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Former chief of staff for county mayor indicted on official misconduct charge

A Knox County grand jury returned the count against Bryan D. Hair on Wednesday. It's in connection with the personal use of a newly purchased county golf cart.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs' former chief of staff has been indicted in connection with his acquisition in 2020 of a county-owned golf cart, equipment he said his wife used for months while recuperating from a foot injury.

Bryan D. Hair, 36, faces in Knox County Criminal Court a single count of official misconduct, the lowest level of felony in Tennessee. A Knox County grand jury returned the indictment Wednesday.

Credit: State Comptroller's Office
The golf cart state authorities say was used by Bryan Hair improperly for months in 2020.

The charge essentially alleges Hair took advantage of his job as chief of staff for personal and illegal gain.

The Tennessee Comptroller's Office has been investigating the case for months. It said Thursday afternoon it also had found instances when Hair and another department-level manager got personal help during work hours from county employees. 

“Our investigators have recommended that Knox County take additional steps to shore up its parks and rec operations,” Comptroller Jason Mumpower said in an announcement Thursday afternoon. “These include keeping an accurate inventory of its equipment and tools and ensuring that all time records reflect the actual time worked. I’m pleased to note that Knox County is already addressing these issues.”

Hair referred WBIR to attorney John Valliant for comment. 10News was awaiting a response from Valliant.

The case has been assigned to Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword.

Mayor's Office spokeswoman Abbey Harris told 10News on Thursday that because it was an ongoing matter the mayor couldn't make specific comment.

Harris, however, echoed remarks Jacobs made last year when the case arose: "Ethics are not ambiguous" and Knox County must be above reproach.

'Potential wrongdoing'

In October, Jacobs put Hair and Paul White, the county's senior parks director, on leave for "potential wrongdoing." Hair then quit and the mayor fired White, who Hair had helped get hired in 2018.

Hair told WBIR last year he'd arranged for his wife to use a Parks and Recreation Department golf cart in May. He kept the new cart for months before returning it.

According to the Comptroller's Office, Parks and Recreation purchased two used carts from a Sevierville dealer on May 21.

A county employee told state investigators he was told to pick up the carts from the dealership, deliver one to a county park and the other, valued at $3,700, to Hair's home.

"According to the county employee, around the first of October 2020, he was instructed to pick up the golf cart from Hair's home and store the golf cart in his barn for a few days, then later deliver the golf cart to a county park," the Comptroller's Office report states. 

Credit: PBA
Former county senior parks director Paul White and former county chief of staff Bryan Hair.

Hair told 10News last year it had been a mistake to use the county-owned cart. He also apologized to Jacobs.

The official misconduct count identifies May to October as the timeframe in which the crime occurred.

Hair had been with Jacobs since his 2018 campaign. White was hired in August 2018 as Jacobs prepared to take office.

Hair made $170,000. White started at an annual salary of $107,000 and last made $115,000, documents showed.

White has not been charged.

Reviews raises other questions in Parks and Rec Dept.

In December, Parks and Recreation Department employee Mike Edsell was fired and employee Joe Inman was suspended following an internal review of their conduct while on county time.

As county employees, Edsell and Inman did side work for several people including Hair, the investigation showed.

A disciplinary letter for Inman included highlighted time card records in May, June and July when the side work allegedly happened.

Both men are listed as witnesses on the newly returned indictment against Hair.

According to the Comptroller's announcement Thursday afternoon, its investigation confirmed instances in which Parks and Recreation employees did personal work at Hair's home and at others.

For example, in June 2020, two employees stated they used a county truck to move a playground set from a neighbor’s home to Hair’s residence during county work hours.

Also, according to the Comptroller's Office, an employee stated that he worked on vehicles belonging to White and his family members in a county maintenance shop.

In addition, the state review showed, "Two employees told investigators they were instructed to travel to Claiborne County in July 2020, during work hours, to cut up a tree on property that belonged to (White's) relative."

In May 202, two Parks & Recreation employees told state investigators "they used county chainsaws during work hours to cut down a tree on a county employee’s private property outside the county."

Of the Comptroller's Office report, Harris said: "We are sincerely grateful to the Comptroller’s Office for their thoughtful and thorough investigation. The report is fair and objective and speaks for itself."