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Smithville Mayor and Son Indicted for Theft

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P Wilson, July 25, 2018:

Mayor Hired Son as a City Employee without Board Approval

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, has resulted in the indictment of Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss and his son Anthony “Tony” Poss.

Investigators found that Mayor Poss created a part time salaried position and hired his son to work for the City of Smithville for $300 a week in August 2017. Tony Poss was paid $8,100 over the next six months.

Mayor Poss failed to follow city policy and the city’s charter by not obtaining approval from the Board of Mayor and Alderman before creating the new job and hiring his son.

The mayor did not advertise the position nor seek applications for it. He also did not have his son complete a job application as required by city policy.

Furthermore, Mayor Poss violated the city’s nepotism policy by hiring and then supervising his son. The policy prohibits city leaders from hiring family members unless a “clear business reason exists.” The policy also prohibits supervising immediate family members.

Tony Poss’ job responsibilities included ensuring irrigation boxes at the city’s golf course were maintained and the city’s pool was kept at an adequate water level. Both of these tasks were already being performed by the public works department and a city contractor. Tony Poss did not maintain time and attendance records for the work he performed.

On July 23, 2018, Mayor Jimmy Poss and his son Tony Poss were each indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury. Mayor Poss is charged with theft over $2,500 and official misconduct. Tony Poss is charged with theft over $2,500.

[To read the investigative report, go here, or see below]

INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
City of Smithville

The Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation, investigated allegations of malfeasance related to the City of Smithville’s
employment of the mayor’s relative.

INVESTIGATIVE RESULTS

Mayor hired his son without board approval

Without the knowledge or approval of the board of aldermen, in August 2017, Mayor Jimmy Poss created a part-time salaried position and hired his son, Anthony (Tony) Poss, to fill that part-time position at a weekly salary of $300. The city paid $8,100 to the mayor’s son over the next six months.

Mayor failed to ensure compliance with city policy

City documents showed that Mayor Poss assigned the newly created position to the parks department, and neither advertised nor sought applications for the position. The mayor did not require his son to complete a standard application form for employment.

The Smithville City Code, Section 4-204, states: “All people seeking appointment or employment with the city shall complete a standard application form as provided by the municipal government. Employment applications shall be submitted to the treasurer’s office during regular office hours only.”

Mayor failed to seek required board approval

Mayor Poss failed to obtain board approval prior to creating the new job and prior to hiring his son to fill that position, as required by city policy and city charter. The mayor asserted to investigators that he was not required to bring part-time positions before the board for approval. A review of the city policy and city charter revealed that no such exception existed.

The City of Smithville Personnel Policy, Section J, states:

“Pursuant to the City charter, the Mayor has the authority to hire, promote, demote, transfer, suspend, and remove all officers and employees of the City of Smithville with proper Board of Mayor and Alderman approval.”

The Charter for the City of Smithville, Section 3.08, states:

“The Mayor, or the CityAdministrator, if established by the Board, may, with approval of a majority of the Board, make appointments, promotions, transfers, demotions, suspensions, and removal of all employees.”

Mayor violated city nepotism policy

The mayor violated the city nepotism policy by hiring and then supervising his son. Both the city administrator and the public works director were in positions that operationally should have placed them in a supervisory role over the employee in the new position.

Both individuals told investigators, however, that Mayor Poss never instructed them to supervise his son and that they did not supervise his son.

The City of Smithville Personnel Policy, Section E, states:

City of Smithville shall not show favoritism in the recruitment or employment of municipal employees nor in supervision. Immediate family members of City officials, Mayor, and Department Heads shall not be employed by the City unless a clear business reason exists and the hire is approved by the Mayor.… no member of the same immediate family may work in the same department if one of the employees is in a supervisory or management position.

Lack of justification for or accountability of the position

According to the Mayor Poss, his son’s job was to ensure that irrigation boxes at the city golf course were maintained to prevent water lines from freezing. His son was also to ensure the city’s pool was kept at an adequate water level.

The investigation revealed that both tasks described by the mayor were already being performed by the public works department and a city contractor. Also, although the mayor supervised his son’s employment with the city, he did not require his son to maintain time and attendance records for the work he performed.

The mayor advised investigators that he did not keep up with the hours his son spent each week performing the tasks. He further advised that his son was paid for the job, not a set number of hours. Tony Poss declined to meet with investigators about this matter. These issues were referred to then local district attorney general.

On July 23, 2018, the Dekalb County Grand Jury indicted Jimmy Poss on one count of Theft over $2,500 and one count of Official Misconduct, and Anthony Poss on one count of Theft over $2,500.

