local government

Nashville ‘sanctuary city’ ordinance shelved amid new legal opinion, Republican howls of protest

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry urged city council members Tuesday to reconsider their support for an ordinance that critics – including most of the state’s Republican politicians, it seems – contend would make the state’s capitol a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.

The council members sponsoring the ordinance, meanwhile, announced they are scrapping plans for a final vote on the proposal July 6. They didn’t say when, or if, it will be rescheduled.

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Threatened with state takeover, Hawkins County approves $40 wheel tax

The Hawkins County Commission approved a $40 wheel tax increase on Monday to avoid a threatened takeover of the county’s financial affairs by the state comptroller’s office, reports the Kingsport Times-News. But that doesn’t necessarily resolve the county’s budgeting troubles.

Now the Hawkins County Commission must wait 30 days to see if 1,095 registered Hawkins County voters, which is 10 percent of the Hawkins County voters who cast a ballot in the last gubernatorial election in 2014, sign a petition to require a special election referendum to let the county’s voters decide the fate of the wheel tax increase.

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Republicans bash Nashville immigration ordinance (including pledge to invalidate it, if passed)

Nashville’s Democrat-dominated Metro Council approved Tuesday on second reading – with a third approval required next month – a “Nashville together” ordinance that would prohibit using any city funds, resources or facilities to assist enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The state’s Republican officeholders have been bashing the move since then. Here’s a sampler with one pro-ordinance press release thrown in.

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Whitwell police chief charged with theft, official misconduct, illegal drug sales, food stamp fraud

A nine-count indictment returned by a Marion County grand jury accuses Whitwell Police Chief Rodney Easterly of theft, official misconduct, illegal drug sales and fraudulently obtaining food stamps, reports the Times Free Press.

Evidence was presented to the grand jury by Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston’s office after 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor’s office stepped aside. Taylor’s office has worked with the chief before on criminal cases since the Whitwell Police Department is within the 12th Judicial District’s six-county jurisdiction.

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Witness tampering added to charges in Monroe County vote buying cases

Witness tampering has been added to the list of  federal charges against Brian “Wormy” Hodge, who is accused of buying votes to help Randy White get elected Monroe County sheriff in 2014, reports the News Sentinel.

 Hodge was initially indicted in February on charges he recruited now-confessed chronic vote buyer Betty Jane Best to funnel money he supplied to voters willing to cast their ballots for White and help those voters use the absentee ballot process to do so.

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Police officer charged with patronizing prostitutes while on duty

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

MEMPHIS – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the indictment of a Ripley police officer on charges of official misconduct and patronizing prostitution.

At the request of 25th District Attorney General Mike Dunavant, on March 27th, TBI Special Agents began investigating Donald Bonds, who is a lieutenant with the Ripley Police Department, on allegations of sexual misconduct. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that on two different occasions in January and February 2017, Bonds paid to have sex while on duty and inside his police vehicle.

On June 5th, the Lauderdale County Grand Jury returned indictments, charging Donald Orvell Bonds (DOB 03/01/1968) with four counts of Official Misconduct and two counts of Patronizing Prostitution. Bonds was taken into custody without incident and booked into the Lauderdale County Justice Complex. He was released after posting a $10,000 bond. Bonds is currently suspended without pay.

Memphis storm damage pegged at $17M — enough to qualify for fed disaster funding

Memphis officials now estimate damages from last weekend’s severe storm at more than $17 million, well over the $9 million threshold that could trigger a federal disaster declaration leading to reimbursement of up to 80 percent of funds spend on repairs, reports the Commercial Appeal.

In early estimates, the city plans to spend $9.97 million on the storm cleanup, mostly to remove debris and repair public facilities, while MLGW (Memphis Light Gas and Water) plans to spend $7 million clearing debris and restoring service.

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Deal providing tax-exempt bonds to Nashville charter schools brings criticism

Working with a politically-connected law firm, two Nashville charter schools used an obscure Metro Nashville board to receive tax-exempt bonds for their projects that are drawing intense scrutiny after going unnoticed by other city officials for months, according to the Tennessean.

The deals approved by the Metro Health and Educational Facilities Board for Rocketship and Purpose Prep charter schools do not use local taxpayer money and contain no provisions that would put taxpayers on the hook. But critics on the Metro Council and the Nashville school board say the charters should go to banks for private financing and not use the facilities board, which can issue tax-free bonds for nonprofit groups.

They directed particularly sharp criticism at a $7.74 million in bonds for Rocketship, which is part of a national charter school network.

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On Trump budget cuts for local governments in TN (where fed grants average $2,000 per person)

Tennessee is cited as an example of the negative impact of President Trump’s budget-cutting plans on state and local governments in a Politico story. Former Republican state Sen. Micheal Williams, now mayor of Union County and a self-described fiscal conservative, says he was stunned when he read the proposal.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Williams said. “I don’t know if they really thought this through.”

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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.