Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13, 2009 Brett Kilgore: Off and Running for Sheriff in 2010

Brett Kilgore, who resigned a few months ago from the Hamblen County Civil Service Board, is off and running for Sheriff.

Even though the primary is over 15 months away, Kilgore has already printed, paid for, and handed out election brochures. (Click on the images to enlarge)

In 2006, Kilgore paid for an ad in which he endorsed former Sheriff Otto Purkey. Otto Purkey lost to current Sheriff Esco Jarnagin in 2006, and Kilgore was subsequently appointed to the Civil Service Board by Otto Purkey's brother, County Mayor David Purkey.

That appointment eventually led to a confrontation between Kilgore and current Sheriff Esco Jarnagin when Kilgore, along with fellow Civil Service Board Member Joel Seal, voted to order Sheriff Jarnagin to promote and put Lynn Wolfe, a relative of David and Otto Purkey, back on the road as a deputy.

Jarnagin refused, noting that Lynn is best-known for totaling a 1999 county cruiser in December of 2000 while returning from an out-of-town party. Newspaper reports at the time stated that Wolfe's blood alcohol content was more than twice the standard for drunk driving. Click here for background on the civil service board ruling and the appeal.
Wolfe was Otto Purkey's chief deputy at the time of the wreck and resigned after he was given a severance package by David Purkey.

The county sued Wolfe to recover the cost of the vehicle. An agreement was reached providing that Lynn Wolfe would make restitution to the county for $6,250 by performing community service. And who would Lynn Wolfe perform his community service for? His father Harold Wolfe, of course!

Harold Wolfe was head of the county's maintenance department. David Purkey saw the obvious conflict in son (Lynn Wolfe) working off restitution by working for father (Harold Wolfe). David sent a memo to Harold telling Harold that, if anyone gets nosy and asks, just tell that that Gary Templin is supervising Lynn.

In "working" for his father's maintenance department, Lynn turned in three timeless timesheets to his kinfolk David Purkey, and Purkey accepted and filed the timeless timesheets in Wolfe's personnel file. Lynn's supervisor Gary Templin had actually signed off on two of the timeless sheets, and Lynn turned in the third one without any supervisor's signature at all.

Lynn resigned in 2001, so how did he end up back at the Sheriff's Department again? After a few years went by, his kinfolk Otto Purkey, who was still Sheriff, hired Lynn back as a jailer.

Esco Jarnagin defeated Otto in 2006, and when Lynn tried to get promoted to road deputy, Esco
refused to sign a waiver that could have put Lynn back on the road again in a county vehicle. Lynn then filed a federal lawsuit against Jarnagin.

Details and documents regarding the Wolfe saga: the wreck, the civil service board, and the lawsuit are here.

Brett Kilgore is off and running, and we'll have more info in future posts.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 10, 2009 Claiborne County Fairgrounds: Site of Deer Shooting by Claiborne Sheriff David Ray

Sheriff David Ray of Claiborne County was recently cited for shooting a deer without a license on the Claiborne County fairgrounds (shown above).
Where was the deer? And where did Sheriff Ray allegedly park, get his gun, get out of the car, and take the shot? And what about his friend who also nailed a deer at the fairgrounds?

The original News-Sentinel story is here. A previous blog post is here.

The Claiborne County Fairgrounds is located on Straight Creek Road and is shown above in pictures taken from various angles. Click on each picture to enlarge.

A large part of the fairgrounds is fenced in, and currently the entrance gate off of Straight Creek Road is closed. The gate can be seen in the distance in one of the pictures along with houses that are nearby.

On one side of the road, you have an industry, the fairgrounds, and then housing.
On the other side of the road are the Claiborne County Justice Center and Powell Valley Electric.

The Sheriff first took the Fifth Amendment when questioned about the incident. Then he got a lawyer, admitted to shooting the deer, and said that he didn't have a hunting license because he usually hunted on his own land where a license isn't required.
OK---then that would mean that the Sheriff KNEW that a license IS required to hunt on land that you don't own and he KNEW from the very start that he had broken the law.

After shooting the deer, Sheriff Ray had a friend take the deer to be tagged. Why? Because he KNEW that he had broken the law and that he couldn't take the deer in. Solution: Ask someone who has a hunting license to lie and claim the deer as his own so Ray, the illegal hunter, could get away with breaking the law.