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Seigenthaler-Founded Group Releases Annual ‘State of First Amendment’ Report

Press Release from the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, July 2018:

2018 STATE OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT SURVEY REVEALS AMERICANS CONSIDER FAKE NEWS MORE OBJECTIONABLE THAN HATE SPEECH

Every year the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute conducts the State of the First Amendment survey, which examines Americans’ views on freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, and samples their opinions on contemporary First Amendment issues. The survey, conducted in partnership with Fors Marsh Group, an applied research company, has been published annually since 1997, reflecting Americans’ changing attitudes toward their core freedoms.

This year’s survey revealed that Americans consider fake news more objectionable than hate speech on social media, though both are opposed by large majorities. The survey showed that 83 percent of respondents agreed that social media companies should remove false information, compared to 72 percent who agreed such companies should remove hate speech.

The good news for First Amendment advocates is that, even with those high levels of concern and desire for action, a majority of Americans do not support the government in having the power to require social media companies to remove objectionable content.

In other good news, three out of four Americans (77%) are supportive of the First Amendment and the freedoms it guarantees. Unfortunately, most Americans are generally unaware of what those freedoms are. More than one-third of the survey respondents (40%) could not name a single freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, and another third of the respondents (36%) were only able to name one. Only one respondent out of the 1,009 people surveyed was able to correctly name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Many more respondents (9%) thought that the First Amendment guaranteed the right to bear arms (a right that is actually guaranteed by the Second Amendment).

In the past year, President Trump has railed against many news media outlets for their critical coverage of his administration, but results show that an increasing number of Americans believe that the media should play such a role: 74 percent of Americans, compared to 68 percent last year, think that it is important for the media to serve as a watchdog on the government. A majority of Americans (70%) don’t think that the president should have the authority to deny press credentials to any news outlets he chooses. Americans also hold journalists to high ethical standards, with most (68%) agreeing that it is necessary for journalists to disclose conflicts of interest to be credible.

Issues involving the freedom of religion remain incredibly divisive. The Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case was limited in scope and did not settle the underlying conflict between religious beliefs and nondiscrimination laws. Survey results (gathered before the decision came out) indicated the American public is still very divided about this unresolved issue: 54.5 percent of Americans believed that the baker in the case should not be legally obligated to create a cake for a gay wedding, while 42 percent thought that the baker should be.

While last year’s survey found that 43 percent of Americans felt that colleges should have the right to ban controversial campus speakers, the 2018 survey delved deeper into this issue, asking respondents about different scenarios where it might or might not be appropriate for a public college to retract an invitation to a controversial speaker. A majority (70%) agreed that a college should be able to retract an invitation to a speaker whose remarks would incite violence or threaten public safety (70%). There was less consensus about what to do with a speaker whose remarks would provoke large-scale protests from students. A little more than half (51%) thought that a college should be able to retract an invitation to such a speaker. Females were more likely to think so than males (57%, compared to 45%), and people who identified as black were more likely to think so than people who identified as white (66%, compared to 46%). When presented with the example of a speaker who would be likely to offend groups or individuals, 42 percent thought that a college should be able to retract their invitation — and interestingly, Southerners were more likely to think so than people from the Northeast or Western United States.

Overall, the results of the 2018 survey showed that even though most Americans can’t name all the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, they have strong opinions about the specific First Amendment issues that pop up in their lives — in the news, on campus and online.

Survey conducted and supported by Fors Marsh Group

READ THE FULL REPORT: https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018_FFI_SOFA_Report.pdf

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Haslam Not Running for U.S. Senate

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that he will not seek Tennessee’s United States Senate seat in 2018.

Former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker has occupied the office since 2006.

Corker announced last month that he won’t seek re-election next year. His decision has set in motion a scramble among prominent state Republicans looking to replace him.

Among those expressing interest or who’ve already announced they are joining the GOP’s 2018 U.S. Senate primary are Andrew Ogles, Tennessee’s Americans for Prosperity chapter president, state Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville, former state Rep. Joe Carr of Rutherford County, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher.

Haslam issued the following statement on Oct. 5:

“While Crissy and I will always be grateful for all of the encouragement and support to run for the United States Senate, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for Senate in 2018. The primary reason is that I want to remain completely focused on my job as governor. I know that being a candidate for the Senate during my last 15 months as governor would be a distraction from the task at hand. And, while I have loved being a mayor and a governor, I don’t feel the same call to run for Senate at this point. At the end of my term, I will have been in public office for 15 years. I feel like I can be most helpful in my next service as a private citizen.”