Local News Articles

Congressman Diane Black Visits DeKalb County

February 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

As members of the U.S. House and Senate return to Washington this week, Congressman Diane Black is hopeful that a deal can be reached on federal spending levels by Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Congressman Black visited DeKalb County Friday to meet with constituents as well as local public officials and business and industry representatives.

In a brief interview with WJLE afterwards, Congressman Black talked about efforts in the U.S. House to get federal spending under control.

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The U.S. House has already taken action to cut $100 billion dollars from this year's budget, a measure which has been sent to the Senate. However, since senators have been on recess and haven't had a chance to consider it yet, Congressman Black said lawmakers will most likely adopt a continuing budget resolution in the meantime. "Last week we sent a bill over to the Senate that cut about $100 billion out of the current budget. It's our job to give them what we think is reasonable, what we think is good for this country and we hope that they (Senate) will be reasonable people and go along with us so that we can balance this budget."

"It may be that the Senate will not have time to fully take up our HR 1 which is the bill that we sent to them recently. They have been out on recess and they may not have time to fully take that up so what you may see is a short term continuing resolution, maybe for a two week period of time. But in that will also be cuts. That will give them more time to fully discuss the bill that we sent to them" said Congressman Black.

Congressman Black said members of the House do not want a government shutdown. Their only intent, she said is to get spending under control. "A government shut down is certainly not our intent. Our intent is to balance the budget and that's the reason why we work so hard. We had ninety hours of debate on this last week. Debates that went until four thirty in the morning because we were serious about getting to the Senate what we consider to be a reasonable continuing resolution. Our job was to give them something we thought was reasonable. It is certainly, absolutely not our intent to close down the government. We want to do what the people are asking us to do and that is to be responsible."

Congressman Black said controlling federal spending is what her constituents are most concerned about. "Probably the most important issue that everybody has on their minds is the amount of spending and the fact that we are out of balance. When you look at the $14.5 trillion dollars in debt that we currently have piled up, $1 billion dollars a day, it's hard for most people who are just everyday people like myself and you to even think about $1 billion dollars. Yet, we're continuing to spend that day after day. Whether people are democrats or republicans or independents, I'm hearing from folks saying, "hey, get this debt under control." Our grandchildren and our children don't need to pay for this down the road, we need to be responsible adults and do the thing we need to do right now to balance the budget."

During her visit to DeKalb County on Friday, Congressman Black met with local elected officials as well as business and industry representatives to give them a chance to share their concerns with her. "I am here to listen to the elected officials, the business men and women in town, and constituents. I'm taking it very seriously that when we have this week off and can be back in the district that I am here, hearing from people. That's important. As a representative, that's my job. So I'm visiting as many counties as I can every time I'm back in the district, which is one week a month and we'll continue to do this."

Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Smithville Trailer Home

February 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Smithville Firefighters Work to Save Trailer Home

A fire Saturday night caused extensive damage to the home of Greta Higgins at 905 West Main Street in Kings Trailer Court, located behind the old Westgate (Piggly Wiggly) Shopping Center.

Central dispatch received the call at 7:57 p.m.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker said that Ms Higgins was cooking when a grease spill sparked the blaze which spread throughout the kitchen and into the living room. City firefighters were able to contain the fire to those areas, although it did render significant damage. Heat and smoke spread throughout the rest of the trailer.

Ms. Higgins was able to escape unharmed.

Smithville Police Charge Local Man with Aggravated Rape of Two 14 Year old Girls

February 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Walter Richard "Richie" Hartman

A 47 year old man has been charged by Smithville Police with two counts of aggravated rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allegedly providing beer to two fourteen year old girls and engaging in sexual activity with them.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Walter Richard "Richie" Hartman of 201 West Bryant Street is under a $52,500 bond and he will be in General Sessions Court on March 3rd.

According to Detective Matt Holmes, who investigated the case, the incident occurred around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning at Hartman's home where a birthday party had been held Friday night for one of the girls, who is related to Hartman. The other girl is a friend who had come over for the party and had planned to stay the night.

Detective Holmes said that Hartman had given the girls three beers each for the birthday party and the girls told police that they had drank some of the beer. Later, as the girls were lying on a pallet in the floor watching TV, Hartman approached them complaining of back pain. He asked the girls to give him a back massage. After one of the girls fell asleep on the pallet, Hartman allegedly began massaging the other girl's back, before removing nearly all of her clothes, and then engaging in sexual activity with her. He also allegedly made sexual contact with the girl who had fallen asleep.