When all this was exposed, the Sheriff explained that he shot the deer as part of his service to the county because he was going to use the deer to "feed the inmates." Neat. The Sheriff took an illegal pot-shot on public property, had a friend to lie and help cover it up by having the friend take the deer to be tagged, and it was all part of his glorious service to Claiborne County!

[Sheriff Ray was assigned to community service at some undisclosed location in Hamblen County as part of a pre-trial diversion agreement that he signed in September 2008 after he was indicted on charges of statutory rape and rape by an authority figure.

Apparently, a decision has not been made as to whether this latest incident will result in revocation of the pre-trial diversion agreement signed in the prior case.]

Sunday, January 04, 2009

January 4, 2009 Open Government in Hamblen County: It's Time

The Florida Attorney General is encouraging government offices to put public information on government websites. Click here for info on the Taxing Tennessee website.

In Attorney General Bill McCollum's words: "As we head into 2009, I'm asking our leaders to recognize that with advances in technology, government in the sunshine can be as easy as uploading information to public websites. Merely responding to requests is no longer sufficient in light of the technological advances which make it infinitely easier, cheaper and more efficient to do so."

Hamblen County could use some of that sunshine, too!

Hamblen County established a website after a few of the newly-elected "2002" commissioners started pushing to set one up. Supposedly a website had been discussed previously but never got off the ground.

Commissioner Nancy Phillips and I really wanted to make a Hamblen County Government website a reality. Committee meetings were held. After taking bids from companies who set up websites, a Hamblen County Government website was established.

The website started with contact information for officials and departments. Gradually, bid information and the county employee handbook were posted, and the county clerk started posting minutes of county commission meetings several months ago.

But, like the Florida AG and many others have noted, there is a whole lot of public information that can and should be posted on a government website.

Even though I chose not to run for re-election to commission in 2006, I was and still am interested in opening up government information to the public. During the last budget deliberations in which I participated (06-07 budget), I asked Trustee Bill Brittain--who handles a lot of the techie stuff for the county--about putting the proposed 06-07 county budget online.

The response was that it would just be too difficult and time-consuming.

It's really not that hard. Large numbers of documents--much larger than the Hamblen County budget--can be fed into a scanner and posted on a website with relative ease. An employee could take care of this, or a high school student with an interest in government and technology could handle the project while gaining valuable experience.

All the commission needs is the political will to say "git 'r done."

About a year ago, I again asked the commission to put the budget online. No response. I talked to Chairman Stancil Ford who told me that the commission was "moving" toward that. Well, now's the time to "git 'r done."

Two years ago, I asked for agendas and minutes of committee meetings to be posted on the county website. Shortly afterward, the agenda and minutes of one meeting (January 2007) were posted. After that, agendas only were posted through June 2008. Then after June 2008, not even agendas were posted! See Finance Committee link here. [Hopefully, someone will go back and post the missing agendas and minutes, but as of 1/3/09, the Finance and other Committees show their January 2007 agenda and minutes and then agendas only are available through June 2008.]

After several years now, it's time to put the upcoming (09-10) county budget, agenda and minutes of all committee meetings, the videotapes of previous and current county commission meetings, and much more on the Hamblen County website!

Finance Committee, Public Service Committee, and other meetings are extremely important because that's where the discussion, if there is any, occurs. Unfortunately, commission insists on holding committee meetings at 11:30 am (on the 2nd Monday of each month) pretty much shutting out attendance by the working man or woman.

I along with several others have asked for committee meetings to be held at a time when the working taxpayer can attend. These requests have fallen on deaf ears. If the commissioners continue to insist on holding committee meetings and having important discussions about public business at times (11:30 am) when working citizens and taxpayers can't attend, then they should tape and televise those meetings on the government-ed channels, archiving the tapes and also making them available for viewing at any time on the Hamblen County website.

NOTE: Currently, the monthly commission meetings are taped and shown on the gov/ed channels on Tuesday and Saturday evenings at 9:00 pm. The new tapes and old archived tapes of the full commission meetings should also be posted and made available for viewing at any time on the Hamblen County website.

The Florida AG summed up his proposal with this statement: "Open government is not only good government; it is the right of the tax-paying public."

Let's git 'r done!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

January 3, 2009 Additional Gasoline Taxes "By the Mile"

Do you drive or have you thought about purchasing a car that gets good gas mileage for economic reasons? Do you drive or have you thought about purchasing a hybrid vehicle for gas mileage and environmental reasons?

