Local News Articles

TBI Arrests Former Police Officers On Multiple Counts

November 13, 2009

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested four former police officers from Warren and DeKalb Counties after a TBI investigation into prescription drugs being illegally obtained at a McMinnville clinic. The case culminated Friday after the Warren County Grand Jury handed down indictments on the officers.

Daniel Clayton, 28, and Daniel Conry, 31, both former McMinnville police officers, were each indicted on seven counts of delivery of a schedule II narcotic, seven counts of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs and seven counts of insurance fraud.

Both were booked into the Warren County jail on $147,000 bond each.

David Seibers, 33, formerly a Warren County sheriff's deputy, was indicted on three counts of delivery of a schedule II narcotic and three counts of insurance fraud. He was booked into the Warren County Jail on $60,000 bond.

Larry Pedigo, 33, a former DeKalb County sheriff's deputy, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a schedule II narcotic and two counts of fraudulently obtaining drugs. He was booked into the Warren County Jail on $40,000 bond.

On August 3, 2009 TBI agents executed a search warrant on the Americare, an urgent care walk-in clinic, located on South Chancery Street in McMinnville. The officers were all obtaining the drugs from the clinic.

Operation Head to Toe Seeks to Clothe Children in Poverty

November 13, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

If you would like to help needy children in this community then you're encouraged to support "Operation Head to Toe", a faith-based initiative to assist families who struggle financially.

"Operation Head To Toe" uses donated funds to purchase new school clothes for children.

Betty Turner, Director of Operation Head to Toe, says "many children in our community live in poverty. It is never the children who are at fault, however they suffer the consequences. They come to school in second-hand outfits that are worn and tattered before they even receive them. We may understand what it is like to do without, but very few of us know the vicious cycle of poverty. It affects the human spirit, leaving children with a low self-image and little hope. Some children can't even imagine what it would be like to have new clothes that fit properly."

"Together, we want to break this cycle of poverty. We want to provide a ray of hope to lift the spirits of children, and to help them realize they are members of a community that cares for them."

Operation Head to Toe is a faith-based initiative whose mission is to work in conjunction with the educators of the DeKalb County School System to identify children and youth who have almost nothing in the way of clothing. Once these children and youth are selected, volunteers work with the families to purchase $150 worth of clothes per child.

In 2004, Jeanni Watson, the founder, had this idea to help these children. She received a gift of one hundred dollars in seed money, and Operation Head to Toe began.

That first year, Operation Head to Toe distributed $9,000 of new clothing to children in DeKalb County. In 2008, with the help of over 400 volunteers, donors and educators, Operation Head to Toe received over $15,000 and clothed 118 children. Operation Head to Toe is now part of the DeKalb County Foundation for Education, with a board of directors to help give guidance.

Turner says "in order to allow Operation Head to Toe to continue to be a success story in DeKalb County, we need your help". The 2009 fall distribution campaign is underway. Operation Head to Toe's connection with the DeKalb County Foundation for Education allows your contributions to be tax-deductible. Donations by check should be made payable to Operation Head to Toe. The mailing address is Operation Head to Toe, P.O. Box 372, Smithville, Tennessee 37166.

For more information, call 597-1220 or 597-5920 or email aubr@dtccom.net

Smithville Police Make Arrests for Driving Related Offenses and Public Intoxication

November 13, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have made several arrests recently for driving related offenses and public intoxication.

24 year old Daniel Estudillo of 322 West Broad Street was arrested Friday, November 6th for leaving the scene of an accident. According to the report, Lieutenant Steven Leffew responded to an automobile accident at East Broad Street and Bright Hill Road. Upon arrival Ray Barrett and Phillip Wilkey stated that a man driving a maroon four door car hit their vehicle and left driving south bound on Bright Hill Road. Lieutenant Leffew proceeded south bound on Bright Hill Road in an attempt to locate the vehicle, when central dispatch advised that another automobile accident had occurred on Bright Hill Road and Dearman Street involving a maroon car. Upon arrival to the scene of the second accident, Lieutenant Leffew learned that the driver of the maroon car was Daniel Estudillo. He was arrested and booked for leaving the scene of an accident and was issued citations for violation of financial responsibility and for being an unlicensed driver.

