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Ouster hearing sought

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Sheriff Robert Arnold

A citizens group seeking the ouster of Sheriff Robert Arnold is requesting a Nov. 1 hearing to suspend the indicted and incarcerated sheriff from office.

Represented by attorney Michelle Blaylock-Howser, the group of residents filed a motion Monday morning in Rutherford County Chancery Court asking Chancellor Bill Young of Nashville to set the hearing to consider suspending Arnold from performing any duties of his office and cutting off his county salary until a final hearing on the case can be heard. Arnold's salary is $127,000 annually.

The plaintiffs contend Arnold is neglecting his office and unable to perform his duties because he is being held in in a Kentucky jail after having his bond revoked by a federal magistrate. They also say he has used and continues to use his position to "coerce and intimidate" witnesses involved in his case, "constituting knowing or willful misconduct in office."

The hearing is requested to be held in Davidson County Chancery Court at 9 a.m. next Tuesday.

If Arnold is suspended from his job, pending the outcome of the ouster complaint, the Rutherford County Commission could vote to install an interim sheriff. The office is being run by Chief Deputy Randy Garrett while Arnold is in jail awaiting a Feb. 7, 2017 trial on federal corruption charges.

The attorney for indicted Sheriff Robert Arnold contends an ouster lawsuit against him should be dismissed or postponed until 14 federal counts against him are resolved to avoid violating his Fifth Amendment rights.

A filing by attorney Tom Dundon in Chancery Court says the ouster complaint based on state law by local residents "purports" to eliminate Arnold's privilege against self-incrimination. But Dundon argues "giving effect to that provision would violate" Arnold's rights.

The local group called Tennesseans Against Corruption filed the ouster against Arnold the day after a federal magistrate revoked his $250,000 bond on federal corruption charges. The judge found probable cause he committed domestic assault against his wife during a drunken bout on Labor Day and tampered with a witness, both of which would be considered violations of his release agreement.

Arnold is being held in a Kentucky jail while awaiting trial, but a review of the federal magistrate's decision has been requested.

Arnold, Chief Administrative Deputy Joe Russell, and Arnold's uncle, John Vanderveer, face a Feb. 7, 2017 trial on 14 counts of benefiting financially from an unauthorized e-cigarettes operation at the county jail and covering it up.

The citizens group says it will show Arnold "has engaged in conduct during and since his re-election that is unlawful, unethical, and designed for personal gain." In addition, the plaintiffs say he "engaged in a series of acts which constitute crimes of moral turpitude and official misconduct, but not limited to, coercion, theft, conspiracy to defraud, and fraud."

They also contend he neglected his sheriff duties, broke state law by committing domestic assault and witness coercion and is incapable of executing his duties while being held at the Grayson County Detention Center in Leitchfield, Ky.

The Administrative Office of the Courts appointed Chancellor Young to adjudicate the case after local judges recused themselves.

Sam Stockard can be reached at sstockard44@gmail.com.

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