Editorial: Mount Carmel mayor — finally — does the right thing

Editorial Board • Jun 12, 2020 at 9:00 PM

For more than a year, residents of Mount Carmel have suffered the embarrassment of a mayor who allegedly embezzled $394,000 from his grandmother before she died in 2016, resulting in a charge of theft over $250,000 pending in Hawkins County Circuit Court. Now former Mayor Chris Jones also faces a civil lawsuit in the amount of $571,000 filed by his mother and two uncles.

That’s right. Former. Jones has resigned. Finally.

That’s only the beginning of Jones’ litany of problems, legal and otherwise that will not go away with his resignation from his elected office.

He was a longtime Mount Carmel police officer until 2013 when he was fired amid allegations he had stolen pills that were turned over to police as part of a drug task force sting.

Responding to a reported stabbing at a Kingsport motel April 27 of this year, police found Jones, 48, with his throat slit and a serious wound to his arm. With him was his girlfriend. Jones told police he fell on a knife.

Free on a $100,000 bond from his arrest on the theft charge, Jones was arrested May 28 and charged with domestic assault after allegedly pushing his girlfriend during an argument, resulting in a bond requiring he have no contact with her. Since she resides in the house he rents from longtime political ally former Alderman Carl Wolfe, Jones was effectively left homeless. (Wolfe resigned at a BMA meeting Thursday evening.)

A day after being arraigned on the domestic assault charge, Jones was arrested on a charge of felony criminal simulation and two counts of criminal impersonation. That arrest came after a Sullivan County grand jury indictment stemming from an incident in January. In that incident, Jones allegedly went to a Walmart where he reportedly displayed a police badge, stating he was investigating a stolen vehicle and needed to see video surveillance from the store parking lot.

He was refused access but returned later, allegedly displaying a badge and telling the store manager that he was “with Mount Carmel and sent here by the police chief to investigate a stolen van.” He was again refused.

With that history, most people in a position of high public trust would resign out of shame. Not Jones. At least not then.

In a remarkable abuse of his authority, Jones, along with Wolfe, is now the object of a writ of ouster filed by Mount Carmel City Attorney John Pevy on grounds of official misconduct related to a bogus eviction notice.

Jones allegedly drafted a fake three-day eviction notice on his desk computer at City Hall and requested the town’s official seal from the Mount Carmel court clerk without informing her of its intended use. He allegedly placed the city seal on the fake notice in the presence of police, the city manager, and Wolfe. Wolfe then allegedly signed the bogus notice and posted it on the door of the house in question.

Said Pevy, “At no point were either Jones or Wolfe in their official capacity as members of the Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Aldermen, authorized to carry out eviction proceedings, nor to emboss personal documents with the town’s official seal.” The matter is also under criminal investigation by the district attorney’s office.

Prior to this incident, Mount Carmel had no legal standing to oust Jones because all charges are pending. But finally the city did have legal standing.

Fortunately — and again, finally — Jones saved the city from acting on its latest standing and did the right thing by resigning. That’s the good news. If only he’d done so months ago and saved the city enormous embarrassment.

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