The Cumberland County Ethics Committee announced today they will meet on Monday, January 6, 2020 to discuss a complaint coming before them.
The complaint is against 9th District County Commissioner John Patterson by 9th District Cumberland County School Board Member Stace Karge.
105.7 News obtained the letter Karge sent to the committee in advance of their meeting that details the complaint. The letter is as follows:
“Honorable Committee Members,
On Friday, December 13, 2019 at approximately 3:45 p.m., I was alerted by Cumberland County School Board Attorney Earl Patton that 9th District Commissioner John Patterson had made a formal request for all emails in my possession regarding the current Director of Schools, Janet Graham. After talking with Mr. Patton, I decided to call Mr. Patterson to ask if he would “respectfully rescind his request,” as I thought releasing the emails in my possession would be a breech in confidentiality between my constituents and myself. Mr. Patterson told me that he would not rescind the request, and instead berated me for trying to “get rid of the best director our schools have ever seen.” He then stated that if I failed to change my “no” vote to a “yes,” that I would be “harming the teachers.” When I asked how, he said “with the supplement.” I didn’t understand to what he was referring, so I asked him what he meant, he again said “the supplement.” Still not understanding, I asked a third time, and he said “the supplement…we control the budget.” (After speaking with BOE member Jim Inman, I now understand he was referring to the maintenance of effort). I asked what that had to do with anything and he said “You’ll find out if you don’t change your vote.” He then threatened me with jail if I failed to comply with the Sunshine Law by not submitting the emails.
On Tuesday, December 17, 2019, I forwarded all electronic communications, as per the request, to Mr. Patton, who then forwarded it on, presumably for Mr. Patterson’s perusal. I complied totally and completely with the request, despite my objections as to what he was asking. I felt it was a bad precedent to set, and could lead to a lack of communication from constituents who were afraid of retaliation.
It is important to note this – mine were the only emails he requested. I also won my board of education seat after running against his (Patterson) wife in the August 2018 election. I believe part of his motivation to come after my emails was retaliatory in nature.
I believe Mr. Patterson’s actions range from bullying and intimidation to the extreme of extortion. At the very least, I believe his actions are unbecoming of an elected official.
I have hesitated in making this ethics inquiry request and I would like to put the entire event behind me, leaving me fully able to concentrate on being the best Board of Education member and public servant that I am capable of being. However, my fear is that if unchecked, Commissioner Patterson will continue to use nefarious means in which to attempt to get other public officials to change their votes when he does not agree with their decision.
I appreciate the service that each of you (ethics committee) has volunteered to do for our community, and I thank you for considering this request for an ethics review on Commissioner Patterson’s behavior.
With kindest regards,
9th District Board of Education Member”
The Cumberland County Ethics Committee will meet Monday, January 6, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. in suite 202 on the second floor of the old courthouse in Crossville to hear the complaint.