35 year old Leonel Jimenez Beltran of 415 Juniper Lane was arrested Saturday, November 7th for driving under the influence. The report states that Officer Bradley Tatrow observed a blue and white Chevy pickup truck weaving on West Bryant Street as it was coming to the stop sign at Bryant & South Mountain Street. The vehicle did not stop until it was past the stop sign. The front end of the truck was in the roadway. The vehicle made a left turn onto South Mountain Street. Officer Tatrow says he observed the truck weave left of the yellow line then back into the left hand lane. The truck then weaved into the right lane before coming back into the left lane. Officer Tatrow activated his blue lights to signal the vehicle to stop and the driver pulled very erratically into the driveway of a residence at the corner of South Mountain Street and Village Place. Officer Tatrow says "the driver had ample room to position the vehicle in a manner so that I may have exited the roadway with my vehicle but I did not do so". Upon making contact with the driver, Leonel Beltran, Officer Tatrow says " I smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage. Mr. Beltran's actions were slow and clumsy. He submitted to field sobriety tasks but performed poorly on them. Beltran was placed under arrest for DUI. He submitted to a breath test to determine the alcohol content of his blood and the result of the breath test was .149.

24 year old Joshua L Mullican of 128 Bilbrey Street Cookeville was arrested on Sunday, November 8th for driving on a suspended license. Officer Nathan Estes observed Mullican driving with a headlight out. Officer Estes made the traffic stop at Bill Page Ballpark and upon investigation learned that Mullican's driver licenses was suspended in Putnam County for failure to satisfy a citation.

42 year old Marilyn Strayn of 3107 Midway Road Smithville was arrested for public intoxication on Monday, November 9th. According to the report, Officer Travis K Bryant responded with EMS to 426 Morgan Drrive where he made contact with Ms. Strayn who had passed out on the front porch of the residence. Officer Bryant says her speech was slurred and she was very unsteady on her feet. She also appeared to be disoriented and did not know where she was. Strayn was also unable to answer several questions of EMS personnel in a timely manner. She refused medical treatment and signed the refuse treatment waiver. Officer Bryant advised her that she was under arrest for public intoxication and she was transported to the Smithville Police Department.

54 year old Thomas Michael Beaver of 482 Talley Road was arrested Tuesday, November 10th for public intoxication. Officer Scott Davis was dispatched to 128 East Broad Street (Mapco) in reference to a possible public intoxication. Upon arrival, he observed a man standing by a red truck attempting to pump fuel into his vehicle. He was very unsteady on his feet and seemed to be having difficulty putting the hose in to the fuel tank. Officer Davis made contact with the man, identified as Thomas Michael Beaver. He had an odor of an alcoholic beverage about his breath and his speech was slurred. Beaver at first said he had consumed a couple of drinks but then changed it to one beer. Officer Tatrow spoke with the clerk at Mapco who said Beaver was very unsteady on his feet and had tripped over several things inside the store. She also stated that he urinated all over the bathroom floor and had wet spots on the front and back of his pants. Officer Davis did not witness Beaver driving, however, due to his intoxication level and the possibility that he might drive his vehicle, Beaver was placed under arrest for public intoxication.

Meanwhile, anyone having any information on the following offenses is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210

On Tuesday, November 10th in the early morning hours, someone broke into Florence & White Ford stealing a 52" Hitachi Plasma TV.

On Wednesday, November 11th, Charles D. Atnip reported that two fence posts had been stolen from the corner of Highway 56 & Highway 70. These posts are used to hold up business signs at this location. They went missing sometime on Saturday, November 7th.

