Knox Commission selects Craig Leuthold as new trustee

9:00 AM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +
Craig Leuthold

The Knox County Commission on Monday picked a former board member to serve out the final 18 months of the term for John Duncan III, the county's embattled former top tax collector who resigned earlier this month after pleading guilty to official misconduct.

In a 6-4 decision, the board agreed after four rounds of voting that ex-Commissioner Craig Leuthold, who has already said that he will more than likely run for the seat next year, should also hold it in the interim.

Along with Leuthold, Mike Manning, a former chief financial officer with Rush Fitness Corp, and William "Bill" Curtis, who served briefly as Duncan's chief of staff before retiring, also received nominations.

Curtis was eliminated after only garnering only one vote in the first round. Leuthold and Manning found themselves in a tie for rounds two and three. But County Commission Chairman Tony Norman in the fourth round changed his vote, giving Leuthold the victory.

Norman, who initially nominated Curtis, said he "didn't want to be here all night," and didn't believe any of the other commissioners would give in. Since he had the last vote in the process, he selected Leuthold, saying "he's qualified for the job and I hope he does a good job."

Commissioners Amy Broyles, Brad Anders, Mike Hammond and Ed Shouse picked Manning, saying that wanted a caretaker oversee the job, instead of someone poised to run for the office.

Commissioner Mike Brown was absent.

After the vote, Leuthold thanked his family and his father, Frank Leuthold, also a former county commissioner and a former prominent member of the county's pension board.

He then addressed the commission.

"I want to let you know that you won't be disappointed," he said. "We're going to start . . .  first thing in the morning and we're going to build the trust back one day at a time. You can't expect to have the trust back over night but I can assure you we're going to do things right, we're going to do things transparent, and we're going to do them the right way."

Leuthold, a Republican, was one of 26 who applied for the job that became vacant after Duncan resigned and pleaded guilty earlier his month to official misconduct, a felony charge connected to bonuses he paid out to himself and a number of employees for educational studies they never completed.

Kristin Phillips, who has worked in the office for two decades, was filling in for Duncan until the commission appointed someone to serve out the rest of his term, which ends Aug. 31 next year. Phillips did not apply for the appointment.

The position pays about $113,000 annually and is responsible for 30 to 45 employees depending on tax season. The office currently employs 41.

Leuthold said he'll evaluate all employees and that some "shuffling" might occur. He'll also go through the office's bank books and make sure they're reconciled. In addition, his office will have to get ready for the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, and also prepare for tax season.

The commission during last week's work session interviewed 12 of the 26 applicants for the job, including former Trustee Fred Sisk, who served from 2007-10, and Commissioner Ed Shouse.

Other applicants interviewed included William D. Orcutt, a consultant to the mayor of Monroe County; Drake Peterson, a financial analyst at Pilot Logistics Services, Marion Pickle III, a teacher-case manager with the county school system; Mitch Hall, a mortgage consultant with Platinum Financial Planning, William Daniels, a former COO with Freedom Energy Diesel; and Eric Luttrell, a law clerk.

Charles Ogden, whose resume touted 20 years of military experience, was not there, but his father stood in for him.

Officials on Monday also said that they are working on picking an agency that will bond the trustee. The Hartford, the office's bonding company, has  refused to put up the $18.5 million bond Phillips, citing "citing a track record of misconduct" connected to Duncan's pleading and multiple felony theft charges filed against one of his predecessor's, Mike Lowe, and other former staffers in April 2012.

The trustee is responsible for collecting and, sometimes, investing property tax dollars, and must be bonded to protect the county in case the officeholders fails to performs the duties or malfeasance.

County Finance Director Chris Caldwell said he expects a company will put up a bond. But, he noted that the county's premium was typically $8,500 a year "but we expect it to triple in price."

"We'll pay that for one year and then try to go back and rework it (with the agency)," he said.

At one point during Monday's meeting board members leaned toward waiting to up to another month. Members said they wanted to wait for Commissioner Brown to return from a prior obligation that took him out of state and caused his absence. In addition, they wanted more time to conduct background checks on the applicants and look further into getting an agent to put up a bond on whoever is picked.

