Local News Articles

City Aldermen Grant County 30 Year Extension of Sales Tax Agreement

July 16, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Board of Aldermen, by a 3 to 1 vote, Monday night granted the county a thirty year extension of the sales tax agreement.

Aldermen Willie Thomas, Tonya Sullivan, and Jerry Hutchins' Sr. voted for the 30 year extension, but Alderman Steve White voted against it, preferring instead to have a shorter term agreement in the interest of city government and city taxpayers.

White suggested that Sullivan, who made the motion, had an ethical conflict of interest since she is employed as a teacher and that the school system will be receiving the benefit of this agreement. Sullivan stated that she was voting her conscience, and not for any self interest.

In a prepared statement, Sullivan said \"I am satisfied that this is in the best interest of the city, county, and the children of DeKalb County. This commitment will continue to show our concern for the children of Smithville and DeKalb County and that education is a key role to success. This is our opportunity to insure that the county and city work together to prepare for the growth and expansion of our schools. I feel that this has been a long time agreement by those leaders before us and should continue. After working with the DeKalb County Director of Schools, County Mayor, and Mayor Taft Hendrixson, I am satisfied with the efforts of long term planning that will move our schools forward with improvements on current buildings and new schools to come soon to tackle growing pains of DeKalb County Schools.\"

Thomas, in addition to being a city alderman is also a member of the county commission, another apparent conflict of interest, but Thomas stated that he too was voting his conscience on this issue.

After the vote, Mayor Taft Hendrixson called for a recess and he retired to his office downstairs. When he returned some ten minutes later and re-convened the meeting, he told the aldermen that he had considered casting a veto, but decided against it. Had he vetoed the council's vote, the aldermen would have needed four votes to override the veto.

However Mayor Hendrixson said he felt a 30 year agreement with the county was much too long, and that at some point in the future, city property taxpayers will pay for it, through higher taxes. Hendrixson said he favored a ten year agreement.

Since 1968, the City of Smithville, by agreement with the county, has given two thirds of it's local option sales tax collections to the county's education local purpose tax fund to help pay for construction and other school capital outlay projects.

But after the local option sales tax increase was approved by county voters in the May referendum, city officials expressed a desire to place a termination date on the agreement, which for almost 40 years, has been an \"open agreement\" with no ending date on it.

The city is legally obligated to turn over to the county 50% of it's local option sales tax collections for education purposes, but since 1968, the city has been contributing 16 2/3% more than it's share for a total of 66 and 2/3%.

County officials want to keep it that way, but city leaders, before the city election, said they were opposed to signing any extended long term agreement giving the county two thirds of the city's sales tax collections, because Smithville, in spite of a large general fund surplus now, might need that extra money in years to come for needs that are, as of now, unforeseen.

Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor, warned city leaders in June that the county could not do any long range planning with only a short term commitment from the city. He says new schools will have to be built in the coming years and the county must count on that extra sales tax revenue coming in from the city to support such projects. He said the county's bond rating would also be affected.

County Mayor Foster said in June that even by turning over two thirds of it's sales tax collections to the county, the city would still gain about $361,000 every year, plus growth, whereas the county, during the first three or four years, would not gain because of the reduction in the property tax rate, as promised to the voters.

Two More People Picked Up In Undercover Drug Investigation

July 18, 2007
Dwayne Page

Two more people have been picked up in a joint undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department and the Alexandria Police Department.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 63 year old Billy Eaton of Sparta Pike, Watertown is charged with sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (hydrocodone) and his bond is set at $40,000.

32 year old Jason Campbell of Smith Road, Smithville is charged with sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (hydrocodone) and his bond is set at $40,000.

Both men will be in General Sessions Court on the charges August 2nd.

Meanwhile, in other crime news, Sheriff Ray says officers responded to a call Sunday at the Johnson's Chapel Recreation area where a man was possibly intoxicated and exposing himself. Deputies arrested 41 year old Anthony Brock of Bunker Hill Road, Sparta. But as they placed him in the back seat of the patrol car, Brock kicked out the back window and tried to crawl out. He also began kicking and trying to fight the officers.

Brock was charged with public intoxication, indecent exposure, vandalism, and resisting arrest. His bond is $10,000 and his court date is August 2nd.

On Monday night, Sheriff Ray says officers responded to the Cookeville Boat Dock area where a man had showed up at another person's house, claiming he had been shot. A further investigation revealed that the man had gotten into a fight with another person and had been struck over the head with a beer bottle.

The injured man, Derrick Choate of Cookeville was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Sheriff Ray says the two people with Choate were arrested. 19 year old Joseph Price of Carolina Avenue, Cookeville and 20 year old Lindsey Mahan of Anderson Lane, Cookeville were charged with underage consumption of alcohol. Bond for them was set at $1,500 and their court date is July 26th.

