By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post and TOMI L. WILEYThe Chronicle of Mt. Juliet
A Wilson County commissioner, who has taken a position in favor of advancing consideration for a Bible theme park in Lebanon, says he has been asked to change his vote and to oppose the park and in exchange an ethics complaint filed against him would be dropped.
District 2 County Commissioner Chris Sorey said yesterday he has “evidence” of a phone call he made to Derek Dodson in which Dodson offered to drop an ethics complaint he had filed against Sorey months ago if Sorey would agree to vote against the Bible Park proposal currently awaiting action by the county commission.
But while Dodson acknowledges receiving the call from Sorey, he categorically denies having offered to drop the ethics charges in exchange for a no vote.
“I talked to him,” Dodson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “And I’d prefer he do the right thing, but I don’t need his vote.” Sorey said he was first confronted with Dodson’s offer at the county commission meeting last week. According to Sorey, he was “handed a note” by a third person at the commission meeting, whom he only identified as the messenger, that said Dodson would drop his ethics complaint against him if he would “vote no” on the Bible Park issue.
Dodson denies having written any such note, saying “I offered him and two other commissioners a stack of research I’ve done about the Bible Park and its backers.”
Sorey said he asked the messenger again if he was sure that was what Dodson had said, and the person said it was “absolutely what was said.”
Sorey said the messenger insisted that he should verify the information by going directly to Dodson or as Sorey put it the messenger said he should “get it from the horse’s mouth.”
Sorey said he called Dodson and in the telephone conversation Dodson offered to drop the ethics complaint if Sorey voted “no” on the Bible Park.
Dodson did say he had planned to drop charges against any commissioners who were willing to read the material and convince him they had studied it, “But I never told anyone I would do that, or that it depended on how they voted.” “As soon as I was done, I called the sheriff’s office, the county attorney and the district attorney,” Sorey said. He added that while he did not get to speak directly to the sheriff he did speak with a “high-ranking official,” whom he was told passed the message along to Sheriff Terry Ashe.
Sorey said he does not “know what they’re doing,” as far as any investigation into the matter.
Sorey claimed that “what Dodson did was morally wrong but not illegal” because there was no dollar value involved. For that reason Sorey said Dodson did not offer to bribe a public official.
However, Sorey said because of what Dodson did others may choose to file ethics complaints at any time against a commissioner when they are “not happy” with how a commissioner votes or reacts on certain issues.
Sorey said he hasn’t heard from Dodson again, and doesn’t plan to.
Dodson said he had taken a recording of his entire conversation with Sorey to District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, adding that he thinks Sorey is just worried about the ethics charge.
“He’s squirmy because he has two ethics charges against him and so he’s trying to make me look bad,” Dodson concluded.
“I’ve done everything I was asked to do,” Sorey said. “But if Dodson said it to one person, there’s no telling who else he’s said that to, and I wanted to get it officially cleared up.”
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tomi L. Wiley is the editor of The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet and may be reached at Editor@themtjulietchronicle.com.