County Commissioner Tim Boyd has questioned District Attorney Neal Pinkston on the issue of relatives in his office.
He released an email he received that was critical of DA Pinkston giving allegedly excessive raises to a top staff member that he married and for hiring her brother.
At budget hearings, he asked DA Pinkston whether he had any relatives on the county payroll.
The DA replied, "No. They're not."
Commissioner Boyd, who was earlier prosecuted by DA Pinkston on an extortion charge, later said the question came after he received an email just before the budget session supposedly from a member of the DA's staff.
The email says DA Pinkston married former TV personality Melydia Clewell and then hired her brother.
They are on the state portion of the District Attorney budget - not the county. The email claimed that Ms. Clewell has received excessive raises.
DA Pinkston responded, "I have done nothing wrong, and that includes my procedures for hiring or paying employees. It is surprising that Commissioner Tim Boyd isolated my office regarding relatives on staff when he failed to scrutinize the other county offices with similar situations. I can only surmise that this relates to his previous prosecution by my office for extortion. Because I refused to handle his case differently than I would any other citizen, my management decisions - which are both legal and ethical - are being portrayed in a deceptively negative light.
"After working for years together, Melydia Clewell and I discovered we had more than simply our shared interest in our jobs. As many other people have discovered, a mature love can develop over time between friends and that is what happened in our lives. Marriage is a private matter, but as I plan to seek re-election as District Attorney, I’m happy to tell you that Melydia and I have committed our lives in marriage. We are blessed. Our situation is not unusual. The most high-profile instance in the state would be the UT Lady Vols basketball coach, who hired her husband to be her main assistant.
"In my office, there are currently nine employees with relatives also on our staff. None of these employees reports directly to a relative. Each of these employees is well-qualified for the positions they hold and the public is well-served by their hard work. At least 18 of my employees have received substantial raises during my tenure as we have worked to bring their government salaries in line with today’s competitive market.
"This distraction is just that - a distraction. I will continue to serve the people of the 11th Judicial District with integrity and diligence. This will be the only statement I make on this matter."
Commissioner Boyd said the email said, "There are some major concerns with the District Attorney General's office that I wanted you to be aware of. Neal Pinkston married Melydia Clewell after Thanksgiving in November 2019. Their relationship has been going on since prior to her hiring in 2015. The District Attorney General went out of county and his "Chief of Staff" went out of county to get their marriage license, which gives the appearance that they were trying to hide it. Their marriage ceremony was held in their home in Chattanooga, Hamilton County. Melydia Clewell's salary started out as $58,190 yearly, but it appears she has received some significant questionable raises. Her salary in 2021 was 87,948.
"I think you will agree that a $28,758 raise in five years is excessive and questionable. It appears that between 2015-2021 her salary increased approximately $20,000 within one of those years and then increased again another $8,000, so her salary increase was quite a bit of money from one year to the next when these increases happened. This is not acceptable.
"In addition, Melydia Clewell's brother, Kerry Clewell, was hired last year during the pandemic and an email was sent throughout the office introducing him as a new 'Investigator' that has raised many eyebrows. Employees are fearful to report anything, because they will be punished if they do. Regardless of what anyone says, including Neal Pinkston, both Melydia and Kerry Clewell's direct supervisor.
"I am going to give you additional information, but I wanted you to have this information prior to the proposed budget hearings today. I would like you to keep this information in mind and go over the District Attorney General's budget with a fine toothed comb. Although it is the state that provides the salary for both Melydia Clewell and Kerry Clewell, there is some major deception going on with the reporting of their positions and salaries that I will address at a later date."