Tempers Flare as Knox Commissioners Consider Tyler Harber Case Again

Dwight Van DeVate, Knox County Senior Director of Communications and Governmental Relations leads Knox County Pre-Trial and Probation Director Todd Cook away from the podium during Monday's Knox County Intergovernmental meeting.

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - The Knox County Commission is a step closer to reopening the investigation of a former mayoral aid who is accused of running political operations while he was being paid by taxpayers.

At committee meetings Monday, commissioners approved a motion asking the county commission to conduct its own investigation of Tyler Harber.

Harber previously worked for Mayor Mike Ragsdale in the Probation and Pretrial Release Office.

Volunteer TV's Rob Pratt has the story.

Tyler Harber was never charged criminally for allegedly stealing e-mails from the Republican party chairman in 2005.

But now commissioners want to know more about what the mayor and his staff know and when they came to know it.

There are often disagreements at Knox County Commission meetings.

But emotions were higher than normal as committees met this morning.

The reason, some here want to open up what others consider an old wound, the investigation of Tyler Harber.

"If you want to know the real truth, subpoena me. You'll get the real truth," Todd Cook was Tyler Harber's supervisor when he worked in probation and pre-trial release.

He says he's tired of this witch hunt, with some on the county commission trying to attack him and others in an attempt to hurt Mayor Ragsdale.

Cook says County Commission Chairman Scott Moore is in no position to cast the first stone when it comes to people campaigning during work time.

He says he helped Moore do exactly the same thing when they both worked for the Sheriff.

"You want to talk about knowing what people do, for three months Sheriff Hutchison gave me time off to work on your campaign. You and I went door to door together. We drove an old Ford Explorer that was county issued and we put up signs out of it."

Cook says Moore turned on him when he refused to hire Moore's wife.

Moore says Cook has tried to have him prosecuted by the state and the feds, "Every time something seems to be going against the Mayor, he wants to attack me."

Why were there no criminal charges against Harber?

District Attorney General Randy Nichols, who commissioners questioned at the meeting, says the victim, the Republican party chair, did not pursue what could have been legitimate misdemeanor theft charges.

Now the statute of limitation has passed, meaning it's too late to prosecute.

The full Knox County Commission will take up the issue when they meet Monday, December 17th.

If they decide to investigate, don't expect to see Harber at the hearings.

Knox County Law Director John Owings says unlike criminal courts, the county commission's subpoena powers do not extend to people who live outside the county.

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