Former Crab Orchard Utility District (COUD) board chairman James Alvin (Jimmy) Kemmer played a central role in the investigation of malfeasance at the water district and the fall of its former manager and her secretary daughter.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation entered the case after the Tennessee Comptroller's Office found problems with the way business was conducted was outside state law and that hundreds of thousands of dollars were unaccountable or had been improperly spent.

TBI Agent Tommy Callahan interviewed Kemmer at least twice during the course of the investigation. The following statement given to Callahan by Kemmer sheds some insight into what happened at COUD.

The sworn statement, given to Callahan in his office on Oct. 12, 2004, is part of the judicial diversion documents entered in the judgment against Kemmer.

The statement is published in total.

"On Sept. 9, 2004, I provided you with a sworn statement. There are some things in that statement that are not true. I want to get everything straight and tell the truth about what I know.

"During board meetings Jewell (Harris) did most of the talking and we would listen. At these meetings she would run them. Whatever was discussed, she would be the one who would bring it up.

"Jewell would take notes at these meetings and later type up the minutes so they could be read and approved at the next meeting. When that was read at the next month's meeting, I would sign the approved minutes.

"Around January 2003 Jewell found out that Brock Hill had found out that he had the power to appoint the board for the district. Jewell found this out and Brock had called for a meeting about a week or so later after she found out. It was during that period of time that Jewell gave me some copies of some board meeting minutes and was wanting me to sign them. She said that she had been going back through records and that she found them and they needed my signature.

"When I was signing them, I did not read them, but I had thought that there were minutes that I had already signed before. I believe they were at least three sets of minutes that she asked me to sign. There could have been more, but that is what I believe.

"It was also during the week before the meeting with Brock that Jewell told me that she wanted to give some of the employees a bonus. She told me that she had talked to Jim Brown and Wendall Oakes about these bonuses. I took it she had been told that it was okay with them.

"There was never any discussion during any meeting about these bonuses. When she told me how much she wanted to give these employees and herself, I told her no. I don't remember how much it was that she asked for. She then asked me if I would go along with another set of figures. She said that they would be based on the number of taps. I told her that would be all right, but I really did not know what the amounts would end up being.

"When she wrote the checks and asked me to sign them, I saw what the amounts were for. It was about two days after we talked about the bonuses when she had me sign the checks. I never had any conversations with Jim or Wendall about these checks.

"Jewell had already received a large bonus check around the first of January. That bonus check had never been discussed in a board meeting. That check was written to her and I signed it just a few days after she had talked to me about her wanting that bonus. I don't know whether Wendall or Jim knew anything about that check, but I believe that she would have talked to them about her getting that bonus check.

"Neither of these bonuses were discussed and voted on during the August 2002 board meeting, which some board minutes indicate. I believe that is one of the minutes that she asked me to sign in January.

"During my previous statement, I said that I heard a lawyer telling Jewell that bonuses were legal and that the amounts did not matter. I heard him say that you could buy them all an airplane if you have got enough money. The day I heard this was the day that we had met with Brock Hill in his office.

"This happened after that meeting when we had gone back to the district office to talk about what was said in Brock's meeting. I don't know the name of the lawyer but I was told (rest of this sentence is not legible).

"Whenever any bonuses were given out to anyone in the district, Jewell was the one who would decide the amounts of the bonuses. This included Christmas bonuses. I can only remember once or twice when we told Jewell that we did not want to give employees that much of a bonus.

"About four or five years before that, Jewell had discussed with all of us during a board meeting of the need to be able to contribute to political campaigns. She said that we could not just write them a check from the district. She came up with a way where we could give her bonus money and she would contribute to campaigns.

"I'm pretty sure that she donated money to Lincoln Davis' campaign and to Brock Hill's first campaign. I don't have any idea how much; that was left up to her. I don't know or remember which specific bonuses given to her were for that purpose.

"I was aware that Lowell Braddock was paid $10,000 to drill for water on his land. That came up in a board meeting. I was not aware that Jewell awarded him work contracts and split invoices in order to keep the projects under $10,000 and avoid the bid process.

"I have questioned in my mind some of the checks that I have signed that went to Braddock Construction. Some of those checks were for work that I knew that he had not done.

"I can recall two of those. One was supposed to have been for work on the road going to the lake on the Steve Stone side of the lake. The other check was for tornado cleanup. At the time that I signed these checks, I didn't know that he had not done the work. I found out about that later.

"I did not confront Jewell about them. I just thought I would let things ride. It was after auditors brought these to my attention and I checked into them myself when I found out that he had not done the work.

"A few days after the meeting at Brock Hill's office, Jewell came to my house one night. Lowell Braddock was with her. She told me that she was wanting me to sign a check. She said that Lowell had done some work and that he needed to be paid.

"I signed the check. I have seen the check today and I saw the check when I was here before. I told you before that the amount on the check had been altered. When I saw it I was surprised.

"Jewell or somebody altered the check after I had signed it. I know it did not look like that when I signed it. I have seen another check to Braddock Construction that was altered after I signed it. It was not that way when I signed that check either.

"I have been shown check No. 2323 that was written to Bill Aytes for $1,200. The signature on that check is not my signature.

"I have been shown a number of checks and a number of board meeting minutes and have looked at the signatures on them. I have initiated below the signature those which I believe are my signature.

"Everything today that I have told you is the truth. I have told you this voluntarily."

The statement was signed, "Jimmy Kemmer."

It should be noted that Braddock was listed as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the original grand jury indictment handed down against Harris, but he has not been charged in connection with the COUD investigation. At the time of Harris' indictment, Braddock told the Chronicle he would have no comment on the issue.

Kemmer was interviewed by Callahan, state Attorney William Bright, who handled Kemmer's judicial diversion case, and a third state official who was not identified. The following statement was attached to the judicial diversion document.

"On Nov. 22, 2004, TBI Special Agent Tommy Callahan and I spoke with former COUD Commissioner Jimmy Kemmer. Also present at this meeting was staff attorney William Bright. Mr. Kemmer provided the following information not previously given.

"Mr. Kemmer stated that he signed a lot of blank checks. According to Kemmer, Ms. Harris would sometimes request that he sign several blank checks. Mr. Kemmer stated that if Ms. Harris was not there, her employees (Mary Ann Freitag, Lora Beth Pugh, Carolyn Whittenburg or Carrie Smith) would tell him how many blank checks that Ms. Harris needed him to sign.

"Mr. Kemmer stated that he understood that he was doing this for convenience. For instance, if Ms. Harris knew she was going to need a check prior to the next Thursday, she would have him sign a blank check so she would not have to try and find him or have him make an extra visit to the COUD office.

"Mr. Kemmer stated that he signed the Jan. 30, 2003 bonus checks before Ms. Harris wrote them out. Mr. Kemmer stated that he didn't have any idea just how much they were for and if he had known, he would not have signed them.

"However, Mr. Kemmer went on to say that Ms. Harris called him a couple of days later and told him the amounts of the checks. (See I24 for follow-up conversations with Ms. Freitag and Ms. Whittenburg regarding Mr. Kemmer signing blank checks.)

"Mr. Kemmer also stated that when he and Ms. Harris were discussing the Jan. 30, 2003 bonuses, it came up that the minutes would not show that the bonuses had been properly approved. According to Mr. Kemmer, Ms. Harris told him that she would 'fix the minutes.'

"(NOTE: During one of the previous meetings, Mr. Kemmer had admitted that he had used his unmetered yard hydrant for personal use.) Mr. Kemmer also said when Jewell Harris requested a new vehicle, she told him the 1994 Jeep was in bad shape."

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