Phil Driscoll's Brother-In-Law Is Surprise Government Witness

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The government produced a surprise witness Wednesday in the trial of Phil and Lynne Driscoll - the brother of Ms. Driscoll.

Rick Blankenship of Orange Park, Fla., testified that he worked for the couple's Cleveland, Tn.,-based ministry in 1994 and became concerned about the mixing of ministry and personal funds.

He told the jury in Federal Court, "There was little or no differentiation between personal and ministry expenses."

Mr. Blankenship, who once served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas, said he advised the Grammy Award-winning Phil Driscoll to establish a budget and set up a board of directors, but he declined.

The Driscolls are standing trial on income tax evasion. Chris Blankenship, mother of Lynne Driscoll and of Rick Blankenship, was also charged, but she died just before the trial began.

Mr. Blankenship said he worked as a financial consultant to the ministry, which was then known as Mighty Horn Ministry. He said his office was in a room next to his mother's in an old house in Cleveland.

He said Phil and Lynne Driscoll would dictate business transactions that Chris Blankenship would record. Someone outside would be hired to do the tax returns.

The witness said he found that items such as clothing for Lynne Driscoll, repairs to a lake home on Parksville Lake, vacations and personal airplane trips were being charged to the ministry.

He said, "The most contentious discussions in the office were about my sister's personal shopping trips." He said Phil Driscoll spoke of "how excessive they were," and he said Lynne Driscoll's right to sign checks was taken away by Phil Driscoll "because he couldn't trust her with ministry funds."

Mr. Blankenship said he spoke with his sister about not mixing ministry and personal funds. He said, "I told her it was imperative that there be a separation between those expenses that were personal and those that were ministry and they could not be intermixed. I told her it could lead to a great deal of trouble for the ministry."

He said he told the Driscolls that the IRS was cracking down on 501C-3 tax-exempt groups and they needed to be careful.

Mr. Blankenship said he suggested to Phil Driscoll that he take a higher salary, but he said Driscoll wanted to stay at $80,000.

The witness said when he learned that ministry funds were going to pay for the lake cabin through a "parsonage fund" that "I was rather astonished."

He said, "I thought that was the wrong way to pay for personal improvements to their house."

The witness was asked by a defense attorney why he had not "had the courtesy" to tell his sister and brother-in-law he was going to testify against them. The attorney also asked if he was not on good terms with them.

He said, "I'm on good terms. I don't know whether they are or not."

He said he called the government in order "to shed light so that these people (the jury) will have all the facts before them. I'm not here to judge whether Phil or Lynne did anything wrong."

The trial will resume on Monday, May 22, in the courtroom of Judge Curtis Collier. Attorneys said it may be possible to finish it by Thursday of that week.

Corker Doubtful On Latest Saudi Version Of Death Of Writer At Consulate In Istanbul

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Friday expressed doubt about Saudi Arabia’s claims regarding the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post. He said, “The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their ... (click for more)

Dalton Police Department Investigating Car Break-in

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help to identify a woman who was recorded by store surveillance using a credit card stolen from a car parked in a gym parking lot last week. The suspect used the stolen card to rack up more than $500 in fraudulent charges. The theft happened on Oct. 12,  at the Planet Fitness gym parking lot on Walnut Avenue. When ... (click for more)

Drink Up, Chattanooga

I attended the meeting to discuss the placement of the sewage treatment plant at the Cambridge Center in Ooltewah today. My problem with the meeting (aka) dog and pony show, is that the meeting started out with the agenda of the Ooltewah Community Council.  After living in this area for 45+ years I have never heard of this group.  I would like for someone to answer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

The reviews are good after we initiated “The Funny Video of the Week” but today let me take the liberty of sharing an oldie that I consider the funniest of all time. Please be aware the principals are speaking Polish, which you also need to know makes not a bit of difference. I have watched “The Polish Spoon Trick” at least 50 times because every time I watch the video it makes ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Rally Tops CCS For Region Title

The Notre Dame football team headed to Chattanooga Christian’s David Stanton Field for their final regular-season game against the Chargers Friday night with two really strong incentives. If they won, the Fighting Irish would win its region title for the second straight year and in doing so, would clinch home-field advantage throughout the post-season playoffs. They accomplished ... (click for more)

OoltewahThumps Cleveland, 34-20, To Near Region 2-6A No. 2 Playoff Seed

Maybe it’s time to tag the Ooltewah Owls as the “Comeback Kids.” The Owls rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit to clip Bradley Central, 28-27, on Kyrell Sanford’s 16-yard pass to Fisher Perry in the third quarter and turned the outcome over to the team’s defense. Three weeks ago, Ooltewah scored on a 55-yard pass from Sanford to T.J. Taylor with 13 seconds remaining to ... (click for more)