Wed
Dec 12 2012
01:00 pm

Donila at the KNS

Josh Burnett, 32, who was hired when Duncan took office on Sept. 1, 2010, was sentenced to 11 months, 29 days probation on the misdemeanor charge by Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Liebowitz. He will be eligible for judicial diversion.

UPDATE: @WBIR: "2nd Knox County Trustee employee, attorney Chad Tindell, pleads guilty to facilitation of official misconduct."

UPDATE: WBIR reports that both Burnett and Tindell have resigned.

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R. Neal's picture

KNS: "Appearing with his

KNS: "Appearing with his attorney Tommy Hindman, he agreed to cooperate in 'any way requested' by prosecutors."

Roscoe Persimmon's picture

May not be a great Christmas out in Duncanville

This guy knows where all the bodies are buried and will be able to testify as to whatever the prosecution wants him to say.

In my opinion, they'll use this closed item to put additional leverage on the rest of the trustee's staff to plead to an inconsequential charge, leave office, and move on down the line.

However, to a number of persons in that office, there is no such thing as an inconsequential charge to plead guilty to.

R. Neal's picture

UPDATE: Chad Tindell...

UPDATE: Chad Tindell...

Roscoe Persimmon's picture

I think Chad the lawyer goes downstairs at 1:30

to say guilty or something to that effect and whether or not Randy Nichols has the stones to take a shot at Duncan is still open for debate. Should get the same deal as the other guy.

Average Guy's picture

With 21st century connectivity,

one would think a lawyer being out of town wouldn't negate his ability to comment. And it's funny these guys always seem to be "out of town" when the caca hits the fan.

And didn't JDIII hire Burnett and Tindell? If so, how could this not be a top-down issue? If ithis were a legacy issue, where leftover underlings were doing things behind Duncan's back, maybe he could plead ignorance.

Since these were his "boys", that seems impossible on its face.

metulj's picture

Just another half-chapter on

Just another half-chapter on my book.

Rachel's picture

If this two guys are guilty

If this two guys are guilty of "facilitating" official misconduct, then who was actually committing the official misconduct?

Average Guy's picture

I'm still unclear who brought

I'm still unclear who brought the charges? Local, state or fed?

JHayes's picture

Exactly

I was thinking the exact same thing. Who did the crime that actually had these two facilitating it?

metulj's picture

There has to be someone who

There has to be someone who was facilitated. And it can't be "Person unknown." It is either some fall guy (my money is there) or it is JDIII. Daddy must be stepin-and-fetchin like his ass is on fire and his head is a-ketchin.

Hildegard's picture

No, if it was an information

No, if it was an information plea agreement, there is not necessarily another person involved. I am not commenting on this case or this set of facts, about which I know little. Just saying that "facilitation" is a favorite plea bargaining chip. In terms of plea bargaining, a facilitation plea usually (almost always, in my experience) has less to do with what someone else did, and more to do with what your client really did. As in, you committed a robbery, but your lawyer and the DA agreed to reduce it to facilitation of robbery, b/c there is some problem with the State's case and they're not sure they'll win at trial.

In terms of this case, I don't know. There may be an indictment in the works.

Average Guy's picture

,..b/c there is some

,..b/c there is some problem...

If it ends with these two, you can bet your ass there is.

Not looking for a pike, or saying there's not more to come, it just seems this is another instance in Knox where the Bandaid is pulled off fractionally instead of just ripped.

metulj's picture

Can I use that metaphor?

Can I use that metaphor?

Average Guy's picture

Maybe a pike wouldn’t be so bad

I think if a few more thumb nosing government officials in the Deathstar were frog-marched around the courthouse in cuffs and with serious charges, it would lead to fewer problems.

Steal from the public or break their trust, we’re not going to throw an abridged version of the book at you; we’re going to drop the law library on your head.

This was Schmutzer on his light charges gift to Baumgartner; “I feel that what I did, under the circumstances, was in the best interest of Knox County”.

Totally wrong. It’s time to stop giving corrupt officials soft landings, no matter the reasoning. Even if the result is all “Jerry Springer” like. Do it, do it fast and do it very publicly to serve as a warning to all that would follow.

