Knox County

FBI agents asking questions about Knox County Mayor Burchett

FBI agents have interviewed at least four people, asking questions about Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat, according to the News Sentinel. The people interviewed said FBI agents asked about issues ranging from possible tax evasion to potential bribery and a county contract.

When reached Thursday, Burchett said, “No truth to any of it.”

The USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee obtained a copy of a document drafted by an attorney that states Burchett’s ex-wife, Allison, was a confidential informant for the FBI, with the code name “Carbon,” since 2012.

Allison Burchett said she began working with the FBI in 2012 but declined further comment.

“I’m sorry I cannot comment on an ongoing FBI investigation,” she said.

The three other sources requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Federal investigators conducted several interviews this year, including as recently as October, sources said. The interviews were conducted in various locations, including the FBI’s Knoxville headquarters.

One source said an IRS agent also has been involved in the inquiry.

… “I’m not sure what they’re charging, but it’s coming pretty soon,” one source said. “This is very, very serious. It’ll blow Knoxville wide open.”

UPDATE: Burchett responded “defiantly” to the article a day later, reported the News Sentinel and other Gannet newspapers. Excerpted quote:

“I’ve never been contacted by the FBI concerning any of this stuff. I really don’t think there’s any such inquiry… To have a major news story based upon my convicted ex-wife and unnamed sources and for this to be treated as legitimate news, to me is beyond belief,”

Burchett offered check (declined) and apology (accepted) after Saudi teen’s attack

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a candidate for the 2nd Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, was one of several motorists who came under attack from a Saudi Arabian citizen who recently enrolled at the University of Tennessee to study nursing, reports the News Sentinel. The youth’s lawyer says he suffered “an unexpected mental breakdown” in the episode, which warrants say involved pounding on cars and grabbing at the drivers as they passed him on a street near the UT Knoxville campus.

“Did they screen this guy at all for mental health issues?” Burchett said Friday of 19-year-old Nofl Hassan Alatyah. “I’m not getting any answers, and I’m very frustrated.”

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More talk on TNGOP change of rules for running as a Republican

A recent change in state Republican Party bylaws drew criticism at a meeting of the Knox County GOP Monday evening, but state Republican Chairman Scott Golden and Julia Hurley,  a member of the State Executive Committee were on hand to defend it and suggest its impact will be limited, reports the News Sentinel.

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Haslam family gives Knox County schools $1.3M (half for high school bands)

The Haslam family, through Pilot Flying J and the Haslam Family Foundation, is giving $1.3 million to Knox County Schools’ marching bands and academics, reports the News Sentinel.

“The Haslam family is proud to call Knoxville both our home and the headquarters for our company,” Pilot Flying J Director of Giving Back Will Haslam said in the announcement. “When we think of school pride, we think of the marching bands and their dedication.”

An equal portion of the money will go to each of the district’s 13 high schools, pending acceptance Sept. 13 by the Knox County Schools Board of Education.

… Half of the $1.3 million, coming from Pilot Flying J, will buy band uniforms, instruments or other equipment, according to a news release. The other half, coming from the Haslam Family Foundation, will give $50,000 to each high school for “materials or activities that will enhance the academic experience and outcomes for students,” the announcement said.

… This donation follows a 2015 pledge of $10 million for artificial turf football fields at all 13 high schools, with construction running through 2018. That gift included $100,000 to each school for classroom improvements.

Burchett schedules political announcement — likely that he’ll run for 2nd Congressional District seat

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a former state senator, is widely expected to announce his candidacy for the 2nd congressional District seat now held by U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. next weekend. He’s scheduled an event in Knoxville Saturday to declare his future political plans, reports the News Sentinel.

“From my family’s military service, to my parents’ careers as public educators, I was raised around public service, and it’s something I enjoy,” Burchett said in a news release Monday. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work in the state Legislature and as Knox County mayor, and I am excited about what lies ahead for me and my family as we launch this campaign.”

Duncan, who has held the seat since 1988, has not yet announced whether he will seek another term.

Mayors clash over Bible-quoting plaque at Knoxville police headquarters

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero are at odds over a city decision to take down a plaque quoting a Bible verse that now hangs inside a Knoxville police department building.

From the News Sentinel report:

Burchett, a Republican, made the comments in a rare public critique of Rogero, a Democrat, Thursday morning, a day after she announced the city would remove the plaque hanging in the department’s Safety Building.

The plaque quotes Romans 8:31 and includes, “If God be for us, then who can be against us?”

The city is planning to take down the plaque during a Friday morning ceremony and move it to a Hall of Inspiration inside the building that will be a place where multiple quotes and sayings will be displayed.

The East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint about the plaque and threatened a lawsuit if the city did not remove it.

Burchett said the Constitution protects his Christian views, adding the city should allow the group to take them to court.

“Mayor Rogero is my friend, but I would fight this one. I wouldn’t yield to extortionists,” he said. “Ultimately, I have to answer to God not some outfit from out of town who make their living just suing people … “What I don’t understand is with atheists if they don’t believe in God, what do they care? It just doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.

