District Attorney: Ethics complaint does not warrant criminal charges

Wilson County District Attorney Tommy Thompson closes case on ethics complaint involving multiple county officials.
Apr 26, 2014

 

Wilson County District Attorney Tommy Thompson said in a letter released Friday he won’t seek criminal charges against anyone named in an ethics complaint sent to him April 4 by the Wilson County Ethics Committee. 

The 11-page letter, dated April 22, was sent to Ethics Committee Chair Frank Bush. In an April 3 meeting, the committee voted 3-2 to send the letter to Thompson, who opened an investigation on Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, county attorney Mike Jennings, Jennings’ assistant Jan Jewell, commissioners Bernie Ash, Gary Keith, Mike Justice, Eugene Murray, Billy Rowland, Kenny Reich, Jeff Joines, Becky Siever, Terry Duncan, Jerry McFarland, Terry Scruggs, William Glover, Annette Stafford, Wendell Marlowe, and former commissioners Stephanie McDonald and Adam Bannach. 

“…The facts and evidence in the complaint forwarded to this office by the Wilson County Ethics Committee and the information gathered in the course of this investigation do not warrant the pursuit of criminal charges against any of the individuals named therein,” Thompson said in the letter. 

During an April 3 Ethics Committee vote, Bush, along with commissioners Clint Thomas and Nathan Clariday, voted for the complaint to be forwarded to Thompson, while commissioners Eugene Murray and Earl Ray voted against it.

Joines said he believes politics were involved with the Ethics Committee’s decision to forward the complaint to Thompson. 

“I wish the Ethics Committee could have seen the same thing the county attorney and district attorney said and not taken it this far,” Joines said. “There was just nothing there. There was no basis there to send it to the district attorney, and our county attorney advised them to start with. I think it was a political thing. Politics is sort of a strange thing in an election year.”

Mt. Juliet resident Harold Huber filed the 24-page complaint, which questioned the residency of Bannach, Marlowe and McDonald while they served at different times on the Wilson County Commission, among other allegations. 

In the letter, Thompson outlined some recommendations for the commission. 

“…It does appear it would be highly beneficial for the commission, its committees and officers all be clearly trained or properly educated on the rules, regulations and laws concerning removal, resignation and vacating a respective office and/or position,” Thompson said in the letter. “Newly elected county members and officials, as well as longstanding members of the legislative body would all profit from such orientation or reorientation as the case may be. Although we are offering this as a suggestion, it is important to point out that we learned prior to the filing of Mr. Huber’s complaint, the county mayor had already initiated a plan to educate and remedy any potential deficiencies in this area. 

“Additionally, 2014 election commission records show that Mr. Bannach and Mr. Marlowe are seeking election to the county commission in their respective districts. They are both unopposed, which lends credence to their past records and proposed abilities. Apparently the citizens are satisfied with their future representation by these individuals.”

Hutto reiterated he’s already started on an education plan for commissioners regarding moving or leaving office. 

“I think the district attorney has spoken and no charges were brought,” Hutto said. “I will take the recommendation in there, and we’ve already started on that. I plan on reviewing our practice now and present that to the Rules Committee with some suggestions within the law or even tougher than what the law dictates. Once we do that, we will forward it on to the full commission. 

“If you look at the last page of his opinion, he said we needed to review this, and that is something we are going to do. We want the commissioners to know, if you leave, this is what you need to do.”

In the complaint, Huber alleged those named violated state law, including charges of official misconduct, official oppression, misuse of official information and destruction of and tampering with governmental records, among others. 

“…This office is of the opinion the allegations against the individuals named in the complaint do not rise to the level of probable cause that is required to initiate criminal action for any of the conduct alleged,” Thompson said in the letter. “As such, any further criminal investigation pertaining to the individuals and these specific matters shall cease.”

Attempts by The Democrat to reach Bush, Jennings, Thomas and Reich were unsuccessful Friday afternoon. 

 

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