local government

Nashville Mayor Barry’s son dies of apparent drug overdose

News release from Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s office

Max Barry, son of Mayor Megan Barry and Bruce Barry, died from an apparent overdose in Denver, Colorado on the evening of Saturday, July 29. Mayor Megan Barry and Bruce Barry have released a statement on this tragic news:

“Early this morning, we received news that no parents should ever have to hear. Our son Max suffered from an overdose and passed away. We cannot begin to describe the pain and heartbreak that comes with losing our only child. Our son was a kind soul full of life and love for his family and friends.

Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives.”

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Sheriff, already under indictment, faces new flap over helping bail-bondsman wife in multi-state manhunt

Start of a Times Free Press report on Sunday:

In one epic April weekend, Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson threatened a group of inmates for talking trash about his bail-bondsman wife; embroiled more than a dozen law officers in a multistate manhunt for one of her bail skips; and pulled a gun on a motorist in Georgia, where he has no authority — all with his wife and another bondsman riding along in his official sheriff’s vehicle.

The episode lends weight to complaints from the Bradley County bail bonding community of a thumb on the scales in favor of the sheriff’s wife, Tenille Watson. It also echoes allegations of wrongdoing by Sheriff Watson forwarded last year to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

That TBI investigation resulted in Watson being indicted on six felony counts of using forged or altered vehicle titles in connection with his sideline business as a used-car dealer. Watson was booked July 21. No court date had been set in that case as of Friday. TBI spokeswoman Susan Niland said Thursday the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, local attorneys asked to review documents and videos related to Watson’s Easter weekend activities say he could have opened himself up to liability ranging from civil rights violations to kidnapping and aggravated assault.

The Times Free Press sent Watson a detailed list of questions Thursday morning about his activities that weekend and asked for his comment. He did not respond.

Memphis boosts grants to 1968 sanitation strikers to $70K

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to increase the grants going to city workers who participated in the city’s 1968 sanitation strike, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The council voted 10-0 to give the 10 retirees and four active employees $70,000 grants, with all taxes paid by the city. The council voted two weeks ago to approve Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposal to give the strikers all-taxes-paid $50,000 grants.

The council also amended the wording of the grants resolution to allow active employees to collect their grants immediately as opposed to when they retire.

Petitions filed to hold vote on Hawkins County wheel tax increase

Petitions were submitted Monday calling for a referendum on whether a $40-per-vehicle wheel tax approved by the Hawkins County Commission will stand, reports the Rogersville Review.

The Commission had rejected the increase in a initial vote earlier this year, but then approved it after Jason Mumpower, deputy state comptroller, warned the officials that failure to enact a balanced county budget by July 1 would mean a state takeover of county finances.

Hawkins County Elections Administrator Donna Sharp says that, if the petitions contain enough valid signatures, a special election will be scheduled within 90 days at a cost of $70,000 or so.

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Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson facing criminal charges

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson, a former state legislator, has been charged with forgery and booked at the county jail he oversees. He was freed on $30,000 bail after being booked at the Bradley County Jail, according to media reports.

From the Times Free Press:

The charges — six counts of knowingly holding or using forged or falsified car titles — arise from a Times Free Press investigation published in December into Watson’s unlicensed used car sales.

The charges are Class E felonies, each punishable by one to six years in prison and fines of up to $3,000.

None of the charges brought Wednesday by the Bradley County grand jury relate to any other allegations of misconduct by Watson that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been looking into for 13 months. The special prosecutor in the case, 4th Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, did not reply Friday when asked whether the investigation is over or if more charges are possible.

Watson, a four-term state legislator and former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, did not appear publicly after being booked.

In a statement released through his attorney, James F. Logan Jr., the sheriff said he has cooperated fully with the TBI and other agencies in the probe of what he called “accusations from some who desire to have more control over county government and the operations of the Sheriff’s Office.”

Watson said Bradley County residents and his employees can be assured the sheriff’s office will “continue to provide the best services possible to insure [sic] the safety and property of all citizens and visitors.”

