Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30, 2013 More LeBel Testimony in Hurley Hearing: Unrevealed Conflicts and Hillbilly's Cabin

A little more video of the testimony of Real Estate Agent/Councilman Paul LeBel at the Administrative Hearing concerning fines and penalties levied by the City against developer Eddie Hurley. The City Council which was the "jury" in the hearing eventually voted 6-1 to waive all fines and penalties and move on. Video is here.
In a previous post, there is also a video of LeBel refusing to answer questions about his actions and possible conflicts of interest involving commercial property such as the old Berkline site where he was the real estate broker/agent and the competing commercial developments of Mr. Hurley. That video is here.
During later testimony, Attorney Link Gibbons asked LeBel about his abstention from voting on the Bojangles rezoning. LeBel stated there was a conflict in that situation and that he abstained because he was involved in the sale of the Bojangles property to Don Bunch at auction.
Gibbons then asked if there were "other" conflicts in that transaction which LeBel did not announce. LeBel's interesting response is in this video: 

And if you want up-to-date medical news, sit with LeBel and his special friend Doe Jarvis at lunch at Hillbilly's Cabin.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29, 2013 Industrial Development and Automotive Manufacturers and Suppliers Discussed at MUC Meeting

At its January 23 meeting, the Morristown Utilities Commission heard a presentation from Alan Bridwell of the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association.

Most of the discussion centered around automotive manufacturers and suppliers.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013 Wayne NeSmith Appointed To County Commission Seat Vacated by State Rep. Tilman Goins

The Hamblen County Commission appointed Wayne NeSmith to the District 4 Commission seat earlier this afternoon.

The vote was 10 votes for NeSmith and 2 votes for Darrell Williams, a member of the Downtown Merchants Association. Williams previously ran for an at-large City Council seat in 2011. [Paul LeBel won that council seat by about 24 votes over Charles Cook with Williams and Luke Pack coming in a distant third and fourth respectfully.]

NeSmith replaces Tilman Goins who was elected to the county commission in 2010 and resigned in December 2012 after his November 6 election to the State House of Representatives. Goins defeated former State Rep. Don Miller in a stunning victory in the 2012 Republican primary. Goins was officially elected State Representative in the November General Election without Democrat opposition. Click here.

NeSmith has lived in Morristown/Hamblen County almost all his life and was a strong Goins supporter in the State House of Representatives race. NeSmith will fill out the remainder of Goins' term which expires in August 2014.  All commission seats will be up for election in 2014.

Voting for NeSmith were Larry Baker, Larry Carter, Tim Dennison, Rick Eldredge, Stancil Ford, Tim Goins, Herbert Harville, Nancy Phillips, Howard Shipley, and Dana Wampler.

Voting for Williams were Doe Jarvis and Doyle Fullington.

Not present was Paul LeBel.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013 Tony Cox Testifies That Councilman/Real Estate Agent Paul LeBel Met with Tony "Many" Times To Discuss Problems and City Actiona against Developer Eddie Hurley

The administrative hearing before City Council in late Decenber concluded on January 10th with the City Council voting 6-1 to waive all fines and penalties against Eddie Hurley.

The deliberations were covered in a previous post with videos of council's discussion. Here.

Paul LeBel's name came up repeatedly during the hearing with accusations that he was using his position as a councilmember to hurt a competing developer Eddie Hurley while at the same time he was appearing in meetings with City staff assisting his developer/clients.

LeBel sent and received several emails to and from City Administrator Tony Cox prior to the City's initial imposition of stiff fines and penalties on Eddie Hurley and his Panther Creek/West A.J. development.

Two very short videos of Tony Cox and LeBel testifying in the Administrative Hearing are posted today along with one interesting email exchange between City Administrator Tony Cox to Councilman/real estate agent Paul LeBel . You can click on the email to enlarge and read it. Click on the play button to see the videos.

First video, Tony Cox on "many" meetings in "many" locations with LeBel comparing "notes" in regard to the Hurley development.
Second video. Paul LeBel is called to testify and refuses to answer questions about his real estate interests that might reveal conflicts of interest where one of his clients may have been attempting to locate a Weigel's on property where LeBel was the broker while a competing developer (Eddie Hurley) was seeking to locate a Weigel's at a competing location (Panther Creek Road) where LeBel was not the real estate broker...


Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013 No New Trials for Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins in the Christian-Newsom Murders

Convicted murderers Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins wanted new trials following their convictions in the brutal murders of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom in 2007.  Judge Walter Kurtz said "no." Witnesses and DNA evidence linked Davidson and Cobbins to the crimes. Kurtz affirmed the Davidson and Cobbins convictions acting as Tennessee's "thirteenth juror."

