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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-28-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 28, 2024


All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Ogles Finances Still in Question (TheNewsTN)

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles amended nearly a dozen past campaign finance reports last week, acknowledging that a reported $320,000 personal loan he made to his campaign never happened.

The Republican representative for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District has been under scrutiny for his financial reporting for months, and last year, he paid a fine to the Federal Election Commission for seemingly unrelated violations.

According to the amended reports, Ogles loaned his campaign for Congress just $20,000.

“I am a grassroots representative, and I pledged everything I own to run for the honor of representing Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District,” Ogles said in a statement Thursday. “That $320,000 pledge comprised several documented assets, including bank and retirement accounts, which I was ready to personally risk for the chance to fight for Middle Tennessee. While we only needed to transfer $20,000, unfortunately, the full amount of my pledge was mistakenly included on my campaign’s FEC reports.”

However, the amended reports raise further questions about his campaign finances.

In addition to removing the $300,000 loan that never made its way to the campaign, Ogles’ report for the first quarter of 2024 shows notable changes in his contributions and disbursements. In the original report, filed in April, Ogles reported raising nearly $86,000 in the first three months of the year and spending more than $78,000, leaving him with almost $450,000 on hand. In the amended report for the same period, filed Wednesday, Ogles reported raising no money and spending just $1,321.90 in the first three months of the year, leaving him with less than $100,000 on hand. The Ogles campaign could not be reached for further comment.

The Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog group that filed a formal complaint about Ogles, based some of its accusations on Ogles’ separate personal financial disclosure filings, which showed that he had few assets, income or savings, making a personal loan of any significance implausible.

Danielle Caputo, CLC’s legal counsel for ethics, stated that the group is still reviewing the amended filings.

“What were all of those disbursements that were listed? And what’s going on now?” she said. “All of this is just very odd, to say the least. As of right now, we have ended up with more questions than we had at the time we filed the complaint.”

Ogles was first elected in 2022 when he emerged from a crowded Republican primary to represent the redrawn 5th District, which formerly encompassed all of Nashville and favored Democrats. Previously, he worked for the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity and was mayor of Maury County.

In addition to his campaign finance troubles, Ogles has faced scrutiny for his response to the Covenant School shooting in his district and his flip-flopping on Republican leadership of the House. Now, Metro Councilmember Courtney Johnston is challenging him in the GOP primary, and Nashville gun control advocate Maryam Abolfazli is running for the seat as a Democrat.

“Andy Ogles lied to the federal government and got caught,” Johnston said in a statement Thursday. “Normal folks get in big trouble for lying to the feds about money, but Andy is a politician who thinks he deserves a free pass and two more years of a taxpayer salary. If Andy Ogles is willing to lie about his own money, what won’t he lie about? Voters in Middle Tennessee deserve a member of Congress they can trust.”


SHPD Capt. Whitwell Completes Training (MauryCountySource)

The Spring Hill Police Department is pleased to announce the recent graduation of Captain Justin Whitwell from the School of Police Staff and Command (SPSC) at Northwestern University. Captain Whitwell has successfully completed the (22) week Staff and Command program held in Evanston, Illinois. This program, which was implemented by the Center for Public Safety in 1983, has graduated over 21,000 students both nationally and internationally. Captain Whitwell was a student in SPSC Class #558 which accommodated a total of 24 students for the twenty-two week period.

The School of Police Staff and Command provides upper-level college instruction in a total of twenty-seven core blocks of instruction and additional optional blocks during each session. The major topics of study include: Leadership, Human Resources, Employee Relations, Organizational Behavior, Applied Statistics, Planning and Policy Development, Budgeting and Resource Allocation.

Each student is academically challenged through written examinations, projects, presentations and quizzes in addition to a staff study paper that are all required parts of the curriculum. Upon successful completion, students may be awarded a total of 6 units of undergraduate credit from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

The Center for Public Safety was established at Northwestern University in 1936 with the specific goal of expanding university-based education and training for the Law Enforcement Community. Since its inception, the Center has broadened its original objective and now provides a variety of courses and programs in the area of Police Training, Management Training, and Executive Development.

Captain Whitwell is currently assigned to the Field Operations Division overseeing the department’s patrol and traffic units. Captain Whitwell is a 20-year veteran of the SHPD.