…”It’s an incredibly sad event” for the sheriff to be booked into his own jail, Logan said, adding that Watson “wants justice.”

 

Note: Watson is the fourth Tennessee sheriff to face criminal charges in the past year or so. The others, now former sheriffs who were accused of misconduct while in office, were Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold, Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens and Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold. They have all pleaded guilty to some charges.

Also, this post updates, expands and replaces original post.

Haslam: ‘I hate to see us get carried away’ with city schools seceding from county systems

Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed into law a 2014 bill that let six Shelby County towns seceded from the county school system and formed their own districts, is voicing some misgivings about a proposal for Brentwood schools leaving the Williamson County system, reports The Tennessean.

The Shelby County situation has drawn some national attention and is already being used as a model for Signal Mountain schools to secede from Hamilton County. (Previous post HERE.) Brentwood is the most prosperous city in the state’s most prosperous county.

 “I tend to think the whole secession idea — I hate to see us get carried away with that,” Haslam told reporters during a press conference Wednesday. “There’s always been a benefit to communities that are all part of one area, and being a community together and figuring out our problems, whether it be rural schools or urban schools, or whatever the challenges may be.”

Thousands try to pay mistakenly-discounted Memphis electric bills

Thousands of people have been trying to take advantage of what they mistakenly thought were sharply discounted electric bills because of a Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division glitch combined with a social media rumor, reports the Commercial Appeal. The utility in response suspended the ability to pay electric bills at 187 “self-service kiosks.”

MLGW’s kiosk vendor, Canada-based TIO Networks Corp., has ruled out hacking as the cause of the glitch in TIO’s system, said MLGW President Jerry Collins. A wayward decimal point is thought to have been responsible for the kiosk billing errors.

“They are working on the software problem now to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Collins said.

… Word of the glitch and a false rumor that basketball star Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph had paid off bills with a $1 million donation quickly circulated Saturday morning, creating long lines at kiosks before the last one was unplugged around noon. Instead of its usual 800 or so Saturday customers, MLGW reported roughly 23,000 customers.

Although the rumor was false, Randolph has donated $20,000 a year to pay off utility bills. Even though he recently signed with the Sacramento Kings, he said he will still donate $20,000 this year. Memphians spurred by news of the glitch and rumor are raising funds to supplement Randolph’s donation.

Settlement of Jackson school funding lawsuit means tax increase?

An agreement to settle a lawsuit over the Madison County Commission’s decision to terminate an annual $12 million payment toward operation of Jackson public schools will require some sort of tax increase, reports the Jackson Sun.

The settlement calls for cutting the payment from $12 million annually to $6 million, but the commission had wanted to save the entire $12 million to balance it’s budget for the coming year. The county commission’s Budget Committee says there are five options to cover the $6 million.

All five options include a tax increase. The first option is implementing a $75 wheel tax and the county using $2.2 million from its general fund. Another option is taking $2.2 million from the general fund and implementing a 22 cent property tax increase. 

Transferring $2.2 million from the general fund, adding a $30 wheel tax and increasing the property tax 14 cents was also mentioned. Another possibility is a $75 wheel tax, and finding another revenue source later. The final option presented was a 30 cent property tax increase.

“What you’re seeing, it’s a balancing act on what to do,” budget committee chairman Doug Stephenson said. “We’ve got some who just want to do the property tax, we’ve got others saying I just want to do the wheel tax. We’ve got others who want to do a combination. It’s just a matter of coming up with something.”

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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‘Political realities’ leave Nashville immigration ordinances dead

Citing “political realities,” Metro Nashville Councilman Bob Mendes has abandoned an attempt to seek approval of city ordinances that critics said would make Nashville a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, reports The Tennessean.

He claimed the proposals had the support of a majority of Nashvillians but pointed to a backlash in more conservative parts of Tennessee.

“Despite the popular support in Davidson County, there’s been a great deal of opposition from outside the county, and these bills have become a political football for people running for governor in the Republican primary and other races statewide,” Mendes said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

“It’s almost become a race to the bottom to see who can criticize Nashville more, who can criticize immigrants more.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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