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Saturday, December 31, 2016

YEAR IN REVIEW Part 2: In local politics, 2016 was the year of the sign...

Continued from PART 1

With the upcoming city election, a number of candidates began to qualify for the race and the city continued to take applications for the position of city manager. Councilman Pete Souza announced he would not seek reelection to the council. One popular place for political signs turned out to be the property across the street from city hall that belongs to Wendell Kerley, a former councilman and father to Jerry Kerley and grandfather to councilman Jesse Kerley. Following the August county general election, a sign popped up concerning Mr. Souza's run for tax assessor.

Many of the 2016 city election political signs were the kind you would expect at the link here.

As the campaign continued, signs in favor of J. H. Graham appeared in the yard across from city hall belonging to Wendell Kerley. They were substantially different from the signs at the same location only 2 years before when Graham was defeated in election for mayor of Crossville.
Kerley property signs in July 2014
"Some things are meant for extinction"
Kerley property signs supporting Graham

Then, at the end of September, an incident occurred that included the theft of political signs at the Mockingbird Drive property. As the theft took place, a neighbor caught part of the incident on video and was able to get a tag number of the pickup truck involved.

Video capture of Mockingbird Dr. sign theft

The district attorney took over the investigation and suspects were established that included Jerry Kerley, the director of water resources for the city of Crossville and father of councilman Jesse Kerley. The second man involved was identified as William Harwell who works at the Crossville airport. Investigation by this reporter discovered security video from the airport showed just before and just after the sign theft incident that the truck in question left from the airport and then returned to the airport. District attorney Bryant Dunaway confirmed that the stolen signs were recovered at the city owned airport.

In mid October, possibly the strangest sign story of the year came about when city council candidate J. J. Brownstead discovered several of his large political signs were missing and when he reported them stolen he was very surprised to be told someone else had reported them stolen. That person turned out to be councilman Jesse Kerley who tried to claim that the signs had come from his father's property off of Vanderver Road.

It turned out that the Cumberland Co. Sheriff's department had picked up the signs until the matter could be straightened out. This was surprising to Brownstead who knew that the signs had been repainted after they came from councilman Pete Souza's garage. Councilman Kerley had also submitted a list of “suspects” who he suspected of stealing the signs that included Mr. Brownstead, councilman Souza and this reporter among others.
It took 3 days, but the signs were then returned to Mr. Brownstead who put them back up.

Just over a week before the November election as early voting was coming to a close, an incident occurred in Crossville on the courthouse lawn when a man who said he was tired of the politics walked through the signs that had been posted kicking them and knocking them down. The man was taken into custody and charged with damage to the signs.
State Rep Cameron Sexton inspects sign damage

Then, just few days after the election, the political signs got very ugly. Two signs were set up, one on Lantana Rd, and the other in front of Kroger.

And after the election again, the case against Jerry Kerley and William Harwell made it to court and both men took pre-trial diversion on the charges and agreed to serve 6 months probation, pay fees and court costs.

In early December it was revealed that the city had agreed to drop all charges against J. R. Blankenship for his “unsigned fliers” and the removal of the section of the city ordinances he was charged under was unanimously approved by the new city council. The charges can not be brought back up and the $1500 fine assessed against Blankenship was set aside.

We may yet here more news about signs in the new year. Stay tuned.

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