Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls said he has turned over to authorities what he said are multiple instances of alleged illegal conduct by Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson.
He said the gave the evidence to District Attorney Steve Crump, the TBI and the FBI.
Commissioner Rawls said, "And there is still more there. The more you uncover the more you become appalled."
He said some of the allegations include the disposition of a sheriff's van, the activity of his wife, Tenille, as a bonding agent, the sheriff's alleged involvement with a woman who has had several arrests, and alleged threats toward him made by the sheriff.
Commissioner Rawls said he began to become suspicious after examining some transactions in the sheriff's department that came before the commission finance committee.
He said the van that was sold was purchased in excess of $130,000. He said various high-tech equipment was added to it. He said it was sold for $20,000 to a bounty hunter in Nashville identified as a friend of the sheriff's.
Commissioner Rawls said, "At first there was no bill of sale. Then one was produced that did not have a date on it."
He said local bonding officials were told that Ms. Watson would not be operating in Bradley County, but in adjacent counties. He said, "That did not turn out to be the case."
The commissioner said he checked the records and found that for three recent months Ms. Watson wrote more bonds than several agents did for the next highest firm. He said, "People at the jail have to be steering cases her way."
Commissioner Rawls said, "For the sheriff's wife to be in the bonding business is a flagrant conflict of interest."
Regarding the one who he said was closely tied to the sheriff, he said she was placed in jail on no bond. Then, he said, she got out on a low bond after a call from the sheriff's office saying she was working as a confidential informant.
Commissioner Rawls said, "I was told by someone on the command staff that she never was a confidential informant and never will be."
The commissioner said he was able to obtain over 100 messages between Sheriff Watson and the woman. He said the communication included a number of suggestive remarks.
He said the woman sent the sheriff a photo of herself without a shirt and wearing a red bra.
He said one discussed them taking an out-of-town trip together. He said, "They did go on a trip," which he said was documented in county financial records.
Commissioner Rawls said Sheriff Watson made a threat against him. He said it was recorded by an individual and made available to him.
He said he has turned the tape over to authorities.
Commissioner Rawls said, "I have never seen morale in the Bradley County Sheriff's Office as low as it is now."
He said he believes Sheriff Watson, a former state legislator who has launched several faith-based programs since being elected sheriff, should be removed from office and face criminal charges.
Sheriff Watson said, "Since my election, I have done everything in my power to make Bradley County safer and to improve our sheriff's office. When I ran, I said I wanted to return fiscal responsibility to the department and I have done so.
“I have done nothing wrong. I have not betrayed my oath or the public trust in any way. I will cooperate fully with any investigation and will look forward to being cleared of any wrongdoing. My only agenda will be keeping the citizens of Bradley County safe.”