On Thursday, November 12th while shopping at Save-A-Lot, someone stole Johnna Sprague's purse out of her shopping cart.

Any information received that will help Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

School Board Adopts Resolution Honoring Director Mark Willoughby

November 13, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring Director of Schools Mark Willoughby..

For the last few months, the board has been recognizing various groups of school system employees as part of the Utrust Make A Difference Program.

Board Chairman Charles Robinson read the resolution which states as follows:

"Whereas, Mr. Mark Willoughby has served with distinction as superintendent of schools for three years; and

Whereas, He has consistently given highest priority to the needs of the students when he has made recommendations and proposed improvements to this board; and

"Whereas, he was worked tirelessly to build support for public education by attending school functions whenever they occur and consistently speaking out for the needs of our school system and the children it serves, and,

"Whereas, he has worked cooperatively with this board of education to initiate the Utrust Employee Appreciation Program which has resulted in improved morale and a better understanding and appreciation of the work of others by our students, staff, and community; and,

Therefore, Be it Resolved that the DeKalb County Board of Education officially recognizes the continued and excellent services of Mr. Mark Willoughby to the youth of DeKalb County and extends its utmost appreciation for the work that he has done to make education an exciting and joyous experience for the students of our district;

Be it further resolved, that the DeKalb County Board of Education hereby declares November 19th, 2009 as Superintendent Appreciation Day in DeKalb County;

Be it further resolved, that each school principal is hereby encouraged to plan and implement a program of appreciation for our superintendent of schools.

Jonathan Fontanez, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12 and Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th grade addressed the board of education with results of the latest report card on the DeKalb County School System just released by the Tennessee Department of Education. (WJLE recently published a news story on the report card results. Click here to read it http://www.wjle.com/node/9103 or click the link below to listen to the comments of Fontanez and Burklow at the school board meeting) Click here to see the actual report card on DeKalb County Schools http://edu.reportcard.state.tn.us/pls/apex/f?p=200:1:808614981430170::NO:::

In other business, Director Willoughby updated the school board on personnel moves since last month.

Jean Hayes has been transferred to the position of cafeteria manager at Smithville Elementary School.

Cori Sexton has resigned as an educational assistant at DCHS

Barbara Ervin has resigned as cafeteria manager at Smithville Elementary School

Jenny Elrod, a teacher at DeKalb Middle School, has been granted a leave of absence as requested.

Meanwhile, Director Willoughby says response to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program has been great but the large number of participants in the after school programs is affecting the amount of time some students are on the bus in the evenings.

Willoughby says letters are being sent home asking any parents who are willing to voluntarily transport their children home from after school. "We have a lot of students who are staying after school for our 21st Century Programs and other things related to extra help but because we have so many staying after school mainly on Monday and Tuesday, we have students getting home later than we would like. So we sent a note home to these students' parents which states as follows: Thank you so much for allowing your child to participate in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program. Principals and teachers indicate that students are learning and the program is helping with class work and providing other opportunities for extra activities for your child."

"Currently, bus transportation is provided for all students at the end of the after school activity. The number of children in the program has increased and children are arriving home later than anticipated on Monday and Tuesday. There is every intent to continue providing transportation, however we are looking at all of our options. If you are able to pick your child up at school after the session ends on Monday and or Tuesday night that would be a tremendous help."

"Again, thank you for allowing the DeKalb County School System to provide this opportunity for your child."

Patty Hale of the DeKalb County Education Association addressed the school board concerning American Education Week November 15th-21st. "Americans nationwide will join the National Education Association in raising awareness about the need to provide every child with a quality public education. The celebration highlights the importance of bringing together educators, parents, students, and communities in a unified effort to build great public schools. It also reflects NEA's vision in calling on America to provide public school students with quality schools so they can grow and achieve in the 21st century."

DCEA President Mandy Dakas, in a letter to principals, wrote of events scheduled for each day during the week.