Factchecker's picture

To high heaven

This stinks on the KnoxViews BS-O-METER!

Memphis Slim's picture

KNS essentially chosing not to cover the details of the story

Where is the follow up, why no call directly to Duncan III regarding this fiasco, why no publication of the checks which were issued to the involved employees?

Oh, but they'll sensationalize and publicize a pissed women filing for divorce in an attempt to humiliate and embarrass a county mayor, but they wouldn't lay a hand on the county trustee, that nobody trusts.

McIlroy needs to go and if this is all that Scripps can do in this community, they need to go to a three day publication schedule.

Rachel's picture

Where is the follow up, why

Where is the follow up, why no call directly to Duncan III regarding this fiasco

Did you read this morning's KNS story? I quote: "Duncan, son of long-time U.S. Rep John J. Duncan Jr., declined Wednesday to specifically address the bounuses he authorized for himself and his employees. His attorney, Jeff Hagood, also declined comment."

All the KNS can do is ask; they can't make 'em talk.

BTW, this morning's story also has the rundown on all of Duncan's changing statements about the bonuses as the story broke.

Treehouse's picture

A trustee nobody trusts

Heh.

Memphis Slim's picture

How about asking them why resignations effective March 1?

Why would you allow employees to plead guilty to facilitation of official misconduct and allow them to stay on the payroll until March 1? Is this additional compensation for not talking about what all went on up in the trusty's office, in Las Vegas, or out at the Tin Roof from time to time? Does this allow the employees to fully vest in other county retirement programs, further hooking the taxpayers to fund these clowns retirment on down the road?

The KNS doesn't ax the hard questions, doesn't dig into what is really going on, and for some inexplicable reason has faith and confidence in this Duncan mystique which has long worn out its welcome in East Tennessee and has become downright embarrassing to keep electing people who do nothing. LA has Kardashians, Knoxville has the Duncans.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

I believe both of the employees to have pleaded guilty were new to Knox County government following JDIII's election, so I don't think the March 1 resignation date enables either to become eligible for any county retirement income.

Since Knox County property taxes for any given year become delinquent after February 28 of the following year, I suppose that's the reason for the March 1 resignation date?

I do agree with you that an elected official's allowing any government employee to remain on the office's payroll beyond the time the employee enters such a guilty plea seems a dubious move.

And I offer that observation with regret. I don't know Josh but like many of us here I do know and have long respected Chad. I continue to hope we'll get more details soon concerning the nature and degree of his apparent culpability in this matter.

Rachel's picture

I think that March 1 date is

I think that March 1 date is incorrect. I read in the KNS that Burnett is gone as of yesterday, and Tindell on 2/1.

R. Neal's picture

Betty Bean: Tindell

Betty Bean: Tindell prosecution: Selective justice?

Did not know that CBT never actually received any of the alleged bogus bonuses. WTF?

Bbeanster's picture

Chad got a stipend for

Chad got a stipend for completing his CLE, which it is my understanding that he chose to repay, but did not participate in the test scam.

Up Goose Creek's picture

Tax Sales

Is Chad Tindell being made the fall guy?

One thing that's disturbing to me is Chad Tindell was working very hard on legislative initiatives to clear the title of property sold through a tax sale. Will anyone continue with this or will it fall by the wayside?

I have been looking for vacant lots and the ratio was about 7:1 for properties that were abandoned vs those where the owner could be found. Often they owed more in taxes than they were worth. Neighbors haven't seen the owner in years. There are properties with reasonable taxes owed but the records indicate a quit claim deed - thus cloudy title.

Meanwhile the city is having to deal with mowing these properties, tearing down abandoned houses, etc etc. The costs add up and it is a burden on the community.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

Per Bean:

...it’s hard to see Chad Tindell, whose beefed-up delinquent tax collection efforts resulted in an unexpected windfall for the county this year, as anything more than grist for the mill.

Thanks so much for that background, Betty.

Yes, I have the same questions you have--and I share your concern that Chad may not be getting a very fair shake here.