Detective Holmes said the girls later contacted police to report that they had been raped. "We got a call that two fourteen year old girls had been raped. K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow and Officer David Phillips initially responded and then called for me (Detective Holmes). I responded and met the victims at the hospital emergency room, where I interviewed them."

Meanwhile, in other city crime news, 18 year old Ariel Cierra Licciardi of Alexandria was issued a citation for theft on February 12th by Officer Matt Farmer after an employee of Rite Aid Pharmacy saw her allegedly take a bottle of perfume without paying for it. Her court date is March 3rd.

21 year old Leah Marie Grandstaff of Game Ridge Road was arrested for theft and public intoxication on February 16th. Sergeant Randy King was dispatched to Mapco Express to investigate a possible intoxicated female who was shoplifting. Upon arrival he spoke to the clerk who stated that Ms. Grandstaff had taken items from the display racks and then went to the restroom. Upon observing Ms. Grandstaff exit the restroom, Sergeant King noticed she was unsteady on her feet and could not focus on him. When she spoke, her speech was slow and slurred. When asked about items taken from the display racks, she produced item from her pants pocket. Bond for Grandstaff is $2,000 and her court date is March 10th.

52 year old James Marshall Weddington of South College Street was issued a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia on February 18th. While investigating a theft, Officer Brad Tatrow went to a residence on South College Street to confront the suspect about the allegations . After receiving consent to search the residence, Officer Tatrow found several items of drug paraphernalia while searching a dresser drawer. Weddington's court date is March 31st.

42 year old David Dixon of Hurricane Ridge Road was arrested by Corporal Travis Bryant on February 18th for theft over $1,000 and for violation of bond conditions. Dixon allegedly went to a residence on Crestlawn Avenue and took a car without the owners consent. Police say Dixon also has bond conditions due to an active case in which he was charged with domestic violence. The victim in that case is apparently the owner of the stolen vehicle and Police say Dixon knew that he was not supposed to be at that residence. Dixon was stopped by county deputies and found to be in possession of the stolen vehicle. Bond for Dixon is $15,000 and his court date is March 3rd.

25 year old Aliz Morales-Guendalay and 18 year old Holly Ann Lynn Cikalo both of North College Street were arrested by Corporal Travis Bryant and K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow for domestic assault on February 20th. Officers responded to a domestic assault call on North College Street and spoke to both persons involved. During the investigation, officers discovered that the argument between the two had turned physical. Since it could not be determined who was the primary aggressor, both were arrested. Bond for each is $2,500 and their court date is March 3rd.

28 year old Agustine Muniz of Talley Road was arrested by Officer David Phillips for driving under the influence on February 21st. Officer Phillips stopped Muniz' vehicle after he saw it crossing the center line several times. Muniz had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. Muniz submitted to field sobriety tasks and performed poorly on them. Bond for Muniz is $2,500 and his court date is April 7th.

Michael Dewayne Hamilton of South College Street was issued a citation by Officer Brad Tatrow for simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance and for possession of drug paraphernalia on February 22nd. On February 3rd, officers were called to a residence on South College Street to check out a complaint about drug activity. Permission was granted for the officers to search the residence. During the search, police discovered a small baggie of a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Hamilton's court date is March 31st.

34 year old Samuel M Murphy of Cookeville Highway was issued a citation by Captain Steven Leffew for shoplifting on February 23rd. Murphy was observed placing a bottle of Tylenol in his pants allegedly with the intent of depriving the store of payment. His court date is March 3rd.

50 year old Kenneth Clayton Odom of Lakeview Drive was cited by Corporal Travis Bryant for possession of drug paraphernalia. Corporal Bryant stopped a vehicle on a stolen property investigation and made contact with Odom who gave consent to search. Officer Bryant recovered a syringe under the floor mat. Odom's court date is March 17th.

Meanwhile, anyone with information on any offense is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

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

The Loop: A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

February 26, 2011
Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a weekly legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

Legislative Leadership unveiled the upcoming schedule for budget hearings that will help determine the Budget priorities for the State of Tennessee.

