Chad Tindell and Josh Burnett
The Chief of Staff and the Delinquent Tax Attorney in the Knox County Trustee's Office appeared in court Wednesday to enter guilty pleas.
The Knox County District Attorney's office separately charged Josh Burnett and Chad Tindell by information with facilitation of official misconduct, which is a class A misdemeanor.
Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz accepted Burnett's and Tindell's pleas and gave each a suspended sentence of 11 months, 29 days. Judge Leibowitz then suspended those sentences. Both men were booked in the City County building and released. They indicated they will apply for judicial diversion.
Knox County Trustee John Duncan III has accepted the resignations of both men.
"I want to thank Josh and Chad for their willingness to serve our office. Despite the way things ended, they helped achieve some great results for the taxpayers of Knox County and they both have accomplishments they should be proud of," Duncan said in a statement.
"I'm pleased to report that the office will continue to function effectively and efficiently with the seamless transition of Bill Curtis moving to Chief Deputy. Bill's outstanding background includes decades of leadership and management experience in the private sector as CEO of the Curtis Mortgage Company. Most recently, Bill has served in the Trustee's Office as Collections Administrator, where he oversaw record tax collections that have led to increased revenues for Knox County."
"In the coming weeks, the position of Delinquent Tax Attorney will be posted through the Knox County Human Resources Department and resumes will be accepted. The arrangement of having this position in-house has produced hundreds of thousands in savings for the county. In the meantime, Chad Tindell will assist the Knox County Law Director's Office to ensure that several pending matters will be taken care of," Duncan said.
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett also weighed in on Wednesday's pleas.
"Today's news is unfortunate, but it's time to let the legal process play out. I'm confident that the work of the Trustee's Office will continue," Burchett said.
Barnett's attorney, Tommy Hindman, said after his client was booked on Wednesday, "Mr. Burnett is pleased to have this matter behind him and have this opportunity to move on with life."
Tindell's attorney, Don Bosch told 10News in a statement, "It is with great thought and reservation that Tindell has entered into this agreement today. However, this agreement gives Mr. Tindell and his family an opportunity to move forward in a positive way. Mr. Tindell will make further statements after the final hearing in this matter."
Court documents accuse Tindell and Burnett of "knowingly furnish(ing) substantial assistance in the commission of Official Misconduct" that occurred in December 2010.
That's the same month, when 10News first reported in December 2011, that Duncan was caught giving out bonuses totalling $60,000 to himself and five other employees for taking the County Technical Assistance Service program course, even though they had not finished it.
In January 2012, another employee, Zach Brezina, hired a lawyer. Brezina is an analyst in the Trustee's Office. Knox County officials confirmed to 10News that the Trustee's office handed over a laptop computer to them that could have been used in alleged cheating by Trustee Office employees who took the CTAS.
Brezina's attorney confirmed that a criminal investigation was underway, but would not confirm which law enforcement agency was in charge.
All of the employees, including Duncan and Brezina, eventually repaid the approximately $3,000 bonuses to the county. Brezina has never been indicted.
John Gill, Special Council to the District Attorney, told 10News after court on Wednesday that the D.A.'s office could not comment on any charges Duncan, or other employees, could be facing.
Burnett is due back in court on January 16, 2013 for a probation hearing. Tindell's next appearance is set for February 1, 2013.