Commission clears Ashley of wrongdoing

Commission clears Ashley of wrongdoing

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 9:09 pm
By: John Brannon, Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON
Staff Reporter
A formal inquiry of the job performance of Obion County Veterans Service officer Charles “Chuck” Ashley by a special committee has found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to Obion County commissioner Dwayne Hensley.
Hensley served as chairman of a committee appointed in May by Obion County Commission chairman Ralph Puckett to investigate allegations made by Patricia Dotson of Samburg about Ashley in his role as Obion County Veterans Service officer.
Ms. Dotson, who said she is a Vietnam war widow and a concerned taxpayer, asserted she’s been complaining about the VA office for three years, but her complaints “have fallen on deaf ears.” She also asserted veterans are not getting proper service from the Obion County office and, therefore, have been “going to the Dyersburg office and getting results.”
“I believe (the Obion County Veterans Service Office) needs to be brought up to the 21st century so all veterans can be served better,” she said prior to airing her complaints during the May meeting of the county commission.
At the May meeting, Puckett appointed Hensley and fellow commissioners Danny Jowers and Steve Rice to investigate.
On Monday, the commission met in its July term in the Circuit Court  courtroom. Twenty of the county’s 21 commissioners answered roll call, with Puckett presiding over the meeting.
Hensley’s report was one of several items on the commission’s business agenda.
“There was no finding of wrongdoing of Mr. Ashley,” Hensley told commissioners.
Ashley is the sole em-ployee of the Veterans Service Office, which is funded by Obion County with an annual appropriation of about $13,500. After office expenses, he is left with an annual salary of about $6,000.
Ashley, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, has been Obion County Veteran Service officer since Aug. 1, 1989.
Hensley said the committee held a public hearing on July 1 in the conference room located in the courthouse basement.
“Ms. Dotson brought a couple of witnesses, people in support of her complaints,” Hensley said. “Mr. Ashley had 30 or 40 to speak for him.”
The committee was presented with a letter of support for Ashley from Sullivan County commissioner Bill Kilgore, past national commander, AMVETS. Kilgore said he’s known Ashley for years “and have found him to (be) very professional and dedicated in his duties as county service officer.”
Hensley said Obion County is lucky to have Ashley as its Veterans Service officer. “Most of the complaints against him, he had no control over. Disability ratings are assigned by the VA, not VSOs,” he said. “I’ll tell you something. The job that he does, for the salary he earns, I don’t think there’s anybody in this courtroom today who would take the job. There were plenty of testimonials how that after hours, he’d still contact people needing VA  services. He goes to their homes if he can’t reach them by phone. He goes far beyond what he’s obligated to do. He goes the second and third mile.”
During discussion at the commission meeting Monday, it was asked if funds are available to hire someone to assist Ashley.
“We don’t have the funds right now to hire someone to help him,” Hensley said.
The county commission took no formal action.
Ashley was contacted Monday afternoon for comment.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” he said. “I’ve been doing this job 21 years and this is the first complaint against me that I know of. I’m just glad to have been of service to the veterans and their families in this area.”
Other business
In other business, the county commission:
• Voted to sell the former Lindenwood School property — building and two acres — after a formal appraisal is acquired. The property is located about four miles north of Union City on Lindenwood Road. The school, which dates back to 1920 when three schools — Corum, Lucknow and Oakdale — were consolidated, closed in 1950s. At that time, it was a K-6 school.
• Voted to sell a 20-acre tract in Kenton on which the defunct Plastech plant operated until it closed abruptly in June 2008. On the property is a main building with about 220,000 square feet of work space and a smaller building of about 100,000 square feet.
In its heyday, the plant employed about 300 and manufactured plastic parts for the automotive industry.
Jowers, chairman of the budget committee, said the Kenton plant was part of a network of plants owned by United Screw & Bolt of Bryan, Ohio. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 in U.S. District Court for Western Michigan.
“There were several creditors,” he said. “One of the main ones was Johnson Quality Control based in Minnesota. Plastech owed them a lot of money. So the bankruptcy judge gave them 12 properties to look at, the Kenton property and one the company owned in Middle Tennessee. The judge said, ‘Pick whichever property you want for what they owe you.’ They reviewed 12 properties. Two of them — those in Tennessee — they did not want. Plastech didn’t want them, either. So they abandoned them.
“We have a lien on the Kenton property for taxes owed the county. Plastech also owed back taxes to the City of Kenton and the Kenton Special School District. It was a total of about $160,000 in taxes.
“In May, we petitioned Obion County Chancery Court and acquired possession of the Kenton property. Now the county commission has voted to sell the property, on certain conditions. Sealed bids will be taken and there will be a minimum bid of about $250,000.”
• Reappointed Gary Houston of Union City to the Board of Hospital Governors.
• Appointed county commissioners Jowers, Tim Doyle and Paul Albright, Obion Mayor Tammy Foggy and Troy Fire Chief Mark Watson to the County Fire Committee.
• Reappointed Janis Cunningham to the Reelfoot Lake Tourism Council.
• Approved a project that would replace all sidewalks at the courthouse except those adjacent to streets. The project will be funded by a Tennessee Department of Transportation grant of $48,036, of which local government must provide $9,608 in matching funds.
“The project has been approved by the state but not approved to go ahead and spend the money,” said Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire. “When the state gives the go-ahead, we’ll put it out for bids.”
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John Brannon may be contacted by e-mail at jbrannon@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 7.20.10

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