The schedule includes speakers who will provide expert testimony about the needs of Tennesseans and where savings can be found for taxpayer dollars. A number of high-profile commissioners and executive directors will discuss the issues their respective offices are facing. The Budget Hearings begin on Tuesday, March 15th.

In addition, the Legislature will soon receive the Governor's budget proposal that will highlight ways to grow Tennessee's economy and create an environment for positive job growth. Last week, the Governor delivered his legislative package that contains a number of much-needed reforms. They form a dynamic agenda to make Tennessee a leader in attracting new businesses, job creation, and common sense educational reforms that reward teaching excellence and promote student achievement.

On Tuesday, the Governor welcomed another major company to Tennessee that will provide valuable employment opportunities for citizens of Tennessee. U.S. Nitrogen, LLC selected Greene County to be the location for its brand new liquid ammonium nitrate plant. The company was recruited to the area by the Governor as well as many other local leaders.

The company will bring nearly $110 million to the local economy as well as 80 jobs for talented Tennesseans.

This move is yet another sign that Tennessee's leadership is committed to improving the workforce opportunities for citizens by recruiting and retaining some of the top companies in the United States to the Volunteer State.

Representative Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) on February 22nd announced the new members of his House Whip Team. The group, comprised of six Republican legislators, will help Rep. Rich meet the goals of Speaker Beth Harwell's (R-Nashville) legislative agenda for the House of Representatives.

Joining the team as Chief Deputy Whip is Representative Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City). Upon learning of his appointment, Rep. Matlock said, "I am grateful for this post. I look forward to helping our Majority govern and pass an agenda dedicated to creating an environment for job growth, reforming the state government, and bringing excellence to the field of education."

Other Members selected for the Whip Team are Representative Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), as well as first-term Members Representative Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden), and Representative Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna).

"It is an honor to be selected to join the Whip Team and help guide our Majority's priorities through the Legislature," commented Rep. Weaver. "I look forward to working with Rep. Rich to make sure we pass legislation that reflects the values of Tennesseans."

Rep. Rich remarked of the team, "This is a strong group of leaders in our Caucus dedicated to ensuring legislation that is vital to the interests of Tennesseans passes the House of Representatives. They exemplify a strong work ethic and a commitment to the conservative philosophy that guides our State."

Turner Pleads Guilty to Attempted Rape

February 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
Robert M. Turner
James Mitch Johnson
Edward Lee Judkins, Jr.
Carlos Godsey
Gwynn Prater
James A. Marsh
Brittney D. Barnes

A 53 year old man, accused of trying to have sex with a woman who was unconscious on drugs more than a year ago, entered a best interest guilty plea to a charge of attempted rape Friday, February 25th in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge Leon Burns, Jr. gave Robert M. Turner a three year sentence, all suspended except one year to serve. He was given jail credit for the one year he has already served and will be released on supervised probation. His name will be on the state sex offender registry and he is under a restraining order to stay away from the victim. The offense occurred on February 2nd, 2010.

Meanwhile, in other cases Friday, 36 year old James Mitch Johnson pleaded guilty to forgery and received a two year sentence, suspended to probation. He must make restitution of $5,500 to the victim and contribute $150 to the economic crime fund. Johnson allegedly had fifteen checks belonging to a Watertown man and he forged one of them and passed it at an Alexandria bank for $5,500 on August 21st.

26 year old Edward Judkins, Jr. pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence to serve. He was given jail credit of 211 days.

Judkins was arrested on Tuesday, July 27th after a witness spotted him at the scene of a burglary in progress in the Jefferson Community. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray the witness apparently noticed a strange vehicle at the residence on Jefferson Road, stopped to investigate, and saw Judkins running away. Officers were notified and quickly arrived on the scene and found that someone had broken the door glass and made entry into the home. A weedeater, chainsaw, some horse drawn equipment (double tree), and an axe were taken from the home and loaded onto Judkins' vehicle. Judkins was later arrested and charged in the case.

31 year old Carlos Godsey pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He was given credit for one and a half month of time served. Godsey must also make restitution of $2,000 to the victim. The sentence is to run consecutively with his probation in another case.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, August 11th, Godsey went to a location on the Alexandria to Dismal Road, Alexandria and stole a 20 horsepower boat motor, an air compressor, a truck and car transmission, and a 1976 International scout body, valued at $1,500.