"Monday, November 16th- School Board Member Day. Each school should be prepared for school board members to tour their school. Classes may write "Thank You" cards to school board members. Public service announcements will be announced this week and next week. Local businesses have been invited to participate by offering discounts to individuals who work in the public school system or by displaying signs throughout our community."

"Tuesday, November, 17th- Parent/Grandparent Day. Encourage your school or individual teachers to send a note home this week inviting parents to come in to the school on this day. They may set up a time to read a book, eat lunch with their child, share their history/talent, or assist a teacher. Give those who do attend a "certificate" which will be provided by the A.R.'s."

"Wednesday, November, 18th- Education Support Professionals Day. Each school needs to decide what they want to do for their ESP's (cafeteria workers, custodians, para-professionals, bus drivers, etc) and then provide it for those individuals. Examples: either the school can provide something or the teachers might decide to bring in something (breakfast, lunch, coffee, doughnuts)"

"Thursday, November 19th- Community Leaders as Educators. Each school needs to take down the names of teachers who would be willing to have a community leader to come into their classroom and teach. Ask community leaders to come to your school to teach a lesson, read a book, assist with a small group, etc."

"Friday, November 20th- Substitute Educators Day. We will be calling all substitute teachers and inviting them to come to Northside Elementary at 3:30 p.m. for cake and punch. We will also give them a certificate of appreciation. (Encourage as many teachers as possible to come to Northside's multi-purpose room to mingle with our fabulous substitute teachers)"

Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings Suspended without Pay Pending Termination

November 12, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Richard Jennings

Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings has been suspended without pay pending termination and Lieutenant Steven Leffew has reportedly been named "Officer in Charge" of the department until the issue with the chief position has been settled.

Jennings says he was called to the mayor's office at city hall Thursday afternoon where he was given the news. Those present were Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks, and Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson.

Meeks signed the notice of suspension with the verbal concurrence of the mayor. Hunter Hendrixson was not involved in the decision. The reasons for the suspension were read to Jennings and he was given a written copy.

Jennings' case will come before the city's three man discipline board Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. This board is made up of Mayor Hendrixson, Police Commssioner Meeks, and Secretary-Treasurer Hendrixson.

Mayor Hendrixson says if the discipline board finds that the suspension is unwarranted, it can vote to put Jennings back to work with full pay. If the suspension is determined to be warranted by the three man discipline board, Jennings may make a request in writing to appeal the decision to the entire five member board of aldermen at the next meeting, December 7th. A decision by the city council would apparently be final. Members of the council are Aldermen Steve White, W.J. (Dub) White, Shawn Jacobs, Cecil Burger, and Aaron Meeks.

Jennings, in response to the suspension, said "Mr. Meeks threatened to fire me if I didn't retire and he made good on his threat and fired me."

Jennings added that "nothing in the allegations, even if true, remotely rises to the level of termination. There are mitigating circumstances in some of the allegations and I will provide an explanation for my actions at the appropriate time."

The notice of suspension reads as follows "You (Jennings) are being suspended for the following reason- dereliction of duties/negligence.

1. In the past two years, as Police Chief, you have not developed a comprehensive plan to combat crime problems in the City of Smithville, as evidenced by your admission to the board at the workshop of September 14th, 2009. You have not reached out to other agencies for help in combating these problems.

2. You were given two additional officers by the previous board with your promise that you then would be able to do drug investigations. To date, this has not happened.

3. At the workshop on September 14th, 2009, you did not know how many officers you had employed in the department, as evidenced by the CD of the meeting.

4. You have 4 or 5 officers-including yourself and the investigator-on duty on the day shift. You could have used some of these officers to work drug operations.

5. Your claim that the police department's budget has been cut is not substantiated by the 2008-09 city budget. In fact, there was an increase in the police department's budget over the previous year's budget. Also, your claim that all of your overtime has been cut is not true. You are still having overtime in your department.