Elwood Aspermonte's picture

Sounds like Nichols going after Duncan's people

Reading between the lines it looks like the district attorney is going after the Duncan clans political people. What have the do nothing Duncans done to Randy Nichols? As milktoast as they are, I can't imagine them doing anything to an isolated Democratic prosecutor when they haven't done anything for the community in 25 years.

There could be some hidden undercurrents within the district attorney's office that the Duncans are getting blamed for. Nichols hasn't prosecuted any of the political shennanigans in Knox County since he has been on the job as the DA and why he would start on a bunch of hyjinx in the trustee's office is highly suspicious. Granted does the Knox County Trustee really need a chief of staff and an office lawyer, extremely engaged in all manners of political activity? I assume they did something to trigger a guilty plea, otherwise, Nichols hasn't prosecuted any of the courthouse crowd and isn't likely to start now.

The Duncans do need to get JDuncan III out of public office, as he's wrenching the whole family bidness of living at the public trough and living a lifestyle not well suited to the public scrutiny and the color of corruption that Knox County public officials travel under now.

reform4's picture

Can you elaborate?

a chief of staff and an office lawyer, extremely engaged in all manners of political activity

Dunno about Burnett, but Chad has been very busy building the system for dealing with abandoned properties. Can you elaborate and offer anything to substantiate "all manners of political activity"?

I do agree that it doesn't make sense that our do-nothing AG would suddenly start doing something. I'd think the last thing he would do as a Democrat holding a nice office in Knox Co would be to start throwing rocks at the Duncans.

Who actually brought the charges?

Average Guy's picture

"a lot of people" "flame throwing" & "embarrassing"

It's not clear exactly what Blackwood had intended to say or to whom he intended to say it. That's because, he said, a "colleague of mine" with whom he shared his plan to do a little judicial flame-throwing in Knox County advised against it.

"He's a whole lot wiser than me," Blackwood said. "I realized I might embarrass a lot of people, but the only one I'd really be embarrassing is me and this judicial system."

(link...)

Until "a lot of people" feel the flames, the Knox County judicial system will remain an embarrassment.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

Steve, I went scanning the KNS archives for an answer to your question and didn't immediately see who brought these charges (nor do I know too much about court processes generally).

However, I did find info contrary to your post, Randy. Mike Donila reported (in December 2011) that Chad did receive two of these $3000 bonuses, one in 2010 and one in 2011.

In that year-old story, a double-asterisk next to both Chad's and David Skinner's names (in the lists of payments made to employees in 2010 and 2011) leads the reader to a footnote explaining that Chad and David "are not certified public administrators but received bonuses based on other professional designations."

So according to Mike, Chad did get these $3000 bonuses, twice?

Well, I think I choose to sit out this inquiry and just wait to hear what Chad has to say on February 1.

Over and out.

(P.S.--I have never met David Skinner, but he has in the past helped me with questions I've raised by phone and e-mail. As with Chad, I've found him to be very professional and he impressed me favorably. What to make of this, then? I'll wait.)

reform4's picture

I don't think that was me.

I don't recall saying that Chad didn't receive the bonuses. I think that was someone else.

FWIW, I do recall him telling me that he paid them back, so I would assume that means he did receive some kind of payment or bonus.

Bbeanster's picture

I'm not sure what the

I'm not sure what the controversy is.
Chad was paid for taking CLE, which is required of lawyers. He didn't get a CTAS bonus and he didn't have someone take a test for him.
He repaid the money when the CTAS crap hit the fan.

His offense is crafting the salary suit that enabled those payments.

And yes, he's the in-house delinquent property attorney, and makes probably about a third of what Harb used to make.

reform4's picture

So, now I'm even more confused.

So, he authored the salary suit that said, in effect "these people passed this test, therefore we're going to pay out these bonuses."

I'm guessing that Chad was busy enough in the office that he wasn't witness to whether the other people took the test or not. He probably took the word of JD3 or someone else. He's not the test administrator, for goodness' sake.

So, he authored a document that was wrong. Now, unless someone came up to him and said "Hey, Chad, we all cheated on this test, but don't say that in the document." Highly unlikely, anybody in their right mind knows you don't tell your attorney (or any attorney) that you broke the law. So I dismiss that possibility. Occam's Razor and all that.

