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Friday, September 30, 2016

Councilman Pete Souza files 13 count ethics complaint against Jesse Kerley, Steve Hill and Jerry Kerley

Councilman Pete Souza has filed an ethics complaint with the city that includes some 13 incidents he thinks need to be investigated that include accusations against councilman Jesse Kerley, interim city manager Steve Hill and one count names Kerley's father, city water resources director Jerry Kerley.

Crossville city councilman Pete Souza, author of ethics complaints

Councilman Jesse Kerley, the target of the majority of Souza's complaints 

Interim city manager Steve Hill, also a target of Souza's complaints

Crossville city attorney Will Ridley who acts as the city's ethics officer

The ethics complaint was presented to city attorney Will Ridley on Friday September 16. Ridley is the ethics officer for the city and has reviewed the complaint for it to move to the next steps. Ridley released the document to city clerk Sally Oglesby on Friday September 30 with a cover letter to Mayor James Mayberry.

Ridley's letter states that because he represents the council as a whole that he feels he has a conflict of interest that will not allow him to investigate the complaints or make any recommendation to the council as to the complaint's validity or merit.  Ridley suggests that the council hold a special called meeting because of the large number of complaints.  He adds that the ordinance does not provide a certain timeline in which complaints must be considered.

Two of the complaints (number 1 and number 9 below) relate to the pending criminal assault accusations between councilman Souza and Kerley that will be back in General Sessions Court on October 6.  Ridley says that those complaints not be considered until such time as the pending criminal matter is complete resolved.  After that the items could be considered.

The complaint that concerns city employee Jerry Kerley should be considered by the personnel board and not the council.  Ridley also provided a copy of a Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) opinion on procedures for the council to follow when considering an ethics complaint.  The MTAS opinion is dated September 21, 2016

 The complaint outlines some 13 events over the 10 page document. Those events range from the alleged assault by Jesse and Jerry Kerley against Mr. Souza, interim city manager Steve Hill interfering with the police investigation of the incident, and Hill's alleged misuse of city property before he retired from the parks department.

Additional items allege official oppression and abuse of office by Mr. Kerley including requesting certain people be arrested, releasing false information concerning an investigation into actions by former police chief Rod Shoap, and harassing citizens and city city employees.

The council/ethics committee is charged with determining if the complaints have merit, do not have merit, or require investigation. If investigation is needed and approved a lawyer from outside a 100 mile radius is chosen to investigate.

Councilman Kerley said earlier this week that he had not seen the complaint document but he still described the charges as "more lies."

The 13 items listed are described by Mr. Souza as events and a brief description of each one follows:
  1. Conduct of Mr. Jerry Kerley, director of the water resources department for his action to participate in an act of violence with his son, councilman Jesse Kerley on June 2, 2016 in violation of the city personnel ordinance.
  2. Interim city manager using his office to allow his friend and sponsor Jesse Kerley to interfere with a police investigation and to harass then police chief Rod Shoap.
  3. Mr. Hill's use of municipal supplies for private use while head of the parks and recreation department.
  4. Mr. Hill's unauthorized granting of himself and “a privileged employee” time off to play golf in violation of the personnel policy.
  5. Mr. Hill, upon assuming duties as interim city manager acquired a utility vehicle that he utilized for his personal use.
  6. That on June 3, 2016, Mr. Kerley and Mr. Hill, using their office approached the justice center to make sure no charges on councilman Kerley were passed through the magistrates office, described as an act of official oppression.
  7. On July 3, Councilman Kerley and Mr. Hill released stories to the media concerning an investigation into police chief Rod Shoap that were not true. This is alleged to have been an act of official oppression.
  8. Councilman Kerley, under color of office ordered police chief Shoap to arrest persons for the purpose of causing them harm.
  9. Councilman Kerley stalked and assaulted councilman Souza on June 2, 2016 on city property following a council work session.
  10. Councilman Kerley, under color of his office, actively interfered with a police investigation into the assault of councilman Souza.
  11. Councilman Kerley and Mr. Hill used their offices to place false information with the press concerning an investigation for allegedly mistreating a supposedly gay city employee, claimed Shoap had an affair in Lee County Florida, and he had committed a felony for not filing a police report. Mr. Hill later stated to a reporter there was no investigation
  12. Councilman Kerley used his office to pursue efforts to harass and cause harm to citizens of Cumberland County including former director of schools Donald Andrews and Randy Blankenship.
  13. Councilman Kerley began harassing former city manager David Rutherford starting in January of 2016. In addition, Mr. Souza says that Kerley accused him of meeting with chief Shoap to have people arrested. Souza said he was only passing on information he received from citizens that resulted in drug houses being shut down and ways to help the department.
Souza's cover letter with the complaints ends by saying, “The decision to pursue this rests with the council., What is clearly evident is the acts listed in this complaint could not have transpired if open government existed on all levels. Now this council has the opportunity to bring in an unbiased investigator or shut this down and cover this up.”

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