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by Sharon Rondeau

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (TAOC) has not responded to numerous requests made by The Post & Email over several years. While always courteous and careful to support our claims with documentation from the courts themselves, both former communications director Laura Click and current communications director Michele Wojciechowski have declined requests for interviews and interaction on activity within Tennessee courts

(Sep. 5, 2014) — For two weeks, The Post & Email has sought copies of surety bond certificates for court clerks in McMinn and Monroe Counties, TN by means of an Open Records request.

The mandatory response period for open records requests is seven business days as stated in TCA 10-7-503.

A change in the law which took effect last summer mandated that county clerks hold the certificates in their offices as opposed to the previous central location of the Comptroller of the Treasury in Nashville.

An Open Records request submitted by email on August 25 to McMinn County court clerks Sherry Anderson and Pat Newman and copied to Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts Communications Director Michele Wojchiechoswki reads:

Sharon Rondeau
To: sherry.anderson@tncourts.gov
Cc: pat.newman@tncourts.gov, mwojciechowski@tncourts.gov

The following is an open records request unrelated to my request of August 22, 2014 for the audio recording and typed transcript from the sentencing hearing of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, for which I am willing to pay reasonable fees.

Today I am requesting copies of surety bonds for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 under which court clerks and any other judicial personnel are bound to perform their duties lawfully and ethically.  I am willing to pay the costs of copying and mailing, if necessary.

According to a revision of the law last year, county courts are now required to maintain records of surety bonds:


Thank you very much.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT  06076

After the passage of seven business days without a response on the surety bond request, we contacted John Dunn, spokesman for the Comptroller of the Treasury, by email on September 4.  We had spoken on the phone with Dunn on August 25 when we began our search.

Dunn provided no response to our email, which reads:

Hello, Mr. Dunn, on August 23, you and I spoke for a few minutes regarding my Open Records request for copies of surety bonds for court clerks.  Originally I thought that prosecutors and judges might also be covered by those, although your office confirmed that they are not.

I checked the Tennessee codes and found references only to court clerks having to be bonded, as you said.

The McMinn County court clerks (Sherry Anderson and Pat Newman) have ignored my Open Records request for this item as well as another submitted the day prior for different documentation.  Martha M. Cook, chief court clerk in Monroe County, also failed to respond within the mandatory seven-business-day period but did respond this morning to my follow-up email in which she stated that she does not have to provide me with anything because I am “not a resident of Tennessee.”  While this is technically true, I am a reporter and have always been able to obtain documents through Open Records laws in other states if they existed or a response to say that they did not.

Tennessee attorney Lizabeth Hale confirmed in a letter to me received approximately two years ago that members of the media, regardless of the state in which they are located, are covered under Open Records laws.  I can find that letter for you if you need it.

I will forward Ms. Cook’s response to you under separate cover.

For full disclosure, I would like you to know that my newspaper has been exposing systemic corruption in the Tenth Judicial District for the last five years, which is the reason the clerks do not wish to respond to me.  Clerk Anderson asked me several months ago not to place phone calls to the court, which violates my constitutional right and duty to obtain information and report on what government is doing.  I acceded to her wishes (I’m sure she was directed from a higher level) and have submitted all other requests in writing, but they are now being ignored in violation of TCA 10-7-503.


I never heard from anyone at the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, whose spokeswoman, Michele Wojciechowski, was copied in on the Open Records request to McMinn County.  Mr. Fontenay additionally had told me that someone would be contacting me from her office as a result of action he took on August 23.

I originally contacted Ms. Wojciechowski several months ago to discuss my findings of judicial corruption, but after I sent her audio evidence from a trial in late June, she stopped all communication.  That held true after I asked her for comment on an August 19 article from The Chattanooga Times Free Press quoting Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood as having called a person being sentenced “a moral coward” and stating, “I’m sick and tired of all these people who want to talk about their Constitutional rights.”


Ignoring a problem will not make it go away, and the silence is becoming deafening.

In early July, I sent a copy of a formal letter to the Comptroller’s office about specific cases of criminality I have documented thus far in the Tenth Judicial District.  The letter was sent to Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr., the FBI in Washington, DC, Rep. Andrew Fleischmann and the chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy.  None has replied.

I do not mean to make things difficult for you, but I do not believe there is a valid reason for the clerks to withhold or not possess the surety bonds, given the change in the law we discussed on August 23 and which I verified myself.

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT  06076

The Post & Email incorrectly stated to Dunn that the surety bond request was dated August 23 when the date was actually August 25, a Monday.

We did not receive a response from Dunn on September 4 nor as of this writing on September 5.

Newman’s September 4 email received several minutes after contacting Dunn reads:

Ms. Rondeau,  Sorry we did not respond sooner to your email.  We are not in the habit of checking our e-mails on a basis daily. In the future advise us by fax or phone call to make any requests.  As of this date, the recording of that hearing is in the possession of the AOC court reporter, Belinda Moore.  You will need to contact her about the recording and preparing the transcript and the costs.

Thank You
Pat Newman

We then told Newman:

Several months ago, Ms. Anderson told me not to place any phone calls to your office and to use email or fax to communicate with you.

How do I reach Ms. Moore?

Also, did you receive my Open Records request for copies of surety bonds for court clerks?  That was dated August 23, one day after the request for the recording and/or transcript.

Thank you.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT  06076

We then responded:

OK, thank you.  What is that contact information?

To which Newman replied:

I don’t have the contact information for the Court Reporter.  The Judge’s Office and the AOC handle that.  The phone number for the County Clerk’s Office is 423-745-4440.