Ty Cobb Sues for Hearing (MSM)

Former fire chief Ty Cobb has filed a lawsuit against the City of Columbia, claiming that he is entitled to a hearing before the Civil Service Board.

The lawsuit was filed in Maury County Circuit Court on April 25, 2024, and a hearing was held before Judge David Allen on Thursday, May 16, according to court records. When a ruling will be issued is not known.

Cobb was terminated as chief of Columbia Fire & Rescue on March 12 by City Manager Tony Massey. In the letter of termination, Massey stated allegations that included “a message falsely accusing the chief of police of being involved in an attempted break-in at the apartment of the person who sent the text” and “a message offering to pay for favorable news stories which would benefit your interest.”

The filing in Circuit Court cites the city’s municipal code, stating in part, “The City of Columbia municipal code specifically states the fire chief is entitled to a civil service hearing for anything more than a 10-day suspension…” The filing also claims that Cobb, who had been employed with Columbia Fire since 2000 before becoming chief in 2017, never received any notice rescinding his status as a civil service employee after taking the chief’s position.

The filing also claims that a progressive disciplinary record for Cobb was prepared in October 2023 but not presented to him to sign until Dec, 1, 2023.

A March 12 email from Massey to Cobb, which is among the exhibits listed in the filing, states in part, “Section 7.10 clearly states as follows: ‘All full time employees of the City, other than the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, and all Department Heads, are hereby declared to be Civil Service employees, subject to the conditions, limitations, and requirements of this article 7 and entitled of the benefits there of.’ As a result you are not a Civil Service employee and not entitled to a hearing.”

Cobb officially requested a civil service hearing by email on March 15.

Before filing the lawsuit, Cobb’s attorney, John Mark Windle, sent a letter to the city stating in part, “The City of Columbia Charter and City Code clearly state that the Fire Chief is not a department head and is entitled to a civil service hearing.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that Cobb is entitled to a civil service hearing and to schedule such a hearing, along with “such further and general relief to which he may be deemed entitled.”

Neither Windle nor Massey have responded to requests for comment.

Cobb served a 30-day suspension in late October 2023 and most of November. At the time, a memorandum from Massey to Cobb cited “insubordination” and added that Cobb would be on probation for a period of one year after the suspension.

The suspension was announced shortly after Cobb requested that the City of Columbia launch an internal investigation into the city’s response to the May 3, 2023 Central High School shooting hoax. In that request, Cobb cited concern for the safety of his employees.


New Maury Girls’ Coaches Hired (MSM)

Santa Fe and Mt. Pleasant have each addressed their girls basketball coaching vacancies – the former with an experienced veteran returning to his high school roots, the latter with a coaching legacy whose next prep game will be his first.

Derrick Adkison, who spent the final nine years of his 17-year tenure as girls coach at cross-county rival Culleoka, has been tabbed to take over the Lady Wildcat program, while former Santa Fe Middle School coach Eli Barnwell is set to become the eighth Lady Tigers leader in nine seasons.

“It seems like everything worked out the way it was meant to be,” said Adkison, a 1999 Santa Fe graduate who stepped down at Culleoka three years ago as his son, Macon, emerged as a starter for the Wildcats. Adkison has since served as an assistant under Santa Fe’s Brad Slaughter while continuing to teach at Culleoka.

Following John Wild’s resignation after one year at Santa Fe, former Forrest and Community coach Corey Bishop had accepted the position but subsequently changed his mind, prompting school administration to reopen its search.

“Derrick applied initially, but we did not have a teaching position for him,” Santa Fe principal Randy Hubbell said. “Then a teaching position opened up. Derrick was always in the mix. He’s from here, he wants to come in and build the program. We’re pretty well assured he’s going to stay and get a program built. 

“He’s going to have a big part in choosing our middle school coach because we now have that open, because Eli has moved on. (Adkison) will be instrumental in getting the middle school person so we can try to get everybody working on the same page and try to have our kids running the same thing from sixth grade and try to have the same success Brad has had with getting (the boys) from sixth grade.”

Adkison worked with the basketball program at his alma mater while student teaching, before serving as an assistant at E.A. Cox Middle School and going on to work as a boys assistant under both Bruce Slatten and Marty DeJarnette at Culleoka. He was named girls coach prior to the 2012-13 season.

