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City official says permit docs missing, answers sought

Two weeks ago, before the Clinton mayoral debate on October 12th, WYSH asked listeners to submit questions for one or both of the candidates, incumbent Scott Burton and challenger Stephen McNally.

Among the questions was one concerning whether or not Mayor Burton, who owns several rental properties in town, had obtained the necessary permits to perform work on five of those properties.

During the debate, Burton said that he had not gotten any permits, since the work was primarily done on “heat and air units,” which he did not believe required a permit. We followed up and it turns out that a permit is required for the replacement of a heat and air unit.

WYSH continued to follow up, and Clinton Building Official Curtis Perez said early Tuesday morning that, since the debate, Burton or his contractors had obtained and paid for permits on four projects, three of which were subject to the standard penalty, namely having to pay double the application fee.

Last week, Burton told the Clinton Courier News that he was unaware that heat and air replacement work required a permit, and that “everyone makes mistakes.” Police Chief Vaughn Becker on Tuesday also admitted that, until recently, he also was unaware that work required a permit.

Image of memo from Clinton Building Official Curtis Perez to other city officials, dated October 16th, 2018.

A Nashville-based publication called the Tennessee Star somehow caught wind of, and took an interest, in this story, and through a public records request, obtained an internal memo written by Perez to his immediate supervisors, Chief Becker and Bill Riggs, as well as City manager Roger Houck. In the memo, dated October 16th, Perez states he was following up on discussions with all three men in which Perez told them that an unspecified number of permit documents possibly related to Mayor Burton had gone missing from the Codes office, which he writes, is “most disturbing considering we are supposed to be in a secure area restricting public access.” Wednesday morning, Chief Becker indicated that Perez had expressed concern that “four or five” related documents had disappeared from the Codes office. Becker also stated that when he asked Perez for details about the missing applications, that he could not remember specifics.

The memo states that Perez later went back and was able to locate one of the missing documents, a permit application for “an accessory building” at a property owned by Burton.

Perez in his memo also dismissed assertions that the documents may have been misplaced or thrown out during the recently-completed remodeling of City Hall, which resulted in several departments, including Codes, relocate to different offices in the building.

Memo dated October 19th, 2018 from Clinton Police Chief Vaughn Becker to City Manager Roger Houck.

In a memo written to Houck by Chief Becker and dated October 19th, the chief writes that after looking into the matter he found “that on some occasions a person may apply for a building permit prior to the project beginning. If the application is not paid for, it will not be issued and remains in the codes office.” He goes on to state that holding the permit application is not required by policy, but will remain on file “sometimes as a courtesy.”

Becker’s memo to Houck indicates that “Curtis stated that other applications may have been filled out by Mr. Burton but we are unable to locate them at this time.” Becker also expressed confidence that “all records pertaining to issued building permits are accounted for and properly documented.” Becker writes: “If Mr. Burton did fill out any other applications I believe that the document may have been already discarded due to the age of them.”

The memo concludes by stating that the chief will implement a policy for “consistent retention” of all non-issued permit applications.

Burton is up for re-election in November and is being challenged by Stephen McNally. Early voting for the November 6th election continues through Thursday November 1st.

The Star issued a follow-up story on this issue Wednesday (October 24th).  Here is a link to their story.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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