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TBI: Two Men Charged with Bribing Voters in Tellico Plains

Press Release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Feb. 3, 2012:

Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation yesterday arrested two individuals who have been under investigation by TBI at the request of the 10th Judicial District Attorney General since September 2011 for bribing voters during a Tellico Plains election.

Chuck Hunt 54, of Tellico Plains, Tenn. was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on eight counts of bribery of a voter and eight counts of conspiracy to bribe a voter. Norman Nichols, 47, of Madisonville, Tenn. was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on six counts of bribery of a voter and six counts of conspiracy to bribe a voter. Both Nichols and Hunt were buying votes during the 2011 Tellico Plains Mayoral race.

Both were booked into the Monroe County Jail on $1,000 bond each.

$620K Missing from County Coffers

More than $620,000 was missing from county government coffers as of the most recent check by the comptroller’s office, according to a report issued by the office today.

The cash shortages, originally amounting to $1.6 million, date back to 1996-97 and were spread over three dozen counties, the report says. Included in the report are details of missing money in Monroe, Hickman and Morgan counties, which we’ve blogged on here before.

More coverage: Knoxville News-Sentinel

Cash Shortage in Monroe Co. Commissary Referred to DA

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office had a cash shortage of $10,600 at the end of the last fiscal year, and because of poor accounting by the sheriff’s office it was not discovered until state auditors conducted a review.

The auditors have referred the matter to the district attorney, according to their report.

The shortage apparently stemmed from lax administration of the commissary.

The Sheriff’s Office says in its response to the audit that it has tightened controls over commissary cash and implemented regular reconciling of bank statements.

State auditors also found questionable payment records for expenses incurred by the county finance director. Among the findings were spotty records for travel expenses and a payment of $1,975 to the director for the purchase of computers, which were never delivered to the county. The audit says the finance director refunded the money.

Arrest Made in Monroe Co. Official’s Murder

Press Release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Jan. 5, 2011:

Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Monroe County woman after she was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury this morning on murder charges related to the homicide of Monroe County Election Commission Chairman Jim Miller this past summer. The TBI along with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Madisonville Police Department, the Sweetwater Police Department and state Bomb and Arson investigators all contributed to the nearly six month long investigation.

Jessica Kennedy Powers, 27, of Sweetwater, Tenn. was indicted on one count of felony murder, aggravated robbery, arson of personal property and abuse of a corpse. Sixty-year-old Miller’s body was found on Sands Road in Monroe County, Tenn. on July 17, 2010. He had been shot to death before his body was set on fire in his vehicle.

Kennedy Powers was served with the indictment in the Meigs County Jail where she was being held on unrelated charges. She has been transferred to the Monroe County Jail where her bond was set at $500,000.

Portions Of Autopsy Report To Be Withheld: Monroe County DA

The autopsy report of slain Monroe County Election Commissioner Jim Miller was released Friday to Monroe County’s top prosecutor, but the DA says he will not yet make the report public.

The announcement comes two days after the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that medical examiner Christopher Shamblin repeatedly ignored the paper’s open records requests for the report.

Miller’s body was discovered inside a burning vehicle on July 17 in a rural area in Monroe County. He had been shot to death, and his body was found after a deputy spotted Miller’s car ablaze.

Autopsy reports are considered public record. However, Monroe County District Attorney General Steven Bebb told TNReport on Friday that state law allows courts to withhold the reports from public view.

“Due to the nature of the investigation, there are facts that cannot and should not be released at this time,” Bebb said in a press release. “It would be unfortunate if an investigation into the death of a citizen was compromised by the untimely release of information.”

Bebb, who asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to work the Miller case, said his office would be going to court to prevent disclosure of at least some of the autopsy report.

“The remainder of the autopsy report that will not jeopardize the investigation will be promptly provided to any media outlet that requests access,” Bebb said in the release.

The Knoxville News Sentinel made the public records requests to Shamblin on Oct. 15 and Nov. 1. The State Office of Open Records Counsel told the paper that Shamblin was in apparent violation of state open records laws because he failed to respond to the newspaper’s requests.

Murdered Monroe Co. Elections Official’s Autopsy Report Still Secret

The autopsy record in the shooting death of Monroe County Election Commission Chairman Jim Miller has been kept secret, despite state public records law that requires it to be released, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports today.

In July, Miller’s body was found in the trunk of his burning car, with gunshot wounds to the head.

The case has apparently not advanced since then, at least not in the form of any public announcement of charges or new information.

The News Sentinel reports:

For reasons that no official has been able – or willing – to explain, the document remains unavailable.

Dr. Christopher Shamblin, the new medical examiner for Monroe County, has failed to respond to two public records requests to either provide the report or authorize its release. The News Sentinel’s requests were made Oct. 15 and Nov. 1.

Shamblin has also not responded to repeated follow-up telephone calls, and according to the State Office of Open Records Counsel he is in apparent violation of the state Open Records Act.