6. There has been little progress made toward having a better-trained Police Force in specialized areas.

7. Community relations between your office and the public have deteriorated over the last two years.

8. You have not been a "working chief" out patrolling, issuing traffic tickets, answering calls for service, and making arrests.

9. You have authorized the use of a police vehicle for the transportation of civilians out of the area of authority of the Smithville Police Department.

10. It is the responsibility of all department heads to be available for call out at all times. You advised that you turn off your city cell phone when you leave for the day.

11. You have demonstrated lack of adequate supervision of officers.

Payne Denman Signs to Play Golf at Florida

November 11, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Payne Denman Signs to Play Golf at Florida

Two time state high school golf champion Payne Denman officially signed scholarship papers Wednesday to play golf at the University of Florida.

The signing took place at DCHS with members of Denman's family, coach, and principal looking on.

Denman says he's proud of his high school accomplishments and is ready to move to the next level. "I've been looking forward to this for a long time. It's finally here and I'm really glad and ready to get on with my life and see what Florida holds for me. I mainly chose Florida because their tradition is really good. They've always been known to have a great golf team and with all the other great athletic achievements they have made me want to be a part of it."

During his high school years, Denman has won the district and region three times, in addition to two state titles, the only state championships DCHS has ever earned in any sport in school history. "It's something you always hope to achieve and for it to actually come true is really special," said Denman.

Coach Chris Vance, who is stepping down as the DCHS golf coach, says Payne is a special person and competitor. " Payne has shown the younger guys what it takes with hard work and dedication to succeed and be able to go out there and put up the numbers he does. He's shown a lot of leadership and led the way by example."

(Pictured: Seated left to right- Gina Denman (mom), Payne Denman, and Bud Denman(dad)
Back Row: Standing DCHS principal Kathy Hendrix and DCHS Golf Coach Chris Vance

Community Observance Held to Commemorate Veterans Day

November 11, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Sean Tramel and Edward Frazier
 Veterans and others stand at Attention during playing of Taps

Members of the community joined the American Legion Post #122 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #7623 in a Veterans Day observance Wednesday morning downtown Smithville.

The days events began with a small parade followed by a program at the 303 building on the public square, featuring remarks by County Mayor Mike Foster, a poem saluting veterans by Dorothy Tittsworth, and music by the First Baptist Church Choir directed by Anthony Rosolowski.

Foster, in his address, spoke about all the nations wars and paid tribute to the brave men and women who have served our country. " We're here today to honor the Americans who served in all of the wars. We honor you and your families for the sacrifices and hardships that you endured. We especially honor those who gave their lives or were wounded during combat. People from all across the world seek to come here because we are truly blessed to live in America. We're free to live, raise our families, practice our religion, and speak our thoughts without fear. We're free to fail or succeed. And we're free to help people who are less fortunate than us."

" We still mourn many of our friends, ancestors and neighbors who died in wars long ago or last week. We see accounts of them and wonder what might have been and what talents or gifts died with those people. What undiscovered scientific cures might have been discovered. They might have invented some wonderful thing that would have made life better for all of us. Their lives were not wasted or lost without reason. They gave us more than any scientific breakthrough. They gave us the privilege of being able to live as an American in a country that is still clearly the best country on earth and the best hope for us as a people."

"We sometimes complain about our lot in life and how we've been dealt terrible blows but we're blessed with one of the highest standards of living in the world and we take for granted many things that others can only dream of. Honor our veterans and our ancestors by showing your love for America and our freedoms. Veterans Day is a special day for all Americans to show their respect to the veterans who have served our country so well. Unfortunately there will be more wars and more veterans to be honored. We should never fail to be open in our praise of them. Once our country commits its troops to battle we should support them unconditionally. Thanks to our veterans and their families for all the sacrifices you have made so that we may live free."

