Shreddergate Scandal Leads to $450,000+ Settlement Request; Arrest
Chase Matheson - September 6, 2023
TULLAHOMA, TN -- Shreddergate is possibly one of the largest small-town scandals of the year and hardly anyone is talking about it.
It began when the Record's Retention Officer for the City of Tullahoma--whose office handles records disposal schedules, shredder pick-up and all things related to the keeping of most records in the City--phoned Alderman Kurt Glick and reported to him that Human Resources Director Casta Brice, had rented an additional shredder for a one-time pick-up and was possibly shredding government documents in a closet in the Administrative Building outside the authority granted to her by the city.
Alderman Glick called the city attorney to notify him of this "whistle-blower" report first, and then called Alderman Jenna Amacher who went to City Hall to investigate.
Jenna alleges to have found a very large bin (think 90 gallon trash can) with un-shredded documents in them (possibly legal documents according to Ms. Amacher) along with a shredder that is not usually there. Jenna was shortly thereafter found by city personnel in the closet. After some dialog and arguments, and at the request of Alderman Amacher, the Tullahoma Police placed the records into their custody. Alderman Amacher clarified in last week's Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting they were not to be placed into evidence at this time. The police were to hold the documents pending the next meeting where the Board would vote on whether the issue should be formally investigated. There have been multiple lawsuits recently in Tullahoma, including one involving Alderman Glick as a plaintiff. If documents are being shred outside of normal policy there could be liability due the city, and the decision to review the paperwork seems reasonable, transparent, and responsible.
In the meeting on February 13, 2023 the BOMA voted to launch an internal investigation into the incident. In that same meeting local D.A. Craig Northcott addressed the board notifying the them that the documents were now being held in his custody and were exempt from the TPRA under Rule 16 of criminal procedure pending unspecified but suspected charges. He also stated that any BOMA investigation into the documents would not likely "fruitful" until the completion of his investigation.
The BOMA placed Casta Brice on Paid Leave pending the outcome of both their internal investigation and the suspected criminal investigation. In July. criminal charges were brought, but not against Casta Brice.
Instead, felony Official Misconduct charges were brought against Alderman Kurt Glick for reasons not yet made public by the District Attorney's office. It's possible the charges stem from his voting participation in the BOMA meetings and potential conflicts of interest, but prior to participating Alderman Glick asked Counsel if it would be permitted and Counsel allowed it. Since Official Misconduct, even at the misdemeanor level, requires "intent" it's our opinion any charges stemming from the vote would be unsuccessful.
Alderman Kurt Glick vigorously maintains his innocence, and is one of the Alderman who wants the documents released to the public. He has also agreed to an exclusive interview with the Patriot Punk Network.
In August, the city received a settlement request in the total amount of $450,000 plus other fees from a law firm representing Casta Brice. Included in the settlement request was a letter from the Pro Tem DA, Chris Stanford (who is now in possession of the documents) stating no criminal charges were currently expected against Ms Brice. The letter from Pro Tem DA Stanford does not mention policy violations which would be a matter for Tullahoma City Government. This is the very reason the BOMA wishes there to be a city-led internal investigation as the findings would likely weigh heavily in any settlements offered by the city.
Personally, I feel if the 90+ gallon trash can full of papers in the closet were not subject to any city policies or current law preventing them from disposal, were not personal documents that should have been disposed of on personal time at personal expense, if the ordering of an extra shredder was indeed allowed and warranted, and if the City does not take all steps to expeditiously resolve the issue clearing any misconceptions that may be surrounding the incident --there may genuinely be liability that requires settlement (even if it's not $450,000).
However, the very circumstances of papers stuffed in a publicly accessible closet left unsecured and unattended with a shredder that was ordered for 1-time pick-up raises reasonable concerns and should be thoroughly investigated prior to making any settlements. Settling before review, especially when Brice has not stopped receiving her $100,000+/year salary, is arguably irresponsible and could lead to the appearance of impropriety.
Presently the Patriot Punk Network has submitted open records requests to both the City of Tullahoma and the 31st Judicial District which have both been denied based on the ruling in "Tennessean v Metro." We are in discussions with both offices and the Office of the State Attorney General attempting to get clarification, although it does not seem likely to be resolved without an expensive petition to the courts to determine whether or not physical location of the documents matters, and if it's unreasonable to expect that copies or scans be made in the interests of transparency and justice.
The 2019 Court of Appeals decision Scripps v TN Department of Mental Health says non-investigative records created in the normal course of business and otherwise accessible under the TPRA are not exempt from disclosure under the TPRA simply because they are relevant to a criminal investigation. It is our belief this decision has little to do with present location of the documents, as is being argued by the State. It's our belief the decision had more to do with accessibility before and after the criminal investigation--and DA Craig Northcott admitted freely the Shreddergate documents were available before and would be available after the conclusion of the investigation. Since these documents MAY be physically necessary in Alderman Glick's upcoming criminal defense, and discovery is going to require copies or scans be made anyway the records should arguably be made available to the board. Also considering DA Northcott alleges he had previously "proposed a procedure by which the City could access the records for their purposes, including making personnel/disciplinary decisions, in a manner that would protect the integrity of the criminal prosecution/investigation" we feel copies or scans is not too much to ask for.
Although DA Northcott claims "The Board rejected this proposal and has thus lost the opportunity to inspect the records during the pendency of the investigation/prosecution;" at least one board member disagrees with this statement, and no offer seems to have been made in the BOMA meeting on February 13, 2023 where the Board discussed the matter. In fact, DA Northcott clearly stated "so to the extent that ANY investigation needs access to these records it will be a fruitless endeavor until this is completed," seems to contradict his most recent statement. Many feel if the documents included paperwork necessary for government business, copies could be made for such purposes.
The Shreddergate issue is not the only bit of recent drama in Tullahoma. Alderman Amacher recently won a case brought against her by DA Northcott for residency issues, which she claims was personal. Text messages released earlier this year by the Patriot Punk Network show that Mayor Knowis was upset about Amacher's victory.
Alderman Bobbie Wilson's husband, George Wilson, is currently being sued by a developer after he filed an ethics complaint against Alderman Berry and commented on the Tullahoma News Facebook Page.
Also important to note is the report made by Alderman Glick where he claims that after his voluntary surrender he was choked by law enforcement and had his phone taken from him by force in a warrantless search--all while on the phone with his attorney. The totality of the circumstances and "anti-Tullahoma 2040 Plan" stance known to be shared by Alderman Wilson, Glick and Amacher have led some citizens to question the integrity of the DA's investigation and the true motives behind it, while others believe the entire circumstance has been distorted by those same board members. Are the new kids on the block being targeted for halting the massive city growth plan commonly referred to as the 2040 Plan? Or are they deviants who deserve the legal battles they are being forced to endure?
Edmond Burke is often summarized as saying, "All that's needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." If our Government allows this incident to go unresolved, or forces resolution prior to a full investigation and disclosure simply to avoid the POTENTIAL DRAMA brought by the truth, they will be doing so for political reasons and not reasons grounded in moral decisions, fairness, and transparency.
Everyone involved maintains their innocence until proven otherwise in the court of law. It is the belief of the Patriot Punk Network that the only way to find out the truth is for the public to have access to those documents.