“At some point folks that follow my belief systems are just going to be legislated out of existence and to me it is discrimination against me and my beliefs,” he said.

… Rogero issued a statement in response to Burchett’s comments Thursday afternoon.

“I’m happy to clear up some misunderstanding and overreaction to this issue. My friend Mayor Burchett will be glad to know the plaque is not being removed, it is merely being moved from one side of the doorway to the other, where it will share a room with other inspirational quotes,” Rogero said in the statement.

Note: Burchett, a former state senator, is considering a run for the 2nd District Congressional seat now held by Rep. John J. ‘Jimmy’ Duncan Jr.

Knox County approved for enforcing fed immigration laws through 287(g) program

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has approved Knox County’s participation in the controversial 287(g) program, reports the News Sentinel.

The two bodies signed a memorandum of agreement earlier this month that dictates the Knox County Sheriff’s Office’s responsibilities in training and allowing a certain number of local deputies to be acting ICE agents. It makes Knox County the only jurisdiction in the state participating in this federal program.

The program deputizes local law enforcement officials to act on behalf of and in place of federal immigration authorities in exchange for training and funding.

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Allison Burchett, ex-wife of Knox County mayor, gets probation in ‘cyberstalking’ case

Knox County’s former first lady  — the ex-wife of county Mayor Tim Burchett — confessed Thursday to cyberstalking the cancer-stricken estranged wife of her millionaire beau, reports the News Sentinel.

Allison Burchett, 35, pleaded guilty in Knox County Criminal Court to six misdemeanor charges of unlawful access to the computer accounts of Nicole Strickland, the estranged wife of Burchett’s live-in lover and Bandit Lites owner Michael Strickland.

She will serve no jail time. Instead, she will spend four years on probation. She is not barred from the internet but must give her probation officer access to her social media accounts and stay away from victim Nicole Strickland.

The deal has been mired in controversy, with Nicole Strickland objecting to the proposal and crying foul over her treatment by the Knox County District Attorney’s office…  Burchett is now under investigation for another hacking that occurred while she was on bond and involved two potential witnesses in the cyberstalking case.

The hearing itself proved controversial, with Senior Judge Don R. Ash blocking Nicole Strickland from reading a victim impact statement — a violation of the Tennessee Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights law.

Burchett: God will decide next political race, if any

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who is barred from seeking another term in his current office, tells Georgiana Vines that he’s waiting for God to tell him whether to seek another elected position. The former state senator says he may not be rich enough to run for governor, but the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. is a possibility.

Burchett insisted Saturday that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do when his term ends (next) year.

“I’ll pray about it. When God tells me (I’ll know). He’s told me what to do all along. When I get the (answer), I will let people know,” he said.

…Duncan… Jr. has just been re-elected to his 15th term. He and wife, Lynn, downsized their home last speculation he may be retiring soon. Burchett said what Duncan does in two years will not determine what he does.

While Burchett’s name has come up as a potential candidate for governor, he says he doesn’t have the wealth needed to seek that position.

“Who’s going to raise my first $1 million? It takes money. I would be a grassroots type of candidate,” he said…  He said he has speaking engagements in Chattanooga in a few weeks. He also intends to attend Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony of state Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, as lieutenant governor (and)  recognizes his presence is likely to lead to speculation on his running for governor.

“I’ve spent 16 years in Nashville and know the game better than others. I think I could do a good job at it. I see the pitfalls of predecessors and I believe I’m someone who could improve on (Gov.)  Bill Haslam’s record.

Note: Jack McElroy reviews the possibility of a Duncan departure and possible successors in a column HERE. His bottom line:

But the safest bet may be that the congressman from Knoxville on Jan. 1, 2019, will be John J. Duncan, just as it has been since vinyl 45s of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were flying off the shelves of Knoxville record stores.

Two cases of voter fraud in Knox County?

There were two apparent cases of voter fraud in Knox County in the Nov. 8 election and the alleged offenders could face felony charges, according to the News Sentinel.

Cliff Rodgers, administrator of elections, said one case involves a woman who lied on her voter registration form about being a felon. In the second case, a man voted in Knox County after apparently lying about when he moved to Lenoir City.

“I’m turning it over to to the district attorney because he lied under oath,” Rodgers said. “That’s what we call voter fraud.”

Rodgers said people who move out of a county are allowed to vote in their previous county of residence if they moved less than 90 days before the election. The man who relocated to Lenoir City, Rodgers said, informed voting officials he had moved within that 90-day window. He was allowed to vote on a machine.

The man’s wife, however, was in a different line and she told officials the couple had moved about 18 months ago, Rodgers said. She was offered a provisional ballot to vote with, but she declined after being told her vote probably would be rejected because of the move.

… Rodgers said he has provided prosecutors with other cases since he took the post more than five years ago, but he hasn’t been subpoenaed to testify.

According to Knox County Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hixson, cases reported by Rodgers may have been prosecuted without his involvement. Prosecutors in the past have “worked closely with the Election Commission to resolve voter fraud issues,” Hixson said. “Sometimes these cases call for criminal prosecution, and sometimes they do not.”