Hamilton County Commissioner Introduces Resolution to Suspend District Attorney Funding
Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd on Wednesday introduced a resolution to halt some county funding to District Attorney Neal Pinkston’s office over lingering nepotism concerns.
The resolution would halt funding unless Pinkston comes before the commission to fix the issue or removes his wife, Melydia Clewell, and brother, Kerry Clewell, from the county payroll.
Boyd has been engaged for months in a battle with Pinkston, who employs Melydia Clewell as chief of staff and Kerry Clewell as investigator. The commissioners said they had asked him “on several occasions” to appear before them and explain the salary situation to them. Pinkston has so far refused to do so.
(READ MORE: Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston defends office after disclosures of marriage to subordinate)
“The commission does not have the power to subpoena, but we have the authority of the portfolio,” Boyd, R-Chattanooga said Wednesday. “The only recourse available to this commission is to suspend the previously allocated funding until the district attorney comes before us with answers for his action or withdraws his relatives from payment with county funds.”
Boyd has said in previous meetings that he believes it was the commission’s “fiduciary responsibility” to review what is happening with taxpayer dollars.
“As a committee, we told our constituents when the budget was passed that their funds would not be used to pay the salaries of his relatives,” he said earlier this month.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the resolution next week at their Wednesday meeting.
The question of whether Pinkston employed parents was first raised during a routine budget hearing in May. At that point, Pinkston said he wasn’t.
(READ MORE: Hamilton County brother-in-law DA acted as investigator in high-profile case)
The Times Free Press later reported that Pinkston married a subordinate in a nearby county, without garnering public attention, and hired his brother.
The DA’s office receives state and county funding, and Pinkston has taken a bit of heat from state and county officials about the situation.
To avoid a state law against state employees who oversee their own parents, he moved Melydia Clewell to county payroll in August and Kerry Clewell in September. Both got raises.
Melydia Clewell’s raise was from $ 87,948 per year to $ 91,000. Kerry Clewell was $ 48,992 to $ 50,600 per year.
Asked about changes in the payroll, State Senator Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said the matter was “under investigation”. He said he couldn’t tell who was investigating.
(READ MORE: Hamilton County DA charged with ‘shell game’ for relatives on payroll)
“This is a blatant attack on people’s confidence in the district attorney’s department and a slap in the face of the commission after telling commissioners that” no “county funds would be used to pay their charges. relatives during his appearance before the commission on May 12, 2021, “Boyd said in an email to his colleagues earlier this month.
On Wednesday, he again blamed Pinkston for not responding to questions related to the issue, saying the public expects community leaders to be “deliberate” and “appropriate” in the way they treat funds from the taxpayers.
“It’s a simple thing,” Boyd said. “Come before us to answer for your actions or lose county funding.”
Pinkston has declined on several occasions over the past three months to discuss the matter or answer the newspaper’s questions about it. In May, he issued a statement defending his actions as legally and ethically sound.
“I will continue to serve the people of the 11th Judicial District with integrity and diligence,” the statement said. “This will be the only statement I will make on this matter.”
(READ MORE: Hamilton County District Attorney’s married employee, brother-in-law hired)
Pinkston also accused Boyd of pursuing the case in retaliation for a 2018 extortion indictment filed by Pinkston against Boyd which was later dismissed. The extortion case claimed Boyd attempted to threaten a political rival with divulging damaging information if the person did not withdraw.
In the statement, Pinkston also announced that he would stand for re-election after his eight-year term expires in 2022.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at [email protected] or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.