So, if his bonus was CLE, it sounds like he voluntarily did something he didn't have to do to help the office look like he was doing the right thing (and his reward was to be thrown to the wolves).

It sounds like he probably could have fought the thing, but how much time and $$ would THAT cost?

The more I hear the crazier it sounds.

Bbeanster's picture

This: "It sounds like he

This:

"It sounds like he probably could have fought the thing, but how much time and $$ would THAT cost?"

Exactly what I concluded.

Bbeanster's picture

Tamara, my best understanding

Tamara, my best understanding is that Chad was paid for his CLE (as I said in the column). I do not know the rationale, but my guess is that it was classified as professional development. My information is that he returned it when the controversy arose over the test-taking, etc. Whether he should have been paid can be debated, but it's not the basis of the charge against him.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

...but it's not the basis of the charge against him.

Quite so, Betty, and the only reason I took that tangent (to note that Chad appears to have originally accepted the two $3000 bonuses) was to correct Randy's mistaken impression that he had not.

But really, like you suggest, the question before us is how is he alleged to have "facilitated official misconduct?"

Over and out again.

R. Neal's picture

Randy's mistaken impression

Randy's mistaken impression was based on Betty's column.

"Details are murky, but Tindell, who did not receive the CTAS bonus, is in trouble for authoring the trustee’s salary suit..."

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

And I should have conceded, Randy, that I shared your mistaken impression (due to how Betty's column characterized the payments to Chad) until I stumbled across Mike Donila's December 2011 article to the contrary.

In any event, isn't the situation then that some Trustee's Office employees received the bonus (presumably detailed in the two years' salary suits as a "CTAS bonus") when those employees had not earned the CTAS designation, while other Trustee's Office employees (including Chad and David Skinner) received the bonus for having earned designations other than the CTAS certification?

In a related question, doesn't the Trustee have authority to enact line-item transfers in the budget s/he is granted?

What I'm getting at is this: The test-taking scam is one issue, but is the crime of "official misconduct" committed when paying a bonus for one type of earned designation from the line-item budget established for another type of earned designation?

Guess I'm not over or out, either one...

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

And as to the test-taking scam, doesn't a staff attorney serve in just an advisory capacity?

If so, does some sort of evidence exist to suggest that Chad failed to advise JDIII of the statute (?) guiding payment of the CTAS bonuses?

Is this why the court's scrutiny of the salary suit's preparer?

reform4's picture

More than advising..

I don't think Chad just waits around for JD3 to ask him questions. He's been doing a lot of work laying the process and making filings related to abandoned properties, so they can be sold, generating property taxes again, etc. His work is more project-oriented than advisory, from my understanding.

I may be wrong, but I think he's doing the work that Harb used to do as an outside contractor.

I would add- if Chad is gone, will the work he's done all be for nothing? Will it go back to an outside contractor? By yapping over $15,000 (or whatever it was) in bonuses, will Knox County be forgoing millions in collections? Penney-wise, pound foolish?

Average Guy's picture

How we got to this point

The county's information technologies department seized an office computer assigned to Brezina at the request of the Knox County District Attorney General's Office.

Gregory P. Isaacs, who represents Brezina, said today that it was his "understanding that Mr. Brezina would not face any criminal charges."

(link...)

Nobody gets away unscathed without cooperating and nobody in Knox County pleads guilty if there isn't definitive evidence against them.

Whatever Isaac's client had on that computer and whatever he said to the authorities in charge seems to be damning. I would doubt the DA went out looking as much as he had something dropped on his desk he couldn't ignore.

Seeing the DA and Sherriff on Gene Patterson's show and reading their body language when asked about JDIII, I'd say there is more to come.

Greg Mackay's picture

My take

All of us make mistakes.
Good people sometimes do things they shouldn’t or fail to do things they should.
I don’t know exactly what happened and maybe I never will.
But I do know this:
Chad Tindell is a good man.

Rachel's picture

What Greg said.

What Greg said.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

Agreed, Greg.

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