How would you like to pay a "mileage" tax that would take away your gas and gas tax savings?

Oregon has placed GPS monitors on 300 vehicles in a pilot program to track the mileage and let the owner pay a "mileage" tax at the gas pumps. Congress is looking at "mileage" taxes, too, in addition to gas tax increases being discussed by the incoming administration as part of a $1 TRILLION DOLLAR stimulus package!

Why the mileage tax?

Click here for the full Memphis Commercial Appeal (AP) story.

Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles.

The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.

For years, the federal government demanded that automakers build cars that got more miles per gallon. The government wanted consumers to use fuel-efficient cars and even offered tax rebates to purchasers of gas/electric hybrids. Now that many consumers--for environmental or economic reasons or both--have opted for the better mileage vehicles, the state and federal governments are looking at a "mileage" tax to replace and/or supplement the current per gallon tax.

And for those concerned about privacy issues, the Oregon task force has "assured people that the program does not track detailed movement and that driving history is not stored and cannot be accessed by law enforcement agencies." Does anyone want to take a bet that the information is not stored and can not be accessed by law enforcement or possibly others?

Ben Franklin said: In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.

Hey Ben, here's another (almost) certainty. Death by taxation!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

January 1, 2009 Claiborne Sheriff David Ray Takes Fifth Amendment, then Admits to Shooting a Deer Without a License "For the Inmates"

In the continuing saga of Claiborne Sheriff David Ray, Ray now faces misdemeanor charges of hunting without a license after pulling off the road, getting out of his vehicle, and shooting a deer that was walking along an open area of the Claiborne County fairgrounds. News-Sentinel article is here.

[For a more complete background on David Ray, click on the links below. Ray was indicted for statutory rape and rape by an authority figure for an incident or incidents that allegedly occurred in Hancock County in November 2005 and November 2006.

He did not go to trial on those charges. Instead, he was granted pre-trial diversion in September 2008 by DA Berkeley Bell. As part of the diversion agreement, Ray was assigned to 250 hours of community service at some unknown location in lovely Hamblen County.

Click here for a prior post and links to other information. To see the terms of Ray's pre-trial diversion agreement and the community service in Hamblen County, click here. As part of the pre-trial agreement, Ray was "not [to] commit any offenses" during the 2-year probation period. Ray also agreed to "report all arrests, including traffic violations, regardless of disposition, to his Probation Counselor."]

According to the News-Sentinel story, Ray was driving by the Claiborne County fairgrounds when he spotted deer walking on the fairgrounds. Ray apparently pulled over, got out a gun, and shot one of the deer. One of his friends shot another deer. Neither Ray nor his friend had a hunting license.

The TWRA cited Ray for hunting without a license. Ray took the Fifth Amendment when he was initially questioned about the incident. Then he lawyered up and admitted to "poor judgment" in the shooting but claimed it was for the good of the county because it was to get food "for the inmates."

One of the commenters on the News-Sentinel website added that the good Sheriff should go down the road and pick up free roadkill for the inmates to add to the fresh venison that the sheriff is always on the lookout for! Others are noting that the "average" unlicensed hunter is charged with multiple offenses in similar incidents with lots of fines and often confiscations.

What will happen here? Well, this is how the DA described the shooting: "These deer were shot on an open area of the fairgrounds. The area was not posted as a no hunting area."

Yep, and I'm sure there are many other "open areas" at the fairgrounds and on school property and on other public and private property in Claiborne County. Is there no common sense here?

Do "no hunting" signs really need to be posted on fairground property, justice center property, and public parks so THE SHERIFF will know that you don't pull out your gun and start hunting in those places?

I hope the DA didn't really mean that it's not very serious ("just like a speeding ticket") or dangerous if someone sees a deer and pulls over and starts shooting at a deer walking on public property---and at a fairground no less.

I also hope that no young children were walking near the fairground or witnessed the shootings from a passing car.

Maybe Claiborne County needs to post a sign on its fairground and other public property: "Beware of Unlicensed Deer Hunters and the Claiborne County Sheriff Seeking Venison for Inmates."

This would at least warn everybody that those areas are fair game (pun intended) for unlicensed deer hunters and the good Sheriff.

January 1, 2009 Happy New Year!!

Auld Lang Syne to 2008.

Welcome to 2009!

Happy New Year to all!