Chief of staff & tax attorney for Knox Co. Trustee plead guilty

Chief of staff and tax attorney for Knox County Trustee plead guilty, resign

Chad Tindell (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Chad Tindell (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Josh Burnett (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Josh Burnett (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Trustee John Duncan III's Chief of Staff and office attorney both entered a guilty pleas Wednesday to facilitation of official misconduct, before resigning from their positions.

Duncan said he accepted the resignations of his Chief of Staff, Josh Burnett, and Delinquent Tax Attorney, Chad Tindell. Facilitation of official misconduct is a "Class A" misdemeanor.

The decision follows an investigation into bonuses that were given by Duncan to himself and six other employees in 2010 for online courses they did not complete. Those bonuses were handed out again in 2011.

All of the employees have paid those bonuses back, including Duncan.

On Wednesday, the two former trustee employees made a plea agreement. The state and defense attorneys agreed to 11 months 29 days probation.

Both Tindell's and Burnett's attorneys have applied for judicial diversion. The judge will have the final say during the next sentencing dates.

The sentencing date for Burnett will be in January. Tindell's judgement date will be in February.

Vice Chair of the Knox County Commission Larry Smith has been following the issues surrounding the Trustees office.

"I'm just disappointed. I'm saddened by the whole event. I know the two individuals, know them personally, it's just heart-wrenching when stuff like this happens in government," said Commissioner Smith.

Burnett's attorney Tommy Hindman said, "These are very unfortunate circumstances and he's taken some bad advice."

Tindell's attorney Don Bosch said, "It is with great thought and reservation that Mr. Tindell has entered into this agreement."

In a statement issued from his office, Duncan said "I want to thank Josh and Chad for their willingness to serve our office. Despite the way things ended, they helped achieve some great results for the taxpayers of Knox County and they both have accomplishments they should be proud of."

"Today's news is unfortunate, but it's time to let the legal process play out," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. "I'm confident that the work of the Trustees office will continue."

In addition to the bonuses, there are allegations that someone in the Trustees office may have taken tests related to the online course for other employees and covered it up.

"That's wrong. That's like someone taking the test for you in school and turning it in with your name on it. It's wrong," said Commissioner Smith.

Commissioner Smith says the commission has now lowered the training class bonus amounts from $3,000 to $1,000. Smith hopes to do away with paying bonuses for taking training courses.

Knox County's human resources department will post an opening for the position of delinquent tax attorney sometime in the coming weeks. Until then, officials said Chad Tindell will assist the office with pending matters.

As for any future indictments, a source close to the investigation says negotiations are underway with Trustee John Duncan. Official misconduct is a felony and could carry a sentence of more than a year in prison.

6 News also spoke with District Attorney Randy Nichols about the investigation, but he could not shed much additional light on the situation.

"Well I mean I guess people can draw their own conclusions from what happened today but it's just not appropriate for me to comment about it," said Nichols. He also said the investigation is not over.

We're told by attorney Greg Isaacs that he is not anticipating charges against his client Zach Brezina, a one-time Trustees office worker who cooperated with authorities. We reported back in February that Brezina's computer had been seized as part of this investigation.

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