beers and smoking marijuana during the day. She was placed under arrest.

Juan Carlos Sosa Salazar of Vandergriff Hollow Road, Dowelltown is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is May 28. He was further issued a citation for roadways laned for travel, driving on a revoked license, and violation of the open container law. According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy was patrolling Nashville Highway on Saturday, May 2 when he spotted a gold Pontiac cross the turning lane and travel into the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. The vehicle almost struck another car. The officer conducted a traffic stop and spoke with the driver, Salazar whose speech was slurred. His eyes were glossy and he had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. He had an open beer in the front floorboard. A computer check revealed that his license were revoked for a DUI offense in 2000. Salazar performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. He also submitted to a blood test and was placed under arrest.

48 year old Mark Edward Stewart of Students Home Road, Smithville is charged with assault. His bond is $1,500 and he will make a court appearance on May 28. He was also issued a citation for no drivers license and violation of the financial responsibility law. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, May 3 a deputy stopped a vehicle on Highway 56 south and spoke to the driver, Stewart, who was reported to have been involved in a domestic dispute that day. Stewart did not have a valid license and could not provide proof of insurance. A computer check confirmed that Stewart did not possess a valid driver license. He was placed under arrest. On the assault charge, Stewart is accused of knowingly causing bodily injury to a woman by pushing open the backdoor of her residence with force, striking the victim and leaving a red mark and a small cut on the woman's hand causing her to fear for her safety.

Relay For Life Friday Night at Greenbrook Park

May 4, 2015
Dwayne Page
Relay For Life Friday Night at Greenbrook Park

The 18th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life is scheduled for Friday, May 8 at Greenbrook Park.

This year's theme is taken from Dr. Seuss "Cancer: Not Here, Not There, Not Anywhere".

Come share the experience and take pride in knowing that you are working to create a world where this disease will no longer threaten the lives of our loved ones or claim another year of anyone's life. The event begins with musical entertainment at 5:00 p.m. followed by the opening ceremony at 6:00 p.m. featuring personal testimonies from cancer survivors and then a Survivors' Lap, during which those who have survived the struggle circle the track together to help everyone celebrate what has been achieved against cancer. The Luminaria Ceremony will be at 9:00 p.m. to remember loved ones lost to cancer and to honor those who have battled the disease.

The schedule of events for the night is as follows:

5:15 p.m.: Dessa Ray
5:35 p.m.: Kathy Goodwin

5:55 p.m.: Presentation of the Colors by Boy Scout Troop #347; Suzanne Slager to sing the National Anthem; Invocation by Alex Woodward of the Gassaway Church of Christ; and welcoming remarks by Renea Cantrell

6:15 p.m.: Darrin Vincent and Victoria followed by an introduction of cancer survivors; a prayer for cancer survivors by Jeff Armstrong of the Smithville Church of God; and Shelley Cross and Bonnie Rigsby will perform a song honoring cancer survivors.

7:10 p.m.: Wanda Redmon
7:15 p.m.: David Turner & Friends
7:45 p.m.: Fluty and the Flutones
8:00 p.m.: Elvis (Kevin Roberts)
8:15:p.m.: Tina Boston
8:45 p.m.: New Life Pentecostal Choir
9:00 p.m.: Luminaria Ceremony with prayer by Dwayne Cornelius of the New Life Pentecostal Church
9:15 p.m.: Smithville Church of God "Receive It Ministries"
9:45 p.m.: First Assembly of God Youth Group
10:15 p.m.: Zone Status
11:30 p.m.: Closing Ceremony
Midnight: Relay Ends

For more information, please contact Marlene at 931-235-6286 or visit www.relayforlife.org/dekalbtn.

Authorities Respond to Another Bomb Threat

May 4, 2015
Dwayne Page
Captain Steven Leffew

Local authorities responded to another bomb threat over the weekend.

The latest incident was at Federal Mogul.

In a prepared statement, Smithville Police Captain Steven Leffew reported that "On Sunday, May 3 at approximately 3:17 a.m. the Smithville Police and Fire Departments were dispatched to Federal Mogul in reference to a possible threat of an explosive device. The factory was immediately evacuated. The Lebanon Emergency Response Unit was contacted. A sweep of the factory and grounds was conducted and no threat was found. Lt. Matt Holmes was able to quickly develop two suspects. The Smithville police department is working in combined efforts with the District Attorney’s office as this case remains under investigation and charges are pending at this time. I would like to extend my appreciation to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, Deputies Jimmy Martin and Shane Hickman, members of the Smithville Fire Department and DeKalb EMS for their assistance. SPD officers on the scene were Capt. Leffew, Lt. Matt Holmes, Sgt. Travis Bryant and Officer Joey Myers."