Tittsworth, noted local story teller, recited a poem by Joanna Fuchs called "They Did Their Share"

"On Veteran’s Day we honor
Soldiers who protect our nation.
For their service as our warriors,
They deserve our admiration.

Some of them were drafted;
Some were volunteers;
For some it was just yesterday;
For some it’s been many years;

In the jungle or the desert,
On land or on the sea,
They did whatever was assigned
To produce a victory.

Some came back; some didn’t.
They defended us everywhere.
Some saw combat; some rode a desk;
All of them did their share.

No matter what the duty,
For low pay and little glory,
These soldiers gave up normal lives,
For duties mundane and gory.

Let every veteran be honored;
Don’t let politics get in the way.
Without them, freedom would have died;
What they did, we can’t repay.

We owe so much to them,
Who kept us safe from terror,
So when we see a uniform,
Let’s say "thank you" to every wearer.

Following the program, a wreath was placed at the veterans memorial monument on the south side of the courthouse near the eternal flame. The wreath was laid by Edward Frazier, a World War II veteran, and Sean Tramel, who has just completed his second tour of duty in Iraq where he served as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. A luncheon was held at noon for veterans and their spouses and friends at the Smithville Senior Center at city hall.

State Senator Mae Beavers to Speak at Chamber Prayer Breakfast

November 10, 2009
State Senator Mae Beavers

The Chamber Prayer Breakfast will be held on Tuesday, November 24th at 7:00 a.m. at the Smithville Church of God Fellowship Center.

The theme this year is “Counting Our Blessings in Hard Times.” State Senator, Mae Beavers, will be the keynote speaker. Special music will be performed by pianist Tomomi McDowell and by the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church singers -- Hunter Tramel, Myra Tramel, and Riley Young. Local Boy Scouts will present the flags. Prayers for our community, our leaders, and our children will make this a meaningful and memorable experience. A delicious breakfast will be catered by Jason Evans, head chef at The Inn at Evins Mill. Leadership Director Jen Sherwood and the Leadership DeKalb Class of 2010 will serve the beverages. Doors open at 6:30 a.m.

Tickets are $12 per person and can be purchased at the Chamber office or from the Chamber Board of Directors – Gina Denman, Elmer Ellis, Kelley Garrett, Charlie Parker, Chris Griffith, June Keith, Robin Driver, Tim Hintz, Valerie Laprad, Judy Sandlin, Rob Willingham, Les Greer, Michelle Burklow, Tom Duggin, and Kathie McGlamery.

Chamber Executive Director, Suzanne Williams says, “I would like to invite everyone to join with us at this special event in giving thanks to God for the abundant blessings He has given us in our county and to be able to begin this holiday season with our community family.” For more information, call the Chamber at 597-4163.

Sheriff's Department Makes Another Fugitive from Justice Arrest

November 10, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Christina Love Johnson

The Sheriff's Department picked up another person on a fugitive from justice charge last week.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 28 year old Christina Love Johnson of Anthony Avenue, Smithville was arrested on Wednesday, November 4th for being a fugitive from justice. Johnson was in a vehicle that had been stopped and an NCIC computer check revealed she was wanted in Kentucky for attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud. Johnson appeared in court on Thursday, November 5th and Judge Bratten Cook II set her bond at $1,000 until Kentucky authorities could pick her up.

Meanwhile, on Friday, November 6th , a county deputy was traveling on Highway 70 west when he saw a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed and passing another automobile in the turning lane. The vehicle almost clipped the deputy's patrol car. The officer then pulled over the vehicle. 31 year old Edward Franklin Dixon of Dave England Road, Sparta was the driver. When asked by the officer why he was speeding and over taking vehicles in the turning lane, Dixon replied he was running late to pick up his child. Dixon was charged with reckless driving and his bond was set at $1,000. He will appear in court on November 19th.

