Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

July 11, 2014

Kerley fires accusations at Graham

CROSSVILLE — As a critical city election that could chart the course of the city looms on the horizon, two sides seem to be lining up and a preliminary skirmish came in an unexpected place during the city council’s regular July meeting.

A few items were expected to be somewhat controversial on the council agenda but were handled more smoothly. Still, several items were decided by a divided three-to-two vote of the five-member council, with Mayor J.H. Graham III, Councilman Danny Wyatt and Councilman George Marlow on one side and Councilman Pete Souza and Councilman Jesse Kerley on the other.

Under the city attorney’s report, Kerley indicated he had a question, one he might need to ask of the city’s consultant MTAS, and asked city attorney Ken Chadwell, “What action, if any, can this council take against the mayor for once again verbally abusing an employee?”

Chadwell said Kerley could ask whom ever he wanted, but Chadwell said he was not going to “speculate or hypothesize on open ended questions.”

Chadwell continued, “I know the incident you are talking about. I do not know what was said. I wasn’t there. I didn’t hear it. I heard it got heated on both sides.”

Chadwell concluded, saying since he had no first hand knowledge of the event, he had no opinion on the matter and he sat down.

Kerley continued, “Enough’s enough and if this employee chooses to take action, we’ll be discussing this further in August because people have had enough of our mayor mistreating our employees.”

The discussion continued on for some time abefore it was revealed the city employee in question was Kerley’s father, Jerry Kerley, director of the water resources department.

Souza said he would refrain from any comment until such time as a formal complaint was filed.

“I think this is a little bit premature,” said Souza, “but we’ve been down this road before and we jumped too early. If there’s going to be a complaint, it needs to run the due process.”

Graham responded, “I disagree with Mr. Jesse Kerley’s opinion and if you’re going to accuse me of something, let the person involved accuse me. I disagree with his assertion that he was verbally abused and, until I find out what his specific complaint is, we’ll reserve any comments until then.”

Kerley countered back saying, “I witnessed you raise your voice to a city employee that you initiated the conversation with.”

Kerley said the mayor asked to meet with the employee (Jerry Kerley) in the hallway after the last work session in which Kerley said he called the mayor a liar, and then the mayor took Jerry Kerley down in front of the mayor’s office in view of all the councilmen who saw the two men talking as they left the meeting.

Kerley said he had to go ask the city manager to come out into the hall before the mayor lowered his voice.

“Your excuses ain’t gonna cut it no more,” stated Kerley.

Graham said, “I will stipulate that I asked your father to meet with me after the work session.”

Kerley then asked, “Why didn’t you ask your questions during the work session? And you asked about a project that wasn’t even in his department.”

“Well, I didn’t abuse him,” stated Graham.

Wyatt then joined the discussion, stating, “He (Jerry Kerley) had researched the RFQs (on the wastewater plant operation) for Mr. Souza, who didn’t do his job. I stayed up two nights until 2 in the morning and went through all four of them.”

After some back and fourth between councilman Wyatt and Kerley, Wyatt asked Souza about the accusation.

Souza said he had asked Jerry Kerley to give his recommendation and his expertise. Wyatt again accused Souza of “not doing his job.”

As several comments were thrown between Souza, Wyatt and Kerley, Graham again asked for decorum and said to Kerley, “When I’m formally accused by your father, I will answer it. I don’t feel like I verbally abused him in any shape, form or fashion.”

Graham informed Kerley that he was allowed fact finding information from employees and that was confirmed by a question to Chadwell.

Graham concluded by telling Kerley, “If you or your father needs to bring charges against me, I’ll defend myself.”

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