Bomb threats were recently reported at Omega Apparel and DCHS. Nothing suspicious was found at either location.

In related news, Captain Leffew said the Smithville Police Department has been approved for specialized training for responding to explosive device calls. "As these types of calls continue to increase, I have been in contact with Homeland Security for assistance and coordinated training. The training is hosted by Homeland Security and FEMA. The training is free and includes all travel arrangements, lodging and meals at absolutely no cost to the City of Smithville. The Smithville Police Department is coordinating this training with the Algood Police Department and we will be attending this training together. On behalf of the Smithville Police Department, I would like to thank Mayor Jimmy Poss and Police Commissioner Jason Murphy for their support on this valuable specialized training," said Captain Leffew.

City Schedules Due Process Hearing for Randy Caplinger on Friday, May 8

May 2, 2015
Dwayne Page
Randy Caplinger

Randy Caplinger may learn if he is to get his job back as Smithville Police Chief next week.

A due process hearing has been scheduled before the Board of Aldermen on Friday, May 8 at 10:00 a.m. at city hall. WJLE plans LIVE coverage. At the end of the hearing, the aldermen are expected to take a vote on whether to sustain or overturn the mayor's termination of Caplinger

Mayor Jimmy Poss fired Caplinger on March 19 citing eight reasons for the termination.

In a letter to Caplinger, Mayor Poss wrote that "Your actions and performance has had a negative impact on the Smithville Police Department since I was first elected Mayor in 2012 and can no longer be tolerated. I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately".

Caplinger's attorney Sarah Cripps answered the Mayor's letter with one of her own requesting a hearing. "Chief Caplinger categorically denies all allegations contained in your March 19 correspondence and respectfully requests that he be afforded a full and fair due process hearing before the three-person board or commission and, in the event of an adverse ruling against him, before a plenary session of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen."

Cripps contends that Chief Caplinger is not an "at will" employee as city officials claim; that he can only be terminated for "just cause"; and that he shall only be removed by the mayor with the approval of at least two thirds (not less than four members) majority vote of the council present and voting upon the removal according to the Smithville City Charter.

The mayor placed Chief Caplinger on suspension without pay pending termination on Friday, March 13 and his decision to terminate Caplinger was expected after Cripps announced during a special meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that the chief would not resign or accept a severance package.

Reasons for the termination cited by the mayor include the following:

*Lack of leadership and loss of morale by your officers
The Mayor claims a majority of the police officers have expressed disappointment in the direction of the department.

*Inability to work with other law enforcement agencies
Poss said other law enforcement agencies have complained about Caplinger’s inability to work effectively with them whether it be on investigations or on on-going cases.

*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section X (A) (1), which deals primarily with verbal harassment. Reportedly, Caplinger is accused of verbally intimidating his officers.

*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section IX (I) (Misuse of City Property)

It is alleged Caplinger used City Hall to teach gun permit classes without paying the required rental deposit for the facility.
*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section IV (M) (Outside Employment)

The mayor claims Caplinger continues to be on the payroll of a private company (Smithport Cabinetry) and has an office at that company, a violation of city policy unless approved
*Excessive Absenteeism

The mayor alleges there were twenty seven “unaccounted for work days” during the first 10 months of 2014 and data from the E-911 office showed there were “62 work days without going ‘out of service and 10 days without going ‘in service. Also, a two month video audit of city hall from January and February 2015 showed that Mr. Caplinger was at city hall less than 20 hours a week on average.

*Misuse of the Confidential Drug Fund Debit Card

Poss also alleges Caplinger used a Drug Fund debit card to make personal purchases on two occasions but goes on to say both times the city was reimbursed and the chief claimed use of the card was “by mistake.”

*Non-Use of the two U.S. Military Surplus issued Humvees

The mayor says in his letter to Caplinger that “Since my term in office I have repeatedly asked you to put these two vehicles in service and to this date nothing has come of my requests.”

"I have been approached by a majority of your police officers since I was first elected about the lack of leadership in their department and I feel that your extreme absenteeism and lack of effort to better your department has resulted in low morale under your leadership. Your officers have expressed to me numerous times that they feel the department would be better under new leadership," wrote Mayor Poss in his letter to Caplinger.

The mayor goes on to say in his letter that, "As a result of these above mentioned issues and many more not listed here I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately".