“I thought this time was the right time for me,” he said. “I’ve been away long enough that I was confident in myself and what I could do returning back home. I think I’m the person that can come in and provide the stability – somebody you’re not going to worry about moving off somewhere. That’s my home; that’s where I want to be.”

Adkison hopes to balance his primary coaching duties with some involvement with the middle school girls and maintaining a presence with the boys varsity, as Macon will be a senior this time on a team coming off a Class 1A state semifinal appearance.

“I’ve talked to Brad. I’m going to help when I can,” he said. “I plan on sitting on the bench with them and helping when I can at practice – having a limited role but staying involved.”

He said a faculty position at Santa Fe will help his adjustment to his new coaching role.

“I’ll be able to see what’s going on in school and build those relationships,” he said. “It provides a little more trust with them being able to see me, being around me, not just as a coach but as a teacher. 

“It makes it easier to be involved in the day-to-day operations and everything else that goes along with the school – staying on top of them in the classroom, making sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do. It makes everything a lot easier with that.”

The Lady Wildcats finished 11-17 last season – setting a high-water mark for victories since the 2016-17 team went 14-12 under Dannette Pack – while advancing to the Region 5-1A tournament quarterfinals.

“We’ve got a great group returning,” Adkison said. “We lost one key starter. We’ve got some good young players coming up. We’re going to be a scrappy team. We’re not going to have a lot of size, but we’ve got some girls with some talent.

“I think we’ve got a good shot to be in the running to be one of the top teams in the district (10-1A), but we’ve definitely got to put in the time in the offseason (because) I believe the way I plan on doing things is going to be a lot different than what they’ve done in the past.”

Barnwell is the son of Darrell Barnwell, who had a highly successful run at Science Hill in East Tennessee in addition to spending a couple of years at Franklin.

“I’ve never had a high school coaching job. It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” said the younger Barnwell, who follows Westin Ford after one year at Mt. Pleasant. “With my dad, growing up in it, it’s always been a dream of mine, having the opportunity.

“I’ve heard great things about (athletics director) Derek Boyd and (principal) Eric Hughes that are over there. This gives me an opportunity to go over there and experience it and build something. They haven’t had a ton of success. Being able to go in there and build it – whether it turns into a bunch of wins, just build something – is something I really look forward to. You get to go in there and start it from scratch and hopefully build a good tradition.”

Since Jessica Webb’s resignation at the end of the 2016-17 season, Mt. Pleasant has lost 20 games or more in six of the last seven years – doing so under six different coaches.

“I’ve always been what I think is a loyal person, so I feel like it’s somewhere I really want to be,” the 28-year-old said. “I really love Santa Fe, but this is an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. I would love to be there for many years.

“I think some things they’ve had in the past just didn’t work out from a personal standpoint with some people and other people just getting opportunities and leaving. (Lack of continuity) never worried me at all, honestly. The more I talked to people, the more I heard it was a great place to work and had great people, and the more I meet people, the more I agree with that.”


June Lake Interchange Nearly Done (MauryCountySource)

The new I-65 Buckner Road Interchange in Spring Hill has been in the works since 2020 and it’s almost time to celebrate its completion.

City of Spring Hill leaders and other leaders around the state will officially celebrate the grand opening of the new June Lake Interchange at the end of this month. The tentative date to have the road open is May 31, according to TDOT Regional Communications Officer Rebekah Hammond.

The major feature of this design is the “Diverging Diamond Interchange” — the second such interchange in the State of Tennessee. The design is meant to help ease the flow of traffic to and from I-65.

Prior to this project, there was only one I-65 access point to the city of Spring Hill, and that was through the Saturn Parkway Exit. The interchange at Buckner Road will give the City a second access point and should help the flow of traffic to new developments in the area.

The I-65 Interchange will provide direct access to the June Lake Development, which is situated along Buckner Lane. June Lake is a mixed-use development that will be home to 3.9 million square feet of commercial office space, 1.3 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, 2,900 homes, and 400 hotel rooms.

The Interchange at Buckner Road has been in the works since 2020 when a Request for Qualification was submitted. In 2021, the contract was awarded to Bell Construction.

Blood Assurance Asks for Donors (MSM)

The summer season is almost here, and Blood Assurance is calling on community members to donate before the holiday weekend to help keep supplies from dropping to critical levels.

