Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Johnson City Press. Oct. 9, 2021.

Editorial: Nepotism has no place in the sheriff’s department

Nepotism can ruin the morale at any workplace, but its effects are made worse when it pervades a public institution.

We recently saw it on display at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office where Sheriff Ed Graybeal’s son, Eddie Graybeal, was given preferential treatment after his conviction for assaulting a prisoner.

Three years ago, the younger Graybeal, then a lieutenant at the department, slapped a handcuffed man inside the county jail. He received a written reprimand and was told to review the department’s use of force policy, but he wasn’t charged with a crime until a year later when another officer’s body camera video of the incident was leaked.

After he pleaded guilty to simple assault, the sheriff’s son was assigned to a civilian job at the department, then reassigned to a maintenance job at the jail when he lost peace officer certification. He made more than $28 an hour in both positions and, as a civilian, still had department-issued weapons and a ballistic vest until Press Senior Reporter Becky Campbell asked about his patrol equipment in July of this year.

His differential treatment was apparent when, in May, a jailer was immediately fired for his indictment on simple assault charges and a departmental investigation showed he used unnecessary force against an inmate and failed to report the incident.

Sheriff Graybeal retired in August before the end of his term. Maintenance custodian Graybeal was fired three weeks after his father’s retirement by Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen, who said his assault conviction disqualified him from working in the jail.

Clear examples of favoritism like this undermine the boss’ leadership decisions. When the boss holds the highest law enforcement position in the county, it ruins the department’s cohesion and erodes the public’s trust in our institutions.

We hope the sheriff’s department can find a path beyond this ordeal. Trust can be restored, but it will take a new leader to set a positive example for the community.

Choose wisely in the upcoming county elections to find a sheriff with integrity.

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Kingston Times News. Oct. 8, 2021.

Editorial: A chemical plant is no place for criminal behavior

A 37-year-old Kingsport man faces a litany of charges after allegedly driving through a security gate at Eastman Chemical Co., setting the vehicle on fire, and then fleeing through the plant in a stolen company pickup.

The charges might be sufficient to land Justin Lee Carroll some time in prison, but better that than the cemetery. Crashing a vehicle through a perimeter security gate, stealing a company truck, and driving it under pursuit inside a major chemical plant can quickly get you dead, no questions asked.

All Eastman said about the situation was: “A vehicle entered our Tennessee Operations property Monday morning through a fence gate and Eastman’s emergency services contacted the Kingsport Police Department for assistance. They quickly resolved the situation and took a person into custody. Any additional questions should be directed to Kingsport Police.”

Carroll was driving a Nissan Maxima Sept. 6 when he allegedly drove through the Eastman gate. Police say he parked the car, stuffed napkins into a cup holder, and set them on fire. He then allegedly stole a Chevrolet Silverado owned by Eastman and drove it through the plant while being pursued by city police. Several employees had to take evasive action to avoid being struck by the truck, which then crashed into a fence. Officers had to forcibly remove the driver from the truck to take him into custody.

Carroll is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, felony reckless endangerment, felony vandalism, felony evading arrest by motor vehicle, resisting arrest, aggravated assault, aggravated criminal trespassing, theft of a motor vehicle, possession of meth for resale, possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia, DUI and violation of implied consent, and arson.

Several weeks later, a 33-year-old Kingsport man was charged with vandalism and vehicle theft after allegedly stealing an SUV from a downtown parking lot and also driving it through a gate and then setting it on fire. But not at Eastman.

Kingsport police received a call about a man driving a Ford Explorer through the gate at Northeast State Community College’s Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing on Main Street and then setting the vehicle on fire. He then fled on foot.

About an hour later, a call came in about a suspicious man on Eastman’s property near Wilcox Drive, attempting to open car doors. Police located Nathan Bledsoe near Sullivan and Market streets, and during questioning, he reportedly told police he was “training to be like you.” Bledsoe also allegedly told officers he drove through the gate at the RCAM “to mark the spot.”

Kingsport police charged Bledsoe with vandalism over $1,000 and theft of a motor vehicle. Eastman officials informed Bledsoe he was banned from all Eastman property.

Two incidents of criminal behavior on Eastman property of late should serve as a warning that a chemical plant that may have potentially catastrophic vulnerabilities as a terrorist target is no place for criminal behavior.

Despite that Eastman handed this incident over to city police, we have no doubt that it is fully capable of immediately responding as necessary to any threat. The same would be true for Holston Army Ammunition Plant.

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