Also on Friday, a deputy while on patrol, observed a vehicle on Highway 70 east driving erratically. The automobile crossed the center line and the fog line several times. After stopping the vehicle, the deputy noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from the inside the automobile. The driver, 33 year old Noelvi Deheza of West Green Hill Road McMinnville, submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. Deheza was arrested for driving under the influence and was issued citations for driving without a valid driver's license and violation of the implied consent law in which he refused to submit to a blood test. Bond for Deheza was set at $1,500 and he will appear in court November 19th on all of his charges.

A deputy on patrol Friday on Highway 70 West noticed 22 year old Phil Darnell Fullilove of Laverne Street Alexandria driving a motor vehicle. The officer had prior knowledge of Fullilove's driver's license being suspended. He stopped Fullilove and arrested him for driving on a suspended license. Fullilove's license was suspended for failure to pay child support and also for failing to pay three citations in Wilson County. Bond for Fullilove was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on November 18th.

50 year old Edward Lynn Taylor of Page Drive Smithville was stopped Saturday by a deputy on Highway 70 East for a light violation. Upon speaking with Taylor, the officer noticed a smell of alcohol coming from within the vehicle. Taylor submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. Taylor was very unsteady on his feet and admitted to the officer that he was drunk. Upon an inventory of Taylor's vehicle, the deputy found a cup, containing a mixed drink, in the cup holder of the vehicle. Taylor was arrested for a 4th offense of driving under the influence and he was issued a citation for having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. Bond for Taylor was set at $6,000 and he will appear in court on November 19th.

Also on Saturday, deputies received a call on Page Drive Smithville about a suspicious vehicle. After arriving, the officers spotted the automobile and found the driver, who was sitting behind the wheel, was passed out. The engine was still running. The officers attempted to wake the driver and found him to be incoherent and confused. He also had a smell of alcohol on his person and was unsteady on his feet. The driver, 40 year old Larry Harold Maddox of Maples Street, Lebanon was charged with a third offense of driving under the influence. He was also issued a citation for violation of the implied consent law. Bond for Maddox was set at $4,500 and he will appear in court on November 19th.

30 year old Scottie Wayne Knowles of Jacob's Pillar Road, Smithville was arrested Saturday for driving on a suspended license after he was stopped on Highway 70 East. Knowles' license was suspended for failure to satisfy a citation in Putnam County. Bond for Knowles was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on November 25th.

On Sunday, 26 year old Clifford Steven Bechtel of Bluff Springs Road Smithville was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. Deputies were called to an automobile accident on Highway 70 east early Sunday morning. The automobile that Bechtel was driving struck a utility pole causing damage to it. The pole had to be replaced. Bechtel then left the scene and later reported the accident to local authorities at around 10:00 a.m. Sunday. Bechtel was then arrested. He was also issued citations for not wearing a seat belt, having no insurance on his vehicle, and violation of the registration law. Bechtel's bond was set at $1,500 and he will appear in court on November 19th.

Chief Jennings says he has received an Ultimatum from City Officials..Retire or be Fired

November 9, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Richard Jennings
Mayor Taft Hendrixson
Aaron Meeks

Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings says he has been given an ultimatum by city officials to give notice of his retirement by noon today (Monday) or the city council will most likely schedule a special meeting to fire him. That meeting could come as early as this week.

In a prepared statement released to WJLE Sunday night, Chief Jennings gives his account of how the decision to oust him unfolded last week. "On November 2nd, 2009 while in Secretary Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson's office, I received a call from Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks. He told me he was going to place a motion before the Smithville mayor and board of aldermen at the council meeting that night, to fire me. He stated that he was going to make the motion to fire me if I didn't retire. This took me completely by surprise so I did not comment, at that time, to Mr. Meeks. Later that day I called Mr. Meeks, prior to the council meeting. I informed Mr. Meeks I wanted to discuss the possibility of retirement and what his terms entailed. He stated that he would meet with me the following morning, November 3rd, and that he would not bring it up at the meeting that night. But, he stated, if we could not reach an agreement on retirement, he would present the motion at the next board meeting."