32 year old Darnell Gurley pleaded guilty to obtaining prescription by fraud and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He has requested judicial diversion and a hearing is set for April 11th. Gurley was given jail credit of 180 days and he was fined $2,000.

Gurley was accused of altering a prescription in order to obtain more pain medication. He was arrested by Smithville Police Officer Matt Holmes on Wednesday, June 16th.

Gurley, who had a written prescription for pain, took it to Wal-Mart Pharmacy where it was determined that the prescription had been altered. Gurley admitted to adding to the amounts of pills above what the prescription called for because he needed more medication for his pain and did not have the money to see another doctor.

60 year old Gwynn Prater pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and received a suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days. He will be on supervised probation and he must make restitution of $486 to the victim. Prater must also contribute $75 to the economic crime fund.

Sheriff Ray said Prater was arrested on Tuesday, June 29th after detectives received a report that three purses were stolen from an unattended vehicle parked at Holiday Haven Boat Ramp on Wednesday, June 23rd. Detectives later identified Prater as a suspect and questioned him. During the questioning, Prater allegedly admitted to committing the crime.

21 year old James A. Marsh, charged with misdemeanor theft and introduction of contraband into a penal institution, was granted judicial diversion for a period of three years. He must meet all conditions of his probation and make an effort to complete his GED.

Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, May 7th, 2009 deputies responded to a report of a break in at a business on Highway 146. Through an investigation, officers learned that Marsh had broken into the business and stolen a cash register and cigarettes. Marsh was arrested later in the day. On November 1st, 2009, Marsh allegedly tried to smuggle contraband into the jail.

25 year old Tracy Thomason pleaded guilty to auto burglary and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation except for 30 days to serve. She was given one week of jail credit. Thomason must also pay $75 to the economic crime fund

On Thursday, July 22nd, Smithville Police Captain Steven Leffew took a report from David Elliott who stated that he had parked his truck in Food Lion's parking lot. When he returned to his truck he found a female inside. Elliot asked her what she was doing. The woman then got out of his truck, got into a blue car, and left. Elliott took down the plate number of the car. He also noticed that his Ipod and other items were missing. While conducting a follow up investigation, Detective Matt Holmes spoke with Ms. Thomason and she admitted to taking the items from Elliott's truck and selling them.

22 year old Brittney D. Barnes pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. She received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on the drug charge, all suspended to supervised probation. She also received a sentence of five months and 29 days on the resisting charge, all suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run concurrently with each other.

Sheriff Ray said that a deputy spotted Barnes in a vehicle at the intersection of Allen Ferry Road and Cookeville Highway on April 9th and had knowledge of an active warrant against her to serve a jail sentence for violation of probation. As the officer walked to the door of the vehicle he saw Barnes shoving something down her pants. Barnes said it was cigarettes. When the officer tried to remove her from the vehicle Barnes became combative. Before placing her in the back of the patrol car, the deputy conducted a search to make sure that there was nothing there. After arriving at the jail, the officer checked the back seat again after Barnes was removed and found cigarettes and a pill believed to be Xanax. Barnes also had two hypodermic needles in her purse.

46 year old Aubrey Kilgore entered a best interest plea to a first offense of driving under the influence. The offense occured on June 19th. Kilgore received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended except for 48 hours to serve and then be on supervised probation. Kilgore must pay a fine of $365 and he will lose his license for one year. He must also complete the alcohol safety education program.

53 year old Billy R. Huddleston pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence. The offense occurred on March 4th. Huddleston received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended except 48 hours to serve and then be on supervised probation. Huddleston must pay a fine of $365 and he will lose his license for one year. Huddleston must also complete the alcohol safety education program as well as an alcohol and drug assessment and follow any recommended treatment.

Lightning Suspected Cause of Fire on Jefferson Road

February 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
Photo by Kim Cox of DeKalb EMS

Lightning from a passing storm early Friday morning is believed to have triggered a fire that destroyed an old house used for storage, belonging to Wayne Bates, at 1437 Jefferson Road. The blaze also came dangerously close to catching on fire a trailer home some thirty feet away, where Bates and his wife were sleeping.

Central dispatch received the call 1:02 a.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said a neighbor across the road spotted the fire and alerted Mr. and Mrs. Bates, who had been sleeping. The Bates' escaped unharmed, but the fire had already started melting the vinyl siding of the trailer. The heat became so intense that it even melted window blinds in the trailer.