George Thomas, another defendant in the horrific crimes against Channon Christian and Chris Newsom, also sought a new trial. Judge Walter Kurtz said "yes." While there was witness testimony linking Thomas to the crimes, there was no DNA evidence.

Witness credibility was the overriding issue in Thomas' case.  Kurtz, who did not preside over the original trials, did not see the witnesses and thus could not rule on witness credibility and ruled that he could not act as Tennessee's "thirteenth juror" and affirm Thomas' conviction.

The NS article is here.

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner presided over the original trials.  Baumgartner was found to have been popping pills during the trials and using a graduate of the Drug Court that Baumgartner himself founded to supply him with pills.

The Baumgartner saga that precipitated the post-conviction chaos is here with links to blog entries and newspaper articles.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013 New Liquor Referendum in Pigeon Forge on March 14, 2013

Pigeon Forge and Liquor-by-the-Drink.

Two Liquor-by-the-Drink Referenda failed (2009 and 2011).

Normally, Pigeon Forge would have had to wait two years--May 2013--to hold another referendum. However, various lawmakers at the state level maneuvered legislation through so that a new referendum could be held in November 2012.

The November 6, 2012, LBTD Referendum took place. LBTD passed by 100 votes, but an election contest was filed in Sevier Chancery Court by Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge claiming that around 300 votes had been cast in the referendum by ineligible voters who did not reside and did not own property in Pigeon Forge.

On the eve of the election contest trial, the Defendant Sevier County Election Commission asked their attorney to stipulate or agree that the results of the election were "incurably uncertain."

The November referendum was then voided on January 10 by Chancellor Telford Forgety and a new referendum ordered to be held.
The new referendum is set for March 14, 2013.

The NS has the article here.

That this referendum will be closely watched is probably an understatement.

And left unresolved from the last referendum is the issue of "1% voters."

Just prior to the last referendum, several deeds conveying 1% of valuable commercial tracts to non-Pigeon Forge residents were executed.

As owners of property in Pigeon Forge, these "1 percenters" had the right to vote in the Pigeon Forge LBTD referendum. Interestingly, some of the "1% owners/voters" deeded their property back to the original owner right after the November referendum.  A follow-up discussion of this aspect of the voided referendum is here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013 Massengill Springs Rezoning Approved on First Reading; Buffalo Trail Rezoning Rejected on Second Reading


The rezoning of the "Massengill Springs" acreage behind Bojangles on the West A.J. Highway was approved on first reading at the Morristown City Council meeting yesterday despite continued opposition from several residents of the area.  A new Food City will be the major focus of the development by BB&J.

Second reading with a public hearing will take place in February.

The vote was 4-2 in favor of the rezoning. Councilmembers Dennis Alvis, Chris Bivens, Gene Brooks, and Mayor Danny Thomas voted "yes" while Councilmembers Kay Senter and Bob Garrett voted "no." Paul LeBel was absent but had abstained from voting on Massengill Springs in September due to a conflict of interest.

The rezoning of a similar tract was rejected by council in September when the tract to be rezoned touched property of residents on Collins Street who objected and presented a petition to council that then required a 4/5 vote for approval (6 of 7 council votes).

In December, 13+ acres were sold by Luke Massengill to Dwight Frazier who then sold it to Don Bunch. Bunch then apparently combined the 13 acres with property he already owned and sold the new tract of 26+ acres to BB&J.  Since, the new tract for the proposed development no longer touches the residents of Collins Street, the residents were not able to present a petition to force a 4/5 vote for approval.

Several residents spoke out against the rezoning yesterday. As the rezoning came back to Planning Commission and to council, legal action has been threatened concerning the December deeds, plats, and other issues.

Click here for a previous post with videos of the September meeting and vote.


The rezoning of the property of Jimmy Sisson at 1848 Buffalo Trail was rejected on second reading yesterday. The measure to rezone the property to Intermediate Business had passed on first reading at council's December 18th meeting. The property also adjoins Medlin Street. Prior to yesterday's vote, residents along Medlin Street presented a petition to council with the required number of signatures to force a 4/5 vote for approval.

The Buffalo Trail/Medlin Street rezoning failed by a 4-2 vote. Mayor Danny Thomas and Councilmembers Gene Brooks, Chris Bivens, and Kay Senter  voted "no." Councilmembers Bob Garrett and Dennis Alvis voted "yes." Paul LeBel was absent.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013 Council's Deliberations in Hurley Hearing

After 3-1/2 days of testimony and introduction of numerous emails in connection with the development of the Eddie Hurley property at the intersection of Panther Creek Road and West A.J. Hwy, council voted 6-1 to waive all fines levied against Mr. Hurley by the City.