"On November 3, 2009, I met with Mr. Meeks and Hunter Hendrixson at City Hall. Mr. Meeks said he had received a call from Mayor Hendrixson and he told him if I decided to retire I needed to write a letter of my retirement intent and turn it in to Hunter Hendrixson that day, November 3 before 5:00 p.m. Also, I needed to state in the letter I would retire November 30, 2009. I informed Mr. Meeks I had not planned to retire before a couple of years. I asked Mr. Meeks what kind of severance package was the city offering for my early retirement? Mr. Meeks asked me what did I want? I informed Mr. Meeks I would consider retiring December 31st, 2009,with a severance package of a full years' salary, insurance and a 3% contribution to my retirement plan, for one year from the date of my retirement. Mr. Meeks asked that I put this in writing along with my retirement letter. I gave the retirement letter with my requests to Hunter Hendrixson November 3 at 5:00 p.m."

"On November 5th, 2009, Mayor Hendrixson asked me to come to his office. Hunter Hendrixson was present. Mayor Hendrixson returned my letter and stated that the city would not give me any type of severance package to retire. He stated that if I chose to retire it must be by November 30th, 2009. Mayor Hendrixson stated he was not sure, and no one had told him, but he thought the majority of the board would vote to fire me. He also went on to say he would like to see me retire and walk out ‘ with my head held high and with the distinction of being the longest serving officer with the Smithville Police Department.' He stated that he needed my decision by 12:00 (Noon) Monday, November 9th. He further stated that he had already been asked to schedule a special meeting for the board of aldermen if my decision was not to retire."

In closing, Chief Jennings wrote, " I appreciate Mayor Hendrixson's advice about retiring but intimidation and threats have never swayed my decisions to do what's right and I do not intend to let that happen now."

"My answer to their ultimatum is...I will not retire."

Six different men have held the position of Police Chief in Smithville since 1994. Jennings, who has been a member of the department for many years, took over from Tom Hopkins as Chief in 1994, after Hopkins resigned. Jennings served until November, 2003 when the city council demoted him to the rank of Lieutenant. Jennings was succeeded by Jim Baker as Chief, but Baker was demoted back to the rank of patrolman in July 2004. Sergeant Sam Dunbar followed Baker as Chief, but Dunbar resigned in January 2006 under a cloud of controversy after being accused of falsifying documents. Augustine (Gus) Clemente was hired to replace Dunbar in March, 2006 but he resigned five months later, accusing city officials of interferring in police operations and making racial slurs against him. Thomas J Stufano was named Chief in November, 2006 and resigned in September, 2007. In October, 2007, the city council gave Jennings his old job back, promoting him from Lieutenant to Chief.

In August 2007, only two months before he became Chief again, Jennings was fired from the department for alleged violations of police department policies and procedures as well as possible violations of state and federal law. He was accused of removing weapons, inventory files, ammunition, and other items from the police department, some of which were allegedly found in his personal possession. The case against him was presented to the city's discipline hearing authority, which is made up of the mayor, police commissioner, and city secretary-treasurer and after hearing the evidence, the vote was 3 to 0 to terminate Jennings.
Later that month, by a vote of 3 to 2, the Board of Aldermen, following a lengthy hearing, overturned the termination of Jennings and returned him to work as Lieutenant. After the vote, Mayor Hendrixson considered casting a veto of the board's reinstatement of Jennings but he chose not to which was met with applause from members of the audience.

In recent months, members of the city council have complained that the police department, even with a larger staff than in previous years, has not done enough to combat the problem of drugs and burglaries in the city. The mayor and aldermen held a workshop with Chief Jennings only a few weeks ago to register their concerns. Jennings says he has been hampered in those investigative efforts by the city administration's decision to cut out overtime pay for officers who would have to undertake undercover drug operations mostly after hours.

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