In the March 24 edition of The Saturday Independent, we penned a story that revealed a pattern of misuse of Manchester City equipment and county inmates by Manchester City elected officials and police officers. It was surface scratch on a less than efficient city hall that has allowed a police department to act almost autonomously when it comes to dispursing inmate labor and heavy equipment that department purchased from a federal surplus program.
We noted that Manchester Police Capt. Wilma Thomas had been reprimanded and suspended from from her duties over misuse of inmate labor late in 1998.
Ms. Thomas took exception to the statement, and through her attorney, informed us via certified letter that we, in fact, were wrong about the suspension.
We apologize for the error – if we indeed made one.
According to witnesses – one a former county jailer, another, a former law enforcement official, and a former Coffee County Commissioner – several vehement complaints were made over a situation where two convicted felons were working a Manchester City fair booth at the Coffee County Fair. It was especially disturbing for one local doctor, who complained at the time, that the inmates were allowed to be near a beauty pageant contest, again, plain-clothed, and not in inmate orange.
In our investigation, we were told from three sources that there are two sets of personnel files at city hall in Manchester – one for public view, another hidden. Also, the city administrator who allegedly handled the citizen complaints, died four years ago. His former wife is dead as well. In the course of 14 years, memories fade.
So we apologize that the incident was not clarified better. The point in referencing the issue was to show a history of problems with the department and its inmate trustee program.
Our investigation brought out allegations that the inmates have been used by some city officials for private family functions.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reportedly was in Manchester Monday to meet with District Attorney General Mickey Layne to discuss opening an investigation into the allegations we uncovered. Their efforts, we were told, were not well-received or encouraged by Gen. Layne, though he has told a source close to TSI that he recognizes that inmates and equipment (evidenced in TSI photos) were used illegally by city officials.
He apparently would rather the political process work through the August 2 elections rather than pursue the allegations formally, or allow the TBI to do so.
We hope he changes his mind.
Our investigation is not ending, not has it been ignored by Nashville media. So we continue…