Knox County trustee's employee hires criminal defense attorney

Knox County trustee's employee hires criminal defense attorney

Zach Brezina (source: Public Building Authority) Zach Brezina (source: Public Building Authority)

6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knox County Trustee's Office employee whose computer was seized in an investigation has hired a criminal defense attorney to represent him. 

Attorney Greg Isaacs says his client, Zach Brezina, is a childhood friend of county Trustee John Duncan III. Isaacs says Duncan hired Brezina as an analyst shortly after taking office in September 2010.

"Zach has not violated any state or federal laws and everything he did while employed at the trustee's office, where he's still employed, was done with the knowledge and at the direction of his supervisors," Isaacs said.

He also says Brezina intends to cooperate fully with the criminal investigation.

"It's important not to rush to conclusions because a computer was taken for analysis," Isaacs added.

The controversy started with the bonuses Duncan paid himself and six trustee's office employees for continuing education classes they have yet to be certified for.

Then county Commissioner Larry Smith said he got a tip that someone in the trustee's office may have taken an online state test for others and tried to cover it up.

Duncan on Thursday admitted the bonuses were a mistake. He, Brezina and the other staffers have now returned the money. 

"We have worked so hard over the last few years to really be more transparent and be more accountable. Unfortunately when something like this happens, we all get painted with the same brush and it sets all of us back," said Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles.

She says this scandal is one reason more qualified people need to run for office and more people need to research the candidates and vote. Duncan ran for office unopposed.

"My understanding is that since this is an independently elected office, we do not have any oversight. It would be up to the residents of Knox County to make charge," Broyles said.

"Duncan ran on restoring trust to the trustee's office. Now's the time to show our citizens that he's doing that," said Commission Chair Mike Hammond. "He needs to take strong, decisive action and whatever it takes, wherever the chips fall, he has got to do that."

Hammond says he would like the county to hire an inspector general to investigate this sort of case.

He also says he plans to ask the Knox County Charter Review Commission to place an amendment on the fall ballot that would allow commission to oversee county offices like the trustee's office. 

"I think that's going to help some of this, so that there are some more checks and balances," Hammond said.

6 News contacted Duncan's office for a response to Isaacs' allegations. We were told, "no comment."

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