The McMinn County clerk’s office is located in a different building than the McMinn County Criminal Court.  The Post & Email is curious as to why the county clerk has a website in her own name with a .com suffix which discusses county business.

On Friday morning, The Post & Email called the number provided by Newman, explaining our purpose.  We were then directed to call 423-745-1923, which we did and re-explained the documents we were seeking to the clerk who answered.  “Sounds like a ‘Rhonda’ question,” we were told, after which we were connected to Rhonda Cooley, Chief Court Clerk at the McMinn County Criminal Court, where we had begun our search.

Ms. Cooley spoke with us very courteously for more than 20 minutes, during which she explained that the Criminal Court does not retain the certificates we sought. We also discussed the matter of The Post & Email having been instructed not to call the courthouse for any information or documentation, which Cooley admitted was “wrong.”

Cooley said that in regard to the Fitzpatrick transcript, she was made aware that a “Brenda Moore” had performed the court reporting on August 19 but that she did not check her in.  She told us that the court currently has no audio recording or typed transcript of the hearing but that “eventually, we do file any recordings” from court hearings.  Neither she nor the other two clerks knew how to reach Moore.

Cooley told us that until recently, “judges had their own court reporter” but that that policy is changing.  She specifically cited that Denise Barnes had been the court reporter for Judge Carroll Lee Ross, who retired on August 31.  Cooley also volunteered the information that Newman has resigned to become assistant to newly-elected Judge Sandra Donaghy, who defeated Judge Amy Armstrong Reedy in the August 7 election and was sworn in at the end of last month.

Donaghy promised during her campaign to “follow all state and federal laws.”  She has worked as a deputy prosecutor in the Seventh Judicial District for the last 20 years.

Newman had been under the impression that Moore “came from” the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.

In our recent communication with Monroe County Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook, we were given only a P.O. box with which to contact Barnes about a different transcript.

Cooley referred us to Jason Luallen, Director of Finance for McMinn County, who also was gracious but said that the McMinn County clerk to whom Newman had referred us should have the certificates.  “I’ll help you get ’em any way I can,” he helpfully concluded the call.

Upon his recommendation, we called the McMinn County clerk’s office again at 423-745-4440 and were directed to Evonne Hoback, who affirmed that the court possesses the surety bond certificates.  When she asked us why we wanted them, we explained that we are working on a research project and simply wish to see them and what is covered by them.  Luallen had informed us that they are applied for annually for September 1 and that the 2014-2015 certificates have not yet been issued by the insurance company; therefore, we modified our request to include only the certificate for September 1, 2013 effective through August 31, 2014.

The Post & Email told Hoback that we had submitted an Open Records request two weeks ago, but after she interrupted us by stating, “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” we finished, “but we sent it to the wrong court.”

As the brief conversation drew to a close, Hoback impatiently told us, “Well, I don’t know why you want to see these; they’re here.  I’m not a court officer.  Send something to 5 South Hill Street and I’ll look at it.”

We then asked her if the office had a fax number, which she provided while demonstrating her clear desire to end the call.  When we asked to verify the spelling of her last name, she became more impatient but verified our proposed spelling.  “I didn’t want to misspell your name,” The Post & Email’s editor told Hoback.

As it turned out, we misspelled her first name, typing “Yvonne” instead of “Evonne,” which is an unusual spelling of the name.

We prepared a fax and sent it within the next five minutes which was not received on the first attempt but went through on the second.

Further attempting to reach the court reporter who transcribed Fitzpatrick’s sentencing hearing, we contacted Administrative Office of the Courts’ Administrative Director William E. Young, speaking with an assistant named Debbie.  Before calling, we had checked the list of state court reporters and noted that the name “Belinda Moore” was not among them.

Debbie informed us that criminal court transcriptionists are not required to be licensed by the state.  She did not know how to reach Ms. Moore and transferred us to a Connie Turner, who spoke with us and promised to return our call with the information such that we could submit an open records request.

Within several minutes of speaking with Turner, we located Ms. Moore and communicated with her.  Three hours later, Turner has not responded to us with Moore’s contact information.

Fitzpatrick was sentenced to three years in prison after having attempted to take petitions asking redress from the government for allegations of criminal activity on the part of judges, court clerks, grand jury foremen, jurors and prosecutors.

Filmmaker William F. Fain, who is creating a video about Fitzpatrick’s efforts to uncover judicial corruption in eastern Tennessee, has exposed corruption in the Tenth Judicial District’s prosecutors’ office specifically concerning former District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb, who Fitzpatrick also named in his complaints to the grand jury.  Bebb signed the indictments naming Fitzpatrick in four crimes on March 18, 2014, for which no police report, criminal complaint or sworn affidavit existed.

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  1. It sounds unbelievable; Of course they don’t want their little “in house process” to be revealed – they might have to do it legally instead of using the shortcuts that make it easier on them.
    The world needs real journalists for exactly the reason you are revealing. Trouble is – The MSM doesn’t want to do what you are doing.

  2. Democrats are giving orders to protect Bari Malik Shabazz and anything they can do will help. Allowing Bari’s true “dual citizenship” and illegal POTUS status would mean disaster. Pelosi and Biden who falsified Bari’s eligibility/identity in 2008 vetting are guilty of Treason, Perjury, Election Fraud, accessories to murder, Misprision Of Felony, Obfuscation, Constitutional violations at all levels in assisting an illegal person into POTUS. YES-CONSPIRACY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!