Eastern Tennessee Has Been a Hotbed of Corruption for Decades

WHEN DID THE LOCAL MEDIA STOP REPORTING IT?

by Sharon Rondeau

The Tennessee flag was officially endorsed by the state general assembly on April 17, 1905

(Jan. 21, 2011) — The Post & Email has been reporting for more than 18 months on corruption in Monroe, Roane, McMinn, Madison and other counties in Tennessee and has learned that such corruption has been a scourge in the area “for generations.”

A local newspaper, the Knoxville News Sentinel, had published an extensive exposé on corruption in Cocke County considered by the publication to be “one of the most significant corruption investigations in East Tennessee’s history.”

Corruption consisting of “chop shops,” racketeering, drug dealing, cockfighting, illegal liquor sales, prostitution, police misconduct and brutality, and tainted grand juries was discovered and believed to have its roots in the 1960s, more than four decades prior to the News Sentinel’s report.

Cocke County was once part of North Carolina and is located near several state parks as well as the Appalachian Trail.  Despite its natural beauty, Cocke County’s “tradition of corruption” has been widely-known and publicized by writers across the country.

In 2006, it was reported that “a state and federal corruption probe” was targeting rampant crime resulting from a “good old boy” network which had been long-established in Cocke County.  Another 2006 report stated that the Knoxville FBI was praised by FBI chief Robert Mueller for breaking up organized crime in the area following a five-year probe.

On January 20, 2012, it was reported that members of Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens’s staff had resigned following “allegations that an inmate was treated improperly.”  A second news report does not reveal how many resigned nor their identities. There is no evidence of a written report or link to the referenced press release.  The Post & Email has focused on the conditions in the Monroe County jail, having contacted the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Governor Bill Haslam, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury regarding the reports of abuse, filth, and lack of medical care, among other issues.  Is the FBI investigating?

It appears that Monroe, Roane, and McMinn Counties have similar problems with public corruption.  Western Tennessee has its share of corruption as well.  Judicial malfeasance appears to be widespread, and complaints against judges are kept secret by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, charged with disciplining judges found guilty of misconduct.

If the FBI and TBI could investigate public corruption from the 1960s to the present in one Tennessee county, why can it not do so in Monroe County, where criminal activity has been reported within the sheriff’s department, courthouse, and prosecutor’s office?

A non-profit Christian organization has filed a lawsuit against Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens after its property was confiscated, claiming Fourth Amendment rights violations as a result of Bivens’s “willful, malicious and reckless” behavior.  Sheriffs from Shelby, Grundy, Henry, and Bedford Counties have been sued, the latter of which has been taken to the federal level.

Conditions in the Monroe County jail have been reported extensively at The Post & Email. A call placed to Mr. Miller Meadows on January 13, 2012 at the Tennessee Corrections Institute, which allegedly has the ability to carry out unannounced inspections, was not returned.

In 2008, the Select Oversight Committee on Corrections issued a report which stated that “The Department of Correction’s Operations have improved since the formation of the committee, as evidenced by the department being released from the federal court order in May 1993.”  The report concluded that the Committee “met its legislative mandate” and that its work to “address ongoing issues,” including “inmates’ health,” necessitated its continued work.

While recommendations for constructing new county jails have been made, corruption has been encountered in the process in Dickson County.

The Post & Email has recently contacted the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury at 615-253-2668 in response to its 2002 report on substandard jail conditions, having been directed there by Governor Bill Haslam’s office.  We spoke with Mr. Blake Fontenay, who suggested that anyone concerned with public corruption in Tennessee call the “Fraud, Waste and Abuse” hotline at 1-800-232-5454.

In regard to Monroe County jail inmate Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, he has recently told The Post & Email that he would like to receive more letters.  Fitzpatrick has reported that the jail is like a “dungeon” and has been held in solitary confinement for most of his current and previous incarcerations.

The mailing address is:

Monroe County Jail
319 Hickory Street
Madisonville, TN  37354

Fitzpatrick had some good news to report in a recent letter:

The nursing staff here — separate and distinct from any connection to Bill Bivens and the Monroe County Tennessee Sheriff’s Department — is doing a tremendous job taking care of me.  My foot wound is healing nicely.  Nurse Shelly and Nurse Emily deserve nothing but kudos!!  Nurse Shelly and Nurse Emily work for Southern Health Partners.

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