Special prosecutor appointed to investigate Sullivan County campaign allegations

BY JAMES SHEA / BRISTOL HERALD COURIER

District Attorney Barry Staubus

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – A special prosecutor from Sevier County has been appointed to investigate allegations of improper campaigning against Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson made by his challenger, according to District Attorney Barry Staubus.

In November, Anderson’s campaign mailed a flier to supporters. The flier used the main phone number and the sheriff’s email address for the Sheriff’s Office in the contact information.

It is illegal to use county resources to support a political campaign in Tennessee.

Anderson said he became aware of the problem when Administrator of Elections Jason Booher contacted him shortly after the flier was mailed.

“It was a total inadvertent mistake,” Anderson said.

County Commissioner Ty Boomershine, Anderson’s opponent in the May Republican primary, said he received a copy of the flier and contacted the district attorney general’s office in late January or early February. He believes that Anderson broke the law.

“The taxpayers just got sued for manpower and now manpower is being diverted to answer phone calls,” Boomershine said.

Anderson sued the county for nearly $10 million two years ago, claiming that his office was not adequately funded. The case was settled out of court and all of the department’s employees received a 2 percent pay raise.

“You would think somebody who has been in office for 16 years would know the rules of campaigning,” said Boomershine, who is a former employee of the Sheriff’s Office.

Anderson said the letter was designed and printed by a local printer. The printer emailed him a proof of the letter and Anderson said he looked it over briefly, but did not see the mistake.

“I’m not blaming the printer,” Anderson said. “I’m not blaming myself. It was a simple mistake.”

Anderson said he spoke to Staubus after he became aware of the problem.

Because he has a close relationship with the Sheriff’s Office, Staubus said he decided not to handle the case. Staubus said Sevier County prosecutor Brownlee Marsh has been appointed to the case. Staubus referred all questions to him.

A call placed to Brownlee Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Anderson said he supports having an independent prosecutor look into the case.

The winner of the GOP primary in May will face Democrat John Taylor in the Aug. 7 election.

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