Sheriff Ray says more arrests are pending a further investigation in that case.

Write-In Candidates In Alexandria City Election Must Qualify by July 18th

July 18, 2007
Dwayne Page

Barbara (Bobbie) Crawford has filed a "Certificate of Write-In Candidacy" with the DeKalb County Election Commission announcing her intent to run for the office of alderman in Alexandria.

Her name will not be printed on the ballot. Anyone who wants to vote for her, will have to "write in" her name. The voting machines that will be used allow the voter to do this on the machine rather than requesting a paper ballot. According to Tennessee Election Laws paper ballots are only to be used in an emergency situation when voting machines are not available for use.

Anyone else who wants to run as a write-in candidate in this election must file a certificate at the Election Commission office no later than today (July 18). Call the Election office at 597-4146 for details.

The official slate of candidates for this election, in addition to the write-in candidacy of Crawford include Derrick Baker, Sheila Clayborn, Maureen Tubbs, and James R. Walker.

The voter registration deadline for this election is August 8th at 4:00 p.m..

The deadline to register as a property rights voter is also August 8th. proof of ownership is required.

Early voting begins August 17th and ends September 1st.

Mobile Home Destroyed By Fire

July 18, 2007
Dwayne Page

A late Tuesday night fire destroyed the mobile home of Mark West on Bright Hill Road.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says firefighters were called out around 11:01 p.m. Tuesday to the residence, which was completely engulfed in flames by the time the fire was spotted and reported.

Green says no one was home when the fire started and no one was hurt.

The mobile home and all the contents were destroyed in the blaze. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Members of the Midway, Cookeville Highway, and Short Mountain Highway Stations responded to the scene.

B. Don James Reports to Federal Prison

July 19, 2007
Dwayne Page

B. Don James has reportedly begun serving his federal prison sentence.

He was scheduled to report on Wednesday, July 18th at 2:00 p.m.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, James is located at the Big Sandy United States Penitentiary located in Inez, Kentucky, which is in eastern Kentucky.

His release date, according to the website, is August 1st, 2014.

He was originally due to report to prison on June 25th, but was granted a motion to delay his reporting date until July 18th.

U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell, on May 25th in Nashville, sentenced James to a total of ninety seven months (8 years and 1 month) in prison on each of fifteen counts of wire fraud totaling $1.8 million dollars, the minimum sentence under the plea agreement's advisory guideline range The sentences are to run concurrently or together as one sentence.

After serving his sentence, James will be on supervised probation for another two years on each count to run concurrently. He must also make restitution to the victims in the case.

Four Charged in Check Theft & Forgery Investigation

July 20, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged four women in the investigation of a stolen check and driver's license, which they allegedly used to obtain cash from the victim's bank account.

25 year old Elizabeth "Beth" Chalfant of Hurricane Ridge Road is charged with theft of property under $500 and theft of property over $1,000; 23 year old Ashley Owen of Twilla Lane, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000; 43 year old Denise Jauregui of Bell Street, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000, criminal impersonation, and forgery; and 25 year old Sabina Solano of Bell Street, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Chalfant allegedly took a check and driver's license from a relative, then all four women went to a local bank, in the same vehicle, where they presented the drivers license and forged check in the amount of $1,900.

According to Sheriff Ray, Owen pulled up to the drive-through window at the bank and presented the stolen check and drivers license, but since the check was not endorsed, the cashier did not accept it and asked the women if the check belonged to one of them.

Sheriff Ray says Jauregui raised her hand, indicated that the check belonged to her, and endorsed it. The cashier then cashed the check and gave the money to the women, who then divided the cash among themselves

Bond for each is as follows, $6,000 for Chalfant, $3,500 for Owen, $9,500 for Jauregui, and $3,500 for Solano.

All four women will appear in General Sessions Court on August 9th.

Mayor Casts Veto Making Stufano Police Chief Again

July 20, 2007
Dwayne Page

Tom Stufano is the Smithville Police Chief again.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson has vetoed the city council's 3 to 1 vote Monday night to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation of allegations of wrong doing in a pending lawsuit, filed by an attorney for Roy Ray.

In a letter to City Attorney John Pryor dated Wednesday, July 18th , Mayor Hendrixson wrote " I believe the action taken by this Board could be potential exposure to future litigation and I think any action of administrative leave for Chief Stufano is premature."

"I hereby veto the action by the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen made on July 16th placing Chief Thomas J. Stufano on administrative leave."

"Therefore, Chief Stufano is still Chief of the Smithville Police Department until such time as my veto is overridden by a two thirds majority vote of the entire Board, at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen."