"Pursuant to the Smithville Personnel Policy Section IX (K) you have the right to a termination hearing if you feel you have been terminated illegally or unethically by submitting in writing a request for a hearing to the Mayor within seven business days of this notice. I, Mayor Poss, will have five business days to decide if your request should go before the full Board of Aldermen at the next Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting for a hearing unless a special called meeting is scheduled," Mayor Poss' letter concluded.

In her response to the Mayor, Cripps pointed out that Chief Caplinger has never been reprimanded or disciplined for any reason during his employment with the city. "Chief Caplinger's counsel have conducted an exhaustive review of his personnel file tendered to us by City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson on the afternoon of Monday, March 23. Significantly, the personnel file of Chief Caplinger is replete with certificates of commendation issued to him during his thirty year tenure with the State of Tennessee as a law enforcement officer with the Tennessee Department of Revenue and subsequently with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. It is noteworthy that a thorough and exhaustive review of Chief Caplinger's personnel file reveals that from May 3, 2010 until Chief Caplinger's summary suspension without pay on March 13, 2015, he has never been the subject of any disciplinary action instituted by the City of Smithville and has never been issued any written reprimands by any officials with the City of Smithville."

Marina Tax Exemption Legislation Could be Costly for DeKalb County

May 1, 2015
Dwayne Page
Tim Stribling
Hilton Conger

DeKalb County could stand to lose thousands of tax dollars each year if legislation is approved by the Tennessee General Assembly next year calling for a tax exemption for marina owners operating on federal property.

The legislation as introduced this year, exempts from property taxes, any property owned by the federal government and leased to marina owners or operators who lease the federally owned property and make in lieu of tax payments on such property. The bill, sponsored in the Tennessee House of Representatives (HB 1038) by Republican Cameron Sexton of Crossville and in the State Senate (SB 0938) by Republican Bo Watson of Hixson stalled in committee this year.

"I would urge you to contact your representatives and Charles Curtiss , Executive Director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, to put some pressure on these guys (state lawmakers)," said county attorney Hilton Conger during Monday night's county commission meeting. This could be huge if we lose this (tax) money from here on out," he said.

"I've talked to Senator Mae Beavers and State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody several times about it and they're the ones who told me it got put off until 2016. We need to stay on top of it," said County Mayor Tim Stribling.

Under the legislation, "If any federally owned property is leased to any taxpayer that owns or operates a marina, yacht club, dock, or similar property located on the federally owned property, and the taxpayer has entered into a payment in lieu of tax agreement with the United States or an agency of the United States, then the federally owned property, the taxpayer’s marina or similar property, and any leasehold interest in these properties, shall be exempt from taxation".

“Payment in lieu of tax agreement” means an agreement requiring that the taxing authorities receive payments or other charges directly from a lessee of the property or from any other sources on account of the property".

"The exemption shall be provided in the same manner as exemptions from taxation for property owned by this state or political subdivisions and leased by private lessees making in lieu of tax payments".

This proposed legislation arises as the county tries to collect back taxes from the owners of Cookeville Boat Dock who have refused to pay their ad valorem (property) taxes since 1998. Their total tax bill now exceeds $200,000 including interest and penalties.

As WJLE first reported last month, Circuit Court Judge Amy V. Hollers recently found the boat dock’s claims that such a tax was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and was discriminatory under Tennessee’s Constitution are not valid. In her ruling, Judge Hollars wrote “neither the Supremacy Clause nor any principle of state law prevents DeKalb County from assessing Cookeville Boat Dock for its ownership interest in the boat dock facilities. The court must reject Cookeville Boat Dock’s constitutional challenge to the assessment of ad valorem taxes on its property.”

The boat dock had argued such a tax could be characterized as “double taxation” since it pays fees to the United States Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum in lieu of taxes. The owners of the dock further argued a section of Tennessee’s Constitution “violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee.

The judge said the boat dock’s attempt to “raise a ‘double taxation’ argument fails because the amount received by DeKalb County from the lease payments to the federal government is not a tax by the county.”

She went on to rule that “it is well-established that the Supremacy Clause does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or a corporation ‘using government property in connection with a business conducted for its own private gain.’”

In conclusion, Judge Hollars ordered that the boat dock “pay the unpaid ad valorem taxes assessed for all years in question, together with all applicable penalties and interest.”

The owners of Cookeville Boat Dock could still appeal the judge's ruling. "I checked with the (county) tax attorney Friday and he said he had talked with the boat dock's attorney and they haven't made up their mind whether they are going to appeal it. Their appeal time hasn't run yet," said County Attorney Conger.


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