(KNOXVILLE) Knox County property assessor candidate Andrew Graybeal says he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Tennessee, but the college has no record that he ever took a class there.
In addition, UT officials say the university does not accept transferred credits from a technical college Graybeal says he attended.
He told a WBIR 10News reporter more than a month ago during a lunch meeting that he earned the degree; he told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he earned the degree; and he’s told those in attendance at a number of local Republican club meetings that he went to UT.
In fact, the KNS annual “2016 Voter Guide” even published: “Graduate of Fulton High School and University of Tennessee, with bachelor’s degree in engineering.”
Graybeal, a Realtor, also reiterated to 10News on Wednesday that he attended UT.
But, his claims about his education do not appear to be true.
“We searched for Andrew Graybeal . . . and could find nothing,” Amy Blakely, a spokesperson for the University of Tennessee, told 10News Thursday morning. “We’re happy to keep checking but we’ve checked everything we could think of at this point.”
Blakely said two people in her office performed a number of searches for various spellings for Graybeal’s name.
“By all means if he can find anything that would give us a clue why we’re not finding (the information), we’d love to know and fix it,” she said.
WBIR 10News on Wednesday evening received a copy of a video taken of Graybeal during a Jan. 28 Center City Republican Club forum for the property assessor candidates.
“I have a degree from UT – a bachelor’s in engineering,” he clearly states in the recording.
UT was closed, so WBIR could not verify the claim at the time Wednesday evening.
However, when contacted Wednesday, Graybeal at first refused to talk about it. He suggested the News Sentinel was behind a “conspiracy” about it and he “wasn’t going to produce anything.”
When asked bluntly by a WBIR reporter whether he earned a degree in engineering from UT, he said: “I graduated from ITT University with a degree in engineering and those credits were transferred over to UT.”
He said this occurred in 1993. He said he was at UT for two years but couldn’t recall what classes he took.
One of his three Facebook pages says he “studied engineering” at UT. It makes not mention of earning a degree from UT.
He told WBIR that he was headed to his mother’s house on Wednesday's evening to get a copy of his diploma. About an hour later, he called and said he could not find his diploma.
“I graduated from UT,” he said. “I worked and paid my own way through.”
Graybeal added that he had a two-year associate’s degree in applied science and engineering from ITT University.
In 2008, Graybeal applied for a position on the Knox County Commission. Under education he listed “ASSET of Engineering” from ITT University at Knoxville. There is no mention on that 2008 application that he attended or graduated from the University of Tennessee.
On Wednesday, 10News asked him why he did not included his time at UT on his resume.
“It was hurriedly put in,” he said. “It was spur of the moment that I decided to run. I was more worried about getting the individuals in as references.”
Reporters and managers at 10News opted to hold the story until Thursday when a reporter could check with UT about Graybeal’s claims.
Graybeal, 42, submitted the following comment Thursday morning: "This is not a requirement for the office in which I seek. And I am in compliance according to all guidelines with the election commission to seek and hold public office."
Both of Graybeal's opponents called his claims concerning.
"I cannot believe someone would actually make up something like this if all the accusation are true and it comes out that he doesn’t have a degree from UT," said Weaver, who currently serves as chief deputy in the assessor's office . "Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s made two or three allegations against the office that haven’t been true.”
Weaver noted that Graybeal has routinely said that “nine out of 10” parcels of property throughout the county are over assessed, something the office adamantly denies.
“All this goes against his credibility and the voters need someone with honesty and integrity and I just don’t see any credibility here," Weaver said. "If you’ll make up a story about your education and your degree then why would the voters think you wouldn’t make up something else?”
Whitehead, who served as property assessor from 2000-08, said: "I am disappointed by this, if true. I am even more disturbed that it seems to confirm what people are concerned about with government in this election and that is confidence and trust in their elected officials."
Early voting has started for the March 1 Republican Primary. Graybeal and two other candidates – Jim Weaver and John Whitehead – are vying for the position.
The winner will take over the job, since no Democrat qualified. The property assessor’s office determines the value of land throughout Knox County. It employs about 45 workers and operates on a $3.5 million budget.
Phil Ballard, the current property assessor, is term-limited from running again.