Mayor Thomas, Gene Brooks, Dennis Alvis, Chris Bivens, Paul LeBel, and Kay Senter voted to waive the fines. Bob Garrett voted "no."

During the hearings, Hurley's attorney Link Gibbons introduced several emails between City Administrator Tony Cox and Councilman Paul LeBel regarding the Hurley property. Hurley's attorney alleged that LeBel, a broker with strong ties to other developers, had a conflict of interest because LeBel was pushing for action against developer Hurley while LeBel was not pushing for action on City violations against the Berkline property where LeBel was the broker.

Because of LeBel's emails and "many" meetings with City Administrator Tony Cox regarding the Hurley property, LeBel was asked several times to recuse himself from the deliberations. He repeatedly refused. Videos of LeBel's testimony will follow, but for now here are videos of the January 10th deliberations and vote.

Brooks and LeBel:

Alvis and Bivens:

LeBel and Senter and Thomas:

Mayor Thomas:

Mayor Thomas and the Vote:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13, 2013 Chancellor Orders New LBTD Referendum

A new liquor-by-the-drink (LBTD) referendum will be held in Pigeon Forge.

On the first day of the election contest/trial in Sevier Chancery Court, a few preliminary motions were disposed of and then Chancellor Telford Forgety ordered a new referendum. Click here and here.

LBTD passed by a 100-vote margin in a November 6 referendum in Pigeon Forge. Shortly afterwards, however, it was alleged that the number of votes cast in the election exceeded the number of eligible voters by about 300 votes.

Concerned Citizens and Churches of Pigeon Forge filed suit against the Sevier County Election Commission to contest the referendum. CCCPF claimed that the approximately 300 "extra" votes cast in the referendum were "illegal" votes and made the results of the election "incurably uncertain."

Initially, the Election Commission referred to the 300 "extra" votes as "improper." Depositions were taken. Then on January 9th, the day before the trial, the Sevier County Election Commission held a meeting and unanimously instructed its lawyer to tell the Court that the Election Commission agrees that the results of the LBTD referendum are "incurably uncertain" which is the legal standard for overturning an election. Click here and here.

With the Defendant Election Commission admitting/stipulating to the Court on the day of trial that the results of the referendum were "incurably uncertain" as alleged by Plaintiff CCCPF, the Chancellor's ruling--barring some unanticipated or unforeseen development--was not in doubt.

The parties and the voters in Pigeon Forge will now gear up for another LBTD referendum.

Previous posts and links are here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

January 9, 2013 Tilman Goins Sworn In As State Representative

Tilman Goins was sworn in as State Representative for District 10 (Hamblen County) yesterday at the State Capitol. 

Goins defeated former Rep. Don Miller in the Republican primary on August 2, 2012, was then elected without opposition in the November General Election.

Goins resigned his seat on the Hamblen County Commission in December in order to devote himself to his job as state representative.

At yesterday's swearing-in ceremony, Beth Harwell of Davidson County was elected to a second term as House Speaker.

Goins' wife and son were present as were his mother, father, and younger brother. Trustee John Baskette, City Councilman Gene Brooks, Taylor Ward, and Jim Stepp were present as Goins and the other 98 representatives were sworn in by Chief Justice Gary Wade.

See previous posts on Goins and former Representative Don Miller by clicking here and here and here.

Monday, January 07, 2013

January 7, 2013 Chancellor Lets Pigeon Forge Pro-Liquor Group in on Election Contest

At a court hearing last week, Sevier Chancellor Telford Forgety ruled that the pro liquor-by-the-drink group "Forging Ahead" may intervene and participate in the election contest regarding the Pigeon Forge LBTD referendum held on November 6.

LBTD passed by 100 votes in the referendum, but it is alleged that around 300 "illegal" or "improper" votes were cast in the election.  The anti-liquor group maintains that 300 "illegal" votes were cast and the pro-liquor group prefers to call the extra votes "improper."

Hopefully, both groups are concerned about that close to 300 illegal/improper votes were cast and counted in a referendum election that was decided by a mere 100 votes.

Election contests can be difficult for all parties. If Chancellor Forgety does not dismiss the case for lack of standing on the part of the Plaintiff Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge,  this election contest will begin on Thursday, January 10, and will likely continue on January 11.

Click here and here.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

January 6, 2013 Baumgartner Wants His Pension

Disgraced Knox County Criminal Judge Richard Baumgartner is trying to get the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) to reinstate the $4900/month state pension that he lost upon his conviction in November 2012 on federal charges.