According to Chief Green, the fire had engulfed the old storage house by the time firefighters arrived, and high winds from the storm were blowing the flames toward the Bates' trailer.

Although the storage house, which contained a few tools and some canned food products, was lost in the blaze, the trailer home was saved with only minimal exterior damage.

Members the Keltonburg, Short Mountain Highway, Belk, and Blue Springs Stations responded along with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS.

Local Governments Stand to Foot the Bill for Expensive Meth Lab Cleanups

February 24, 2011
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

Federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials say they've run out of money to pay for the cleanup of hazardous meth labs. Now they say local law enforcement agencies must pick up the tab.

Sheriff Patrick Ray is one of many Tennessee sheriffs who were notified by the TBI and DEA Tuesday that local law enforcement agencies must now pay for expensive meth lab cleanups. "Tuesday, I was contacted by the TBI about our meth labs here in the county, that if we get them, we would be responsible for the cleanup of them" said Sheriff Ray.

"I also got a letter on Tuesday from the Meth Task Force explaining that the DEA Cops Grants, federal grants given to us for the cleanup of the meth labs, were gone. They (grants) were gone as of Monday" he said.

" White County got a meth lab and called for their cops grant number, but there was no number to give them. The DEA said they were not giving any more cops grants numbers out because there was no money. So they (White County) are now financially responsible for the cleanup of that meth lab. Also the contractor that we use here, that the federal government has contracted with, was seven meth labs behind in seven different counties, which meant White County was having to put officers there to stay with the meth lab they found until someone got there which ran into several hours of overtime" said Sheriff Ray.

DEA leaders released a statement saying, "cleanup funding will be exhausted this week. Decisions about additional funding rests with the United States Congress."

Meth labs leave behind hazardous chemicals and toxins that can linger. Workers in hazmat suits have to clean up contaminated areas and remove the materials. Federal law forbids these areas from being left untreated when found.

Sheriff Ray told WJLE Wednesday that while the cost of cleaning up these meth labs can run into the thousands of dollars, his department will not be deterred in tracking them down. However, he said efforts will be made to find ways to dispose of them as inexpensively as possible." A couple of weeks ago we got three meth labs and another one this last week. They range anywhere from $7,000 and up on the cleanups depending upon how big the lab is and what kinds of chemicals are there. They can be very expensive."

"We have people who are certified by the task force to go in and dismantle the lab. We call the DEA to get that cops grant number. The DEA then calls the cleanup crew and they come and cleanup that lab, package all of the hazardous waste, all the liquids and containers, and then they ship that to a hazardous chemical landfill somewhere. It might even be in a different state. Without that cops grant, we have been given a three page sheet with names of hygienists and cleanup companies which we'll have to contact to come to our site, wherever the meth lab may be. We now have to place the call, they'll come, and when they're done then they will send the county or city the bill on it" said Sheriff Ray.

"My understanding is that the City of Smithville will be responsible for any that they have. The Alexandria Police Department will be responsible for the payment of any meth labs they have. Of course with the county, we'll be responsible for any we have. As far as the state troopers, the state will be responsible for any they have. So it can run into money. We don't want the public to think that we're just going to stop working on meth labs, but we have to figure out a way to dispose of them and the cheapest way to do that", he said.

"I've called County Mayor Mike Foster, the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Charlie Parker, Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger, and Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins and we'll have a meeting to come up with a plan for this. It's not the first time this has happened. Back in the late 1990's, we experienced this where the federal government ran out of money. We had a plan in place at that time for the procedures we would go through with when we got a meth lab. Maybe this time we could contact some of our surrounding counties and see if we all could contract with one cleanup company to maybe knock some of the costs down. If not, we can't wait until we get a $15,000 meth lab and then try to do something with it. We're going to try and be pro-active at the beginning and get it taken care of before we actually run into that situation" said Sheriff Ray.

Sheriff Ray added that he hopes this is only temporary and that the federal government will restore funding for this expensive procedure because it is a national issue. "I think it is a temporary thing. I think that the federal government will finally allocate the money for the meth lab cleanups because it's just not a problem for DeKalb County, Middle Tennessee, or Tennessee, it's nationwide. Tennessee, last year, got I think something like 700 meth labs so you can see that it's a problem across the state and across the nation. I think they will allocate us the money. Tuesday night, I e-mailed Congressman Diane Black and asked her to help us. We're a small county. We don't want to get into where we maybe stumble up on five meth labs and have to pay at least $35,000 to clean them up. We want to be prepared."