The time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” During this time blood donations typically drop, but the need surges because of an increase in traumatic car crashes. This can create a strain on the blood supply, and lead to a critical need for donations. More than 540 volunteer blood donors are needed every day in order to have an adequate supply for the hospitals Blood Assurance serves.

“We need everyone who is healthy and able to step up and donate this summer,” said Dr. Liz Culler, the President and CEO of Blood Assurance. “We understand people have busy schedules and vacations, but please remember those in urgent need of blood transfusions. Your one donation can help save up to three lives.”

Donors who give now through May 31 will receive a special Memorial Day T-shirt while supplies last. You can visit www.bloodassurance.org/schedule, call 800-962-0628, or text BAGIVE to 999777, to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins will be accepted.


And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Rose Marie Jones Sharp, 88, lifelong resident of the Bear Creek Community, died Friday, May 24, 2024 at American Home Assisted Living Facility in Lebanon. 

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Jones Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. at the funeral home. 

Walter Henry “Hank” Keller III, 46, of Columbia, Tennessee passed away at his home on May 5, 2024.  

The family will visit with friends on Saturday, June 1, 2024 from 11 until 1 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, with a graveside service immediately following at St. John’s Ashwood.


…And now, news from around the state…

Franklin Homicide (Tennessean)

Franklin police arrested an 18-year-old man after a May 25 shooting in the McKay's Mill neighborhood.

Matthew Roufail, 18, has been charged with first-degree homicide. His bond has been set at $150,000.

The shooting occurred on Saturday night. Less than 24 hours later, police spokesman Max Winitz said they believe the shooting was an insolated incident. The investigation is ongoing, Winitz said.

The police did not release any details about the shooting, or the name of the victim.


Attempted Rape at Vanderbilt UMC (Tennessean)

Nashville police arrested a 39-year-old man for charges related to an attempted rape at a parking garage at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The man, who police said is a convicted sex offender and believed to be experiencing homelessness, is in custody as of Saturday morning on a $160,000 bond. Police had issued an arrest warrant for the man on Thursday on charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual battery and attempted rape.

On May 11, the man grabbed a woman from behind at the Vanderbilt Medical Center’s east garage. A news release from the Metro Nashville Police Department said the man began choking the woman, who is a medical center employee and forcibly fondled her. The news release said the woman then managed to free herself and escape.

A MNPD news release said the man was first convicted of attempted rape in 2007, earning him a six-year sentence. Subsequently, he earned a six-year sentence in 2021 for aggravated assault and has been convicted multiple times of violating Tennessee’s sex offender registry law.


Grand Prix at Brownland (Tennessean)

A premier Olympic-style equestrian jumping competition is coming to Franklin next month. The 36th annual Saddle Up! Music Country Grand Prix is set to take place on June 1 at Brownland Farm.  

Spectators and patrons of the Grand Prix will witness nationally ranked show jumpers and Olympic hopefuls from across the country competing for the $50,000 prize. 

First established in 1989 as the Music City Grand Prix by Christian Currey and his parents Ageneta and Brownlee, riders from across the country travel to compete.

In 2001, the event moved from the family's River Circle Farm to its current home at Brownland Farm where it now runs in conjunction with the Brownland Farm Horse Show series.

The public is invited to participate in the silent auction, which can be accessed at MusicCountryGrandPrix.com.

Additionally, this year’s event will honor five long-term Saddle Up instructors: Tina Carpenter, Anne Craig, Lynne Evans, Bonnie Garner and Jane Muir (1942-2022), for their hard work and dedication to the program, horses and riders during the event.  

Tickets, the full event schedule and additional information can be found at MusicCountryGrandPrix.com.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Didn't catch the solar eclipse in April? Still bummed you missed the northern lights? You're in luck, the skies will demand our attention again soon and this time you won't need to travel elsewhere to experience the celestial event.

On June 3, six planets — Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — will align in the sky in what is known as a planetary alignment. Most of the globe will be able to spot the alignment including Tennessee, said Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory Director Billy Teets.

According to the astronomy app, Star Walk, a planetary alignment, also known informally as a planetary parade, happens when a planets gather closely on one side of the sun at the same time.

The naked eye planets, which include Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, will not all become visible in Tennessee until around 5 a.m. Central Time, since Mercury and Jupiter are very low in the sky.

Spotting the planets will require clear skies since Mercury and Jupiter only get about 6 degrees above the horizon by the time the sun rises around 5:30 am, said Teets.

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