"He'll Have my Back":
a Trash Mountain of Uncovered Disciplinary Infractions Brings Mayor Ketron's Personnel Choices into Question
Sam adamz - april 28, 2022
RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TN - One of the most crucial factors during election season is the integrity of each candidate who asks for our votes. When we are choosing those candidates, we are often sold on the level of morality & trustworthiness of each contender. These folks spend substantial amounts of money on political advertisements, mailers & signs to convince us that they share our values in order to secure our support. But are they always telling us the truth? A simple way to get an idea of one’s character is to evaluate the individuals they choose to surround themselves with. How important - and necessary - is it to build a support staff with honest, decent, competent & vetted employees as the Mayor of Rutherford County?
In the case of controversial Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron, one may need look no further than his right-hand man Steve Sandlin, your current Deputy To The Mayor. With the Republican primary quickly approaching on May 3rd, what do we know about Steve Sandlin? Furthermore, how does what we have come to learn reflect on the incumbent Mayor?
Let’s start with the basics. Steve Sandlin, a former Rutherford County Commissioner for 24 years, was nominated by Bill Ketron for the Deputy Mayor position & confirmed in a 19-2 vote by the County Commission in 2018. Four of the commissioners opposed confirming Sandlin to the position in an attempt to delay the vote to determine whether the nominee was qualified for the Deputy Mayor seat, a job that paid $96,776 at the time. One commissioner even went as far as to say that the Commission as a whole “dropped the ball” during the process of filling the vacancy. District 11 Commissioner Rhonda Allen was also quoted describing the final confirmation vote as “a rubber stamp with no information.” However, Mayor Ketron said this of Sandlin: “He’ll have my back.”
In employment personnel files obtained by Patriot Punk Network via Open records Request, we discovered some troubling “information” about former Murfreesboro City employee Steve Sandlin that the County Commission may have turned a blind eye to.
A termination recommendation letter written by then-Director of Building & Codes Betts Barbier reveals that Sandlin was forced to resign his position with the City of Murfreesboro due to multiple instances of mistrust, false statements, insubordination, misuse of funds, and abuse of power. The scathing letter written to then-City Manager Roger Haley provides great detail on numerous issues with Sandlin during his employment with the City of Murfreesboro:
letter from city manager roger haley terminating steve sandling in 1997
But perhaps the most disturbing is this summation of one particular event found in Sandlin’s termination recommendation letter describing how “Mr. Sandlin used his position with the city to gain access to the home of a female he wished to meet. He followed the citizen home from a restaurant. He told the citizen he was on official city business in order to gain access to her home.”
Ms. Barbier’s letter expresses further displeasure with the actions of her subordinate, stating “any employee in a position of trust should have known not to use his position in such a manner, or to lie to a member of the public.”
exerpt from letter recomending steve sandlin's termination
“Mr. Sandlin’s position as a Sign Examiner involves a high level of discretionary judgment and his position carries with it a critical duty of trust. Because Mr. Sandlin has deliberately and willfully failed to observe this Duty, and has failed to comply with an accepted standard of behavior set by the City of Murfreesboro, I am recommending his termination."
Steve Sandlin was placed on administrative leave on Oct 23, 1997, and he resigned a month later. You can view the entire personnel file here.
Why is this relevant now? Let’s back up a bit, because some of the details of Sandlin’s disciplinary issues sound eerily & dangerously familiar. Many will remember that the Deputy Mayor made some waves locally in 2020 after sending Rutherford County Sheriff’s detectives to a man’s home on false pretenses. Sandlin gave untrue statements to RSCO personnel accusing the local resident of “threats to the Mayor’s Office” after the two had a contentious phone call about the county’s illegal mask mandate.
video shows steve sandlin lie directly to a citizen's face
Fortunately, the gentleman had recorded the phone call with Sandlin & he was able to immediately refute the Deputy Mayor’s bogus claims. Statements obtained by RCSO command confirm that Sandlin did not contact the Sheriff’s Office via standard means (dispatch) but rather called a RCSO Sergeant directly using his personal cell phone. A few months later when the resident confronted Sandlin on the matter in the presence of Mayor Ketron, the Deputy Mayor lied directly to the man, claiming he “didn’t send the police” to the man’s home. This untrue statement is easily disproven by the police incident report on the matter.
However, the County Ethics Commission Chairman Teb Batey refused to investigate the subsequent complaint filed on Sandlin, citing jurisdictional restraints. Is this another example of the Rutherford County Commission ignoring the egregious actions of Mayor Bill Ketron’s 2nd in command? Or perhaps there is a certain quid pro quo of back-watching between Ketron & Sandlin, as the Mayor alluded to in his 2018 comment. One would have to wonder if the family in 2020 could have been spared an unnecessary abuse of power situation by a vindictive liar had the County Commission exercised all due diligence before their “rubber stamp” confirmation vote on Sandlin. After reading the 1997 termination memo & comparing the similar behaviors, is it a stretch to say that Steve Sandlin hasn’t reformed since his forced resignation?
The question posed was – does this “new” information reflect on Mayor Bill Ketron? One would be willfully ignorant not say YES at this point in the County Mayor’s tenure. Nor does one have to have lived in the area for 40 years to be aware of the infamous “Good Ole Boy System”, a sort of local Deep State that is actually quite open with their cronyism.
Sandlin’s 2018 hire draws similarities to another dismal choice by members of the supposed “Good Ole Boys” – the appointment of disgraced Rutherford County Director of Schools Bill Spurlock, who recently agreed to restructure his contract in order to step away from his position. Spurlock’s departure came on the heels of years of allegations of misconduct, and many in the community feel that he obtained the Director position by way of comparable failure to exercise due diligence by the school board at the time.
Steve Sandlin is just one more example of Bill Ketron’s questionable judgement in choosing those he surrounds himself with in a professional capacity. You would have to be in a coma under a rock not to be aware of the plea bargain that the Mayor’s daughter Kelsey Ketron struck with prosecutors after she was arrested on 70 counts of fraud surrounding the family insurance company in 2019. A little over a year later, the Mayor was also fined $135,000 for misuse of campaign funds after auditors from the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance uncovered a multitude of violations. Fortunately not long after that fine he was able to have a fundraiser at State Election Commissioner Donna Barrett's home where tickets ranged from $250 to $3200.
The preponderance of evidence suggests Mayor Bill Ketron & some of the folks he keeps closest to him are loose with the truth, bad with money, and abusive with power. Unfortunately, the mechanisms We The People have in place to avoid bad actors in positions of power ultimately failed with the “rubber stamp” confirmation vote of Steve Sandlin by 19 Good Ole Boys. Even more unsettling is the fact that accountability is seemingly unattainable when said bad actors act badly. Luckily, the Mayor & commissioner seats are elected offices, where our vote has the final say on whether we allow this Bush League tyranny to affect our lives.
Many Rutherford County residents have already cast their votes during the Early Voting period, and many more will pull the level on Primary Election Day Tuesday May 3rd. As you consider who you would like to hold the position as Chief Executive Officer of our county, please think about what you have learned here & ask yourself a few questions. Do you want to be followed home by a government employee who obtained your personal info just because you caught their eye? Do you want the police sent to your home under false pretense by a government employee just because you drew their ire? Do you want this to happen to someone you care about? Your wife? Your daughter? Do you want your taxes paying for a government employee to act this way? Would Rutherford County Deputy Mayor Steve Sandlin even be eligible for rehire as a Sign Examiner by the Building & Codes Department??