Here's the tale in a nutshell:
1. Baumgartner presided over the series of trials of the various defendants in the horrific Channon Christian-Chris Newsom kidnap, torture, rape, and murder trials.
2. Baumgartner was taking drugs and having Deena Castleman, his mistress and ex-Drug Court graduate, procure drugs for him.
3. A TBI probe resulted in charges against Baumgartner, and he resigned.
4. Baumgartner was charged with public misconduct.
5. He entered into a plea agreement in March 2011 where he pled guilty in return for diversion--which meant that if he kept a clean slate during the two-year probation period, there would be nothing on his "record" and he could keep his $4900/month state pension.
6. Federal officials came in in May 2012 and indicted Baumgartner on federal charges--misprision of a felony.
7. He was convicted in federal court in November 2012 and lost the pension.
8. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2013 in connection with the federal conviction.

Now, Baumgartner is trying to get that pension back. Baumgartner's argument in his appeal of the pension decision is that his crimes did not arise out of his "official" duties as judge. Baumgartner maintains that his pension can only be taken away for crimes connected to his role as a judge.

Click here for the N-S article on the TCRS pension.
Click here for posts and links to articles on Baumgartner.

Friday, January 04, 2013

January 4, 2013 Lemaricus Davidson Submits Affidavit of Bailiff in Push for a New Trial in Christian-Newsom Slayings

In what is already an unbelievable series of events in what many consider the most horrific kidnap-rape-torture-murder crime in Knoxville's history, convicted killer Lemaricus Davidson has raised new issues in support of his bid for a new trial.

Davidson's attorneys have filed the affidavit of a bailiff who served during the 2009 trials. The bailiff claims that the jury had a praise service before deliberations, one juror played the guitar and led the others in singing, and one juror read a Bible verse--Psalm 90, verse 12.

Davidson did not testify in his first trial, but through his attorneys it was claimed that the victims Channon Christian and Chris Newsom came to Davidson's Chipman Street house voluntarily to buy drugs and Davidson's DNA happened to be on Christian's tortured body because he and Channon Christian had been lovers.  Davidson was convicted and was the only one of the defendants sentenced to death.

The first trials of Davidson and the other defendants were tainted by the subsequent revelations that the presiding Judge, Richard Baumgartner, was taking drugs that he obtained from his mistress who "graduated" from the Drug Court that Baumgartner established. Baumgartner was allowed to resign but federal authorities later charged him with federal crimes related to his drug activity. Baungartner was convicted in federal court. Click here for prior posts on the Judge Richard Baumgartner saga.

One defendant Vanessa Coleman has already had a new trial and was convicted again in what could be considered a compromise verdict. Click here.

Click here and here for updates on Davidson's motion for a new trial.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

January 3, 2013 Pigeon Forge Liquor-by-the-Drink Referendum

The Pigeon Forge LBTD referendum is in court.

Greg Johnson, an opinion columnist with the News-Sentinel who has written at length on the topic, thinks there should be a new referendum.

Click here for Johnson's article, and check out the reader's comments at the end of the article.

In depositions, the Election Administrator Renee Flynn and Election Commission Chair J.B. Matthews are watching their words. Their use of the word "illegal" in reference to votes cast by ineligible voters is being changed to the word "improper." 

In an election that was decided in favor of LBTD by a 100-vote margin, close to 300 votes have been alleged to have been cast by ineligible voters while other eligible voters were denied the right to vote.

Hopefully, all the facts will come out during the January 10-11 trial.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

January 2, 2013 Mayor Forced to Cancel Scheduled Council Meeting When Four Councilmembers Don't Show Up

Four Morristown City Councilmembers didn't show up at yesterday morning's scheduled meeting of the Council, forcing Mayor Danny Thomas to cancel the meeting for lack of a quorum (majority) to conduct business.

City Administrator Tony Cox had apparently been told in advance that these four councilmembers  would not come to the meeting.

However, no one mentioned whether all four were suddenly sick, out-of-town, or just not in the mood.

Missing: Councilmembers Bob Garrett, Paul LeBel, Chris Bivens, and the newest councilmember Dennis Alvis.

Present at yesterday's meeting: Mayor Danny Thomas and Councilmembers Gene Brooks and Kay Senter.

Also present were at least six members of the public who got up early for the 9AM meeting and watched and waited for just one more member to show up so the meeting could go on.

Some of these citizens were there to speak to the full council during the public comments forum that never occurred.

Betsy Stibler ended up passing out an information packet, and then she and two other citizens talked briefly about their concerns with the City Administrator and the officials who were present.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

January 1, 2013 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2013 New Year Fireworks by Vlado