Keck: ‘I’m not resigning!’

Published 9:02 pm Monday, April 16, 2018

What has become known as the landfill excavator controversy had its official airing Monday evening, during the Claiborne Commission meeting. The board handled the issue by voting to send the matter to the Attorney General of the 8th Judicial District for investigation.

Second district commissioner Bill Keck refused, however to follow the ruling that he ‘voluntarily’ resign his seat.

“I sat on this court (Claiborne County Commission) for many years, and I’ve always tried to do things that’s right for the county – not to support unnecessary spending.

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“I’d resign today, if I thought I hurt this county. But, I’ve not done wrong, and I’m not resigning. The people of my district will have to put me out, if they want to put me out. It sure won’t be you,” said Keck.

The controversy centers around a report issued late last month regarding the ‘questionable’ sale and purchase of a used excavator. Tennessee comptroller Justin P. Wilson stated in his report that the transaction could be a conflict of interest.

The $50,000 check used to purchase the excavator was initially deposited into a joint account owned by Keck’s wife and daughter. Just nine days later, $16,260.75 of those funds were transferred to pay a personal loan held by the commissioner.

The next day, the report states 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.

During his brief response Monday evening, Keck said that, prior to the initial vote to buy the equipment, he was assured by County Attorney James Estep III that purchasing it from his cousin was ‘legal.’

Commissioner Mitchell Cosby asked Estep whether the matter had been previously sent to Attorney General Jared Effler.

Estep said Effler had received the information from the state comptroller.

Cosby asked if there had been any response from Effler.

Estep said there had been no official response and that he was “not at liberty to report.”

“It appears that his opinion is that … he is inclined not to prosecute. That’s unofficially. I can’t speak for him except, there are concerns about the witness (being) deceased and whether or not it’s a crime,” said Estep.

The Claiborne Finance Committee met in special session on April 9 and drafted the proposed resolution, calling for Keck to ‘voluntarily’ resign from all county seats. The document also recommends that Keck be publicly censured.

The resolution asks that the county require an official investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.

Depending on what Effler does, Keck could be facing the Claiborne Grand Jury on alleged violations of state statutes involving conflicts of interest.

The final, amended resolution was adopted by a vote of 17 for, one against and three passes. Commissioner Gary Poore was the lone no vote. Commissioners Keck, Whitt Shuford and Aimee Upton passed their votes.

Full coverage will appear in the April 25 issue of the Claiborne Progress. Meanwhile, updates will continue to be made to our website and print versions of the newspaper, as new information becomes available.