Finance committee demands Keck resign

The Claiborne Commission will have a weighty decision to make during its next regular monthly meeting, and commissioner Bill Keck is squarely in the midst of the controversy.

The Claiborne Finance Committee unanimously approved a resolution Monday evening, recommending that the full commission require that Keck resign and that he be publicly censured. The resolution also calls for an official investigation by the Office of Attorney General of the 8th Judicial District.

Depending on the Attorney General’s findings, Keck could be facing the Claiborne Grand Jury on alleged violations of state statutes having to do with conflicts of interest.

Late last month, the Office of Tennessee Comptroller released its findings on the ‘questionable’ sale and purchase by the Claiborne Landfill of a used excavator. State comptroller Justin P. Wilson stated in his findings that the transaction benefited a county commissioner.

According to the report, the purchase check of $50,000 was initially deposited into a joint account owned by the commissioner’s wife and daughter. Just nine days later, $16,260.75 of those funds were transferred to pay a personal loan held by Keck, whose name was released during the Finance Committee meeting on Monday.

The next day, the two women transferred $32,647.29 from that account, into another owned jointly by the commissioner and his wife.

Keck initially denied receiving the money. According to the report, he later recanted his statement, admitting he had received the funds when confronted with the bank transactions.

“The commissioner stated he gave his cousin back the majority of the excavator sale proceeds in cash installments, with the exception of funds his cousin owed him from prior business dealings. Investigators were unable to determine the validity of those installments due to the cousin’s death in February 2017,” reads the report, in part.

The investigation also brought to light the use of county funds to pay for repairs to the excavator prior to its purchase – something that should not have occurred, according to the comptroller.

The report states that the commissioner abstained from voting on approval to purchase the equipment. However, he failed to disclose that he would receive money from the transaction. Wilson stated in his report that this is a conflict of interest.

Finance Committee chairman Danny Longworth presented four resolutions Monday evening, addressing possible ways in which to handle the issue. Three of those resolutions were combined into one that will be presented to the full commission during its April meeting.

County attorney James Estep III hurriedly penned the new resolution during a break in the meeting. He pulled the’ meat’ from the three resolutions agreed upon by the committee members.

Estep read the new resolution into the record prior to the official vote. Committee members David Mundy and Ronnie Pittman made and seconded the motion to approve the document.

The full Claiborne Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. on April 16, inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse.

The Claiborne Progress will update this story, as new information becomes available.