Smithville Alderman Tonya Sullivan, in a prepared response to the mayor's veto, wrote " I received a notification of a veto from Mayor Taft Hendrixson on Friday regarding Chief Stufano's administrative leave. I felt that it was necessary for Chief Stufano to be on paid administrative leave in order to protect him and clear his name and to be fair to Mr. Roy Ray. The allegations were taken serious Monday at the council meeting and so was protecting our city employee. A TBI investigation I felt was the quickest way to get this matter resolved."

Sullivan further stated "The veto by the Mayor doesn't suggest that this was not an appropriate way to handle this. The Mayor's reasons for the veto were 'out of fear of future litigation'. I respect the Mayor's position and I know that myself as well as the other aldermen are willing to work together to resolve tough isses as they happen. I want what is in the best interest of our city employees and the citizens of Smithville."

In order to override a mayoral veto, at least four members of the five member board would have to vote for the override, otherwise, the mayor's veto is sustained.

Mayor Hendrixson met with members of the local media Friday afternoon in his office to publicly announce his decision.

Hendrixson, when asked if he has received any public response from Monday night's vote by the council, stated that he has received numerous comments, both in person and on the phone, expressing support for Stufano.

Mayor Hendrixson says he believes Stufano has done a good job as Police Chief and that he and the department have been active in making drug arrests and addressing other crime concerns.

Alderman Jerry Hutchins' Sr. made the motion Monday night to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation, based on complaints made by Roy Ray filed in a federal court lawsuit against Chief Stufano, the Smithville Police Department, and the City of Smithville.

Ray claims he suffered injuries and that his civil and constitutional rights were violated during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February.

Ray's attorney in the lawsuit, Adam Wilding Parrish of Lebanon, came before the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night requesting the investigation of Stufano.

Aldermen Willie Thomas and Tonya Sullivan joined Hutchins in voting for the suspension, however Alderman Steve White voted against it, until City Attorney John Pryor had more time to research the city's options in dealing with the issue. Alderman Cecil Burger was out of town and could not attend the meeting.

The senior ranking officer, Richard Jennings, became acting chief, until the mayor's veto.

Section 6, paragraph 3 of the City Charter states that "He (Mayor) shall have veto power over any action of the Board, except as hereinafter provided, giving his reasons therefore in writing, with the exception of the hiring policy as set out in SECTION 5, Paragraph 2; but the Board may, by a two thirds vote of the entire membership of said Board, pass the same over his veto; or if he fails to return the same on or before the next meeting of said Board, he shall be deemed to have approved the same and the same shall become a law without such approval; and each and every law, ordinance, resolution or vote, except on the question of adjournment, shall require the approval of the Mayor before it shall become effective, except as herein before provided."

Section 5, Paragraph 2 of the City Charter states that "All employees or appointed officials of the City, including, but not limited to, the Chief of Police, the City Bookkeeper, the City Attorney, the Judicial Commissioner of the City, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the City shall be employed by a majority vote of the Aldermen of said City, and in case of a tie vote of said Aldermen in this and any other question voted on by said Aldermen, the Mayor shall have the power and it is hereby declared to be his duty to cast the deciding vote in such election. It shall also become the duty of said Board to fix by ordinance the salaries of all employees and officials employed by the City. No employees or official can be discharged except for "cause". The Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville, shall enact such ordinance or ordinances as are necessary in order to define "cause", and distribute same to all employees and officials of the City. Said ordinance or ordinances shall comply with the due process requirements of both the federal and state constitutions. All employees and appointed officials of the City shall be rehired and or reappointed each year absent their discharge for "cause" as referred to herein."

Home Health Care Employee Charged With Defrauding Elderly Woman In Her Care

March 19, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 19 year old Home Health Care employee has been charged with fraudulent use of a credit card belonging to an 81 year old woman with whom she was sitting.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Cynthia Kirby of Bell Street Apartments has posted a $1,000 bond and she will be in General Sessions Court on the charge March 29th.

According to Sheriff Ray, the elderly woman gave Kirby her debit card to withdraw some money to buy some supplies. While Kirby was at Region's Bank in Smithville on Thursday, March 8th, she made an unauthorized debit for $200.

Sheriff Ray says Kirby implicated herself in a statement she gave to authorities. In addition to the criminal charge against her, Kirby has been terminated from her employment.

In a separate case, 18 year old Terry Barnes of West Maple Street, Morrison is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on the charge March 22nd.

Barnes is accused of being with a 17 year old female who was reported missing by her mother. The girl's mother took out a runaway petition on the juvenile after discovering that her daughter was gone.