Dowelltown Woman Airlifted After Wednesday Night Crash

February 23, 2011
Dwayne Page
Three Occupants of 2006 Chrysler PT Crusier Injured In Crash

A Dowelltown woman, 55 year old Linda K. Fite, was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital after a two vehicle crash Wednesday night on West Broad Street near Cantrell's Furniture and Appliances.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:56 p.m.

According to Sergeant Mark Dial of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Fite was driving a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, pulling out of the parking lot of the BP Station convenience market, when she crossed into the path of an eastbound 2004 Ford pickup truck, driven by 25 year old Nathaniel Wayne Pedigo of Smithville. Fite was crossing the eastbound lanes in order to turn left to head west. Fite was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. She was later airlifted by Life Flight to Vanderbilt.

Two passengers of her vehicle, 27 year old Johnny Devault and 13 year old Daniel Trigueros, both of Dowelltown were taken by private vehicle to the hospital where they were reportedly treated and released.

Pedigo was apparently uninjured.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were called to the scene after Fite's car reportedly caught fire. However all occupants had already apparently been helped from the car before the fire started.

Smithville Police were also on the scene helping to divert traffic during the crash investigation and cleanup.

Jo Ann Floyd Returns Home Safely

February 23, 2011
Dwayne Page

The elderly Alexandria woman, who went missing Tuesday night, has returned home safe and sound.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins told WJLE that while on patrol at 2:11 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, he met 75 year old Jo Ann Floyd driving alone back into town on West Main in Alexandria. "I met her coming toward town as I was heading out of town. I turned around and pulled her over to see if she was okay."

Chief Collins said Ms. Floyd, who had gone to see her daughter-in-law at Hermitage, Tennessee Tuesday afternoon, spent the night and all morning driving around, after she became disoriented. "She got turned around when she left Nashville, got scared, and drove all night and all day. She wound up in Knoxville but found her way back to Alexandria."

After she failed to return home Tuesday night, her family became concerned and contacted local authorities.

After making sure she was alright, Chief Collins said he followed Ms. Floyd back to her Church Street, Alexandria home where her sister, Betty Martin was there to greet her.

Two Former City Employees File Suit for Damages And to Get Their Jobs Back

February 23, 2011
Dwayne Page
Kenny Waymon Dyal, Sr.
Christopher Derrick Ferrell

Two former Smithville city employees, who had been charged with theft of property for allegedly taking scrap brass from the water treatment plant and selling it to a recycling center, have now filed a lawsuit in DeKalb County Circuit Court against the City of Smithville. The suit was filed last Thursday, February 17th.

45 year old Kenny Waymon Dyal, Sr. and 42 year old Christopher Derrick Ferrell are asking for a jury trial. They want their old jobs back, compensatory damages for wages and benefits lost during the period of their unemployment, punitive damages for intentional, malicious, and reckless conduct of the city, for attorney fees and costs, and any other relief to which they may be properly and justly entitled. In the event they cannot be given back their jobs, Dyal and Ferrell are seeking lost differential wages and benefits to the date of their expected retirement.

Dyal was the supervisor of the Smithville Water Treatment Plant and Ferrell was a city maintenance employee and water meter reader.

Last month, Dyal and Ferrell appeared in DeKalb County General Sessions Court where, under a settlement, they agreed to make restitution in the amount of $1,348 jointly and severally. Once each defendant pays his half of the restitution, $674 the case against him will be dismissed and his record expunged

Dyal and Ferrell allege that they were discharged by the city to keep them from talking to state auditors about alleged misconduct of city Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson and Public Works Director Kevin Robinson and that they were denied due process by not being afforded an opportunity to state their case in front of a board consisting of the mayor, department commissioner, and the secretary-treasurer.

WJLE contacted both Hunter Hendrixson and Kevin RobinsonTuesday afternoon for a comment on the lawsuit. Both are eager to respond but have not yet given a statement.

The lawsuit alleges that "shortly after Ferrell was hired, Robinson conducted Ferrell's training by taking him around and showing him where each of the water meters were located and how to read them. During this training, the pair visited the Smithville Municipal Golf and Swim Club to read the meters located on the premises. At this time, Ferrell was instructed by Robinson to not read the meter anymore because he (Kevin) had "taken care if it".

