Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 20, 2013

Grand Jury to hear result of council investigation

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — District Attorney General Randy York advised it could be March before the results of an investigation into city council issues can be presented to a grand jury because the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent looking into the matter has been on medical leave.

In addition, the Crossville City Charter clearly spells out that the city council does indeed have subpoena powers to compel the production of documents, as the council voted earlier this month seeking documents collected by Councilman Pete Souza.

York explained the TBI investigation stemmed from a request by Souza and Mayor J.H. Graham III in January 2013 to clear up questions concerning the purchase of property near the airport. A letter from Souza included what York described as “serious allegations,” including some potential felonious actions. According to York, he requested an investigator not from Cumberland County to look into the matter and that findings be presented to a grand jury once the investigation is complete.

York explained that the investigation is nearly complete, but can't be finished until the TBI investigator returns from medical leave. The next opportunity to present any findings to a grand jury after that would be in early March.

A grand jury can be called to meet in an “inquisitorial capacity,” explained York, and they can review facts and decide if information presented rises to the level of criminal activity. He added that he felt it was important to have 12 citizens look at and review the findings to insure transparency.

Crossville's original Charter from the city's incorporation in 1900 includes language that specifically gives the council the power to “subpoena witnesses and compel the production of books and papers relating to any subject within its jurisdiction.”

The council approved a motion to compel Souza to provide files and evidence he has collected concerning a series of accusations he has made since taking office. Souza commented following that action, “Now they have to figure out how to enforce it.”

According to the charter, the council can use its own officers or the chief of police to “exercise its process and to arrest and punish by fine or imprisonment, or both, any person refusing to obey such subpoena or order.”

The council also has the right to delegate its subpoena power to any committee and the punishment for failing to comply is a fine of up to $50 and imprisonment for up to 10 days, but each day of delay is considered a separate offense.