Sheriff Ray says officers confronted Barnes about the girl but he denied knowing her whereabouts. She was found with Barnes at the home of Barnes' sister on Corinth Church Road on Friday, March 16th.

In other cases, Sheriff Ray says 24 year old Jamie Reyes of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville was arrested on Saturday, March 17th and charged with a second offense of driving under the influence and violation of probation. His bond is set at $6,000 and he will be in court on the charges March 29th.

Sheriff Ray says an officer, while on patrol, found Reyes sitting in a vehicle on Whorton Springs Road. The car was running but Reyes was passed out. Reyes was awakened and asked to perform a field sobriety task, which he failed. He was then taken into custody.

48 year old Ricky Devault of Talphia Road, Dowelltown was also arrested Saturday and charged with driving on a revoked license. Sheriff Ray says a deputy, while on patrol spotted Devault driving on the Old Snow Hill Road. The officer knew Devault didn't have a driver's license so he pulled him over. DeVault already has two cases of the same offense pending against him in General Sessions Court. He is under a $3,000 bond and he will be in court on this charge April 19th.

On Sunday, March 18th, 35 year old Alfonso Hernandez of Bluff Springs Road, McMinnville, was arrested and charged with a third offense of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. A deputy, while on patrol, stopped Hernandez for weaving on Highway 56. He failed a field sobriety task and was charged. He is under a $6,000 bond and will appear in General Sessions Court April 19th.

39 year old Carlos Reyes of Skyline Drive, McMinnville was also arrested for driving under the influence over the weekend after a deputy stopped him for weaving on Highway 56. He failed a field sobriety task and was charged. His bond is $1,000 and his court date is May 10th.

Smithville Police Make More Drug Arrests In Recent Days

March 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police are continuing their fight against illegal drug sales in the city with numerous arrests having been made in recent days for Sale and Delivery of Narcotics.

The latest to be arrested include 22 year old Nicky Reese of 150 Kings Court Circle, Smithville; 26 year old Wayne Halton Hicks of 920 South Mountain Street, Smithville; 30 year old Robin Lawson and 24 year old Victoria Lawson, both of 284 Braswell Lane, Smithville. Bond for each is set at $40,000 except Hicks. His bond is $20,000.

Meanwhile, Chief Thomas J. Stufano says Smithville Police also responded to an Adams Street address where a concerned citizen called to report that an apparent drug deal had just occurred and remnants of that activity were in a front yard where small children were playing.

Chief Stufano says \"Upon arrival police found a syringe that still had the needle and traces of fresh blood in it lying in the front yard. Also present were neighborhood children curious about the activity. The item was collected and disposed of as bio-hazard material. Biomedical waste can be a health and safety hazard due to the nature of the waste and may contain disease causing germs.\"

According to Chief Stufano, \"Smithville Police are finding these types of hazardous items throughout the city especially in vacant areas that are frequented by smaller children out playing. Parents and children are strongly encouraged not to handle these types of items and report suspicious activity immediately to safety officials. Police, Fire and Health professionals are trained to properly handle and dispose of bio-hazard material so that these items cannot hurt someone. \"

In another case, Chief Stufano says \"On Sunday, March 25th 32 year old David Reyes of 274 Smith Road Smithville was arrested for driving a vehicle with no driver's license resulting in a motor vehicle accident. Reyes was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond. Reyes also admitted to being an illegal alien form Mexico.\"

Chief Stufano says \" The Smithville Police Department, in cooperation with its state and local counterparts, are committed to the safety and security of our residents and guests. If you see suspicious activity in your neighborhoods, take a stand and call the police! Remember your call could prevent a crime against your family and neighbors. Dial 215-3000 for police response or 911 only if an emergency. \"

Fire Destroys Home In Temperance Hall Area

March 21, 2007
Dwayne Page

A fire Wednesday morning destroyed the home of Jimmy Sprague at 310 Jackson Hollow Road in the Temperance Hall community.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says a neighbor coming home from work first saw the smoke and then discovered the fire at around 8:20 a.m. He says by that time, the roof had already collapsed.

Members of the Temperance Hall, Liberty, and Short Mountain Highway Stations responded along with a tanker truck but firefighters were unable to save the home and contents.

Sprague, who works for the county road department, was not at home at the time but saw the smoke and returned home. Sprague told firefighters he left home around 6:20 a.m. to take his children to school.

Sprague's 1996 Chevy Tahoe, parked in the driveway only a few feet away from the garage, was damaged but not destroyed. Sprague arrived in time to move the vehicle further away from the fire.

No one was injured.

Firefighters and members of the Tennessee Division of Forestry were later recalled to the scene after the fire rekindled and spread to the woods.


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