Caldwell, however, eased concerned after he said an agency would bond any "respectable" candidate that the commission selected.

Also during Monday's discussion, Shouse, a frontrunner for the trustee position, pulled out, saying he didn't want the community to feel that he got the job only because he was on the commission.

He noted that some residents had accused him of "being an insider," and he wanted to do away with the perception.

"I think it's probably more equitable and probably more fair to the citizens of Knox County to take my name out of the hat," said Shouse, who currently serves on the county's pension board, its investment committee and audit committee, and is expected to run in the Republican primary for the position next May.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett offered his reaction to the vote in an emailed statement Monday evening. "I would like to congratulate Craig Leuthold on his appointment to Knox County Trustee. I look forward to working with him, and will make the Knox County Finance Department available to assist his office in any way necessary," Burchett said in the statement.

Previous coverage: 

UPDATE 4:24 pm:The Knox County Commission on Monday picked a former board member to serve out the final 18 months of the term for John Duncan III, the county's embattled top tax collector who resigned earlier this month after pleading guilty to official misconduct.

In a 6-4 vote, the board agreed after four rounds of voting that ex-Commissioner Craig Leuthold, who has already said that he will more than likely run for the seat next year, should also hold it in the intern. The move came after Commissioner Ed Shouse, a frontrunner for the gig, pulled out, saying he didn't want the community to feel that he got the job only because he was on the commission.

He noted that some had accused him of "being an insider," and he wanted to do away with the perception.

"I think it's probably more equitable and probably more fair to the citizens of Knox County to take my name out of the hat," said Shouse, who currently serves on the county's pension boar, its investment committee and audit committee, and is still expected to run in the Republican primary for the position next May.

Along with Leuthold, Mike Manning, a former chief financial officer with Rush Fitness Corp, and William "Bill" Curtis, who served briefly as Duncan's chief of staff before retiring, also received nominations.

Curtis was eliminated after only garnering one vote in the first round. Leuthold and Manning found themselves in a tie for rounds two and three. But County Commission Chairman Tony Norman in the fourth round changed his vote, giving Leuthold the victory.
Commissioners Amy Broyles, Brad Anders, Mike Hammond and Shouse picked Manning.

After the vote, Leuthold thanked his family and his father, Frank Leuthold, also a former county commissioner.

He then addressed the commission.

"I want to let you know that you won't be disappointed," he said. "We're going to start . . . first thing in the morning and we're going to build the trust back one day at a time. You can't expect to have the trust back over night but I can assure you we're going to do things right, we're going to do things transparent, and we're going to do them the right way."

UPDATE 4:00 pm : Craig Leuthold, Frank Robinson, Mike Manning and William Curtis were nominated, however, the commission disqualified Robinson since he left early.

UPDATE 3:30 pm : Commission agrees 6-4 to vote today.

UPDATE 3:15 pm : The board appeared ready to defer the measure two weeks to a month. Members said they wanted to wait on Brown's return, but they also wanted to better vet the candidates and look further into how much it will cost to bond the new trustee.

Commissioner Richard Briggs suggested voting today and the winner would serve so long as he could be bonded "at a reasonable price."

The county typically spends $8,500 on the office's bond premium, however county Finance Director Chris Caldwell said that due to crimes and potential crimes committed by previous trustees the premiums would cost "almost three times that."

UPDATE 2:00 pm: Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders is expected to ask the board to postpone today's vote until next month when Commissioner Mike Brown returns. Commissioner Amy Broyles says she will second the request.

Previous story 

(WBIR-Knoxville) The Knox County Commission will meet Monday afternoon to discuss the appointment of a new trustee.

Twenty-five people applied for the vacancy, which came after the previous trustee, John Duncan, III, pleaded guilty to felony official misconduct earlier this month.

The commission interviewed the twelve candidates who showed up at a public hearing last week:

•Drake Patterson
•Marion M. (Mac) Pickle III
•Fred Sisk
•Ed Shouse
•William (Bill) Curtis
•Mitch Hall
•Craig Leuthold
•Eric Luttrell
•William Daniels
•Mike Manning
•Charles Ogden
•William Orcutt

Whoever the commission selects will hold the position until August 2014.

Most Watched Videos