"Despite being instructed not to continue to take the meter readings, Ferrell continued to read the meters and reported those readings to Dyal, because he (Dyal) had to prepare reports of lost water usage to be submitted to the aldermen," according to the lawsuit.

"In the spring of 2010, during a meeting of the aldermen of the City of Smithville, Dyal was asked by Alderman Steve White to conduct an investigation into the lost water usage because the amount of water not being billed was regarded as high. Hunter Hendrixson was present at this meeting."

"In or around July, 2010, the Aldermen of the City of Smithville requested a state audit from the State of Tennessee's Comptroller of the Treasury to address the allegations related to the city's golf course and swimming pool operations."

The lawsuit alleges that "Hunter Hendrixson had knowledge of this impending audit and knew of the investigation that Dyal was conducting."

"In or around the summer of 2010, the City of Smithville entered into a contract with W&O Construction to replace water pipes at the water treatment plant. The contract between the City of Smithville and W&O Construction indicates it is the responsibility of W&O Construction to remove all of the scrap metal from the construction."

"When W&O Construction first began the construction process, another employee along with his son removed scrap pipe from the construction site and sold it to a scrap metal shop. To date, no charges have been filed against this employee nor have any disciplinary actions been taken by the City of Smithville."

"Having witnessed this, Dyal asked Hendrixson for permission to take other scrap metal off to be sold. Hendrixson gave his permission," according to the lawsuit.

"Dyal also spoke with Rick at W&O Construction to see if he could have his permission to remove the scrap metal. Rick told Dyal that the scrap "didn't mean anything to W&O and that he could take it."

"On October 21st, November 3rd, and November 4th, Dyal and Ferrell removed the scrap metal and sold it to a scrap metal business."

"On November 4th, even though both the City of Smithville and a representative from W&O Construction gave permission for Dyal and Ferrell to remove scrap metal, a complaint was filed with the Smithville Police Department and Dyal and Ferrell were arrested for theft of property."

"Without conducting proper dismissal proceedings as outlined in the City of Smithville Municipal Code, Dyal and Ferrell's employment was terminated on November 4th. This occurred just six days prior to the audit."

"Dyal and Ferrell allege that Hendrixson and Robinson, as officials of the City of Smithville, used their position with the city to intentionally defraud the city of money owed to it for water usage thereby committing theft of services as defined in (state law) in order to inflate the profits of Smithville Golf Management, LLC for which they would benefit as members."

"Dyal and Ferrell claim they had knowledge of this illegal activity and were prepared to disclose this activity to the auditor."

"They further allege that their arrests and subsequent dismissal was calculated in an effort to prevent them from talking with the state auditor and disclosing the results of the meter readings and investigation conducted by them" (Dyal and Ferrell).

Dyal and Ferrell allege that "It is the policy and law of the state of Tennessee that an employee must be able to disclose a violation of state law and or to refuse to violate state law without fear of reprisal or penalty from an employer."

They further claim that their exercise of this right protected by public policy was a substantial factor motivating the city's decision to discharge them.

Dyal and Ferrell assert that they were "terminated for theft of municipal property as a pretext, and that it is false and designed to cover up an illegal motive."

Under the Tennessee Public Protection Act, an employer is prohibited from discharging an employee solely for refusing to participate in, or for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities. According to Dyal and Ferrell, the City of Smithville violated state law as their refusal to participate in or remain silent about the illegal activities was the exclusive and only cause of the city's decision to terminate their employment.

Further, Dyal and Ferrell allege that the "City of Smithville violated the City of Smithville Municipal Code by terminating their employment without a suspension period, by not providing a hearing within three working days of the suspension, and by not affording them an opportunity to state their case in front of a board consisting of the mayor, department commissioner, and the secretary-treasurer."

The lawsuit claims that "The City of Smithville's conduct toward Dyal and Ferrell was committed in an intentional or reckless manner thereby causing them to suffer severe emotional distress."

Dyal and Ferrell are being represented in this case by attorney John W. Rodgers of Murfreesboro.

When contacted by WJLE for a response on behalf of the city Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Taft Hendrixson said he could not comment because of the pending litigation. A response has not yet been filed by attorneys for the city.


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