Vandalism charges dismissed against Bill Boner - WSMV News 4

Vandalism charges dismissed against Bill Boner

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

A judge on Tuesday dismissed campaign sign vandalism charges against the former property assessor of Rutherford County.

Judge David Loughry dismissed the charges against Bill Boner after they were filed last month.

New Property Assessor Rob Mitchell, who won the Aug. 2 election, spent nearly all of his first day in office at the County Judicial Building after he took out a warrant to have Boner arrested in July. He accused the incumbent of damaging a campaign banner that had been hanging on the side of a wall at the Premier 6 movie theater at Jackson Heights shopping center where Boner serves as the property manager.

Loughry said during the preliminary hearing that Boner had to respond to a Murfreesboro Building and Codes Department warning that the city only allows three temporary signs per property.

"Mr. Boner has the approved authority to determine the three signs," Loughry ruled in determining there was no probably cause to send the case to a grand jury. The judge noted that the sign in question was hung back up with duct tape before Mitchell agreed to take it down.

Although he dismissed the charge, the judge said Mitchell and the Assistant District Attorney General Aleen Hale have the option to present the case to the grand jury.

Mitchell after the preliminary hearing suggested the case was over.

"I had my day in court," Mitchell said around 3:15 p.m. while walking on the sidewalk to head to the nearby Property Assessor's Office before the office closed at 4 p.m.

"He wants to get to work," said Michael Cowger, Mitchell's campaign manager and the treasurer for the Rutherford County Democratic Party. "He doesn't want any more distractions from the job that he was elected to do. His job is to solve problems left behind by the former property assessor."

Boner attorney Joe Brandon agreed that Mitchell has a job to do for the county and its residents.

"I want to be clear that Mr. Boner was found not guilty today," Brandon said. "Specifically, the court did not even find probable cause a crime had been committed. With that said, it is definitely time for Rutherford County to take a new, clean direction in which Mr. Mitchell is our property assessor."

Although Mitchell got his day in court, he may have to come back if Boner carries out a previous threat during the election to sue the Democrat for false arrest.

"That was dirty and low," Boner said in the judicial building prior to the preliminary hearing. "This has cost me too much time and too much money to myself and my family for his stupidity."

Boner, the day after losing the election, turned himself into the jail.

"I've never been mug shotted before," said Boner. "I've never been fingerprinted before. It was embarrassing. I had a lot of calls from people wanting to bail me out. I haven't had as much as a speeding ticket in 15 to 20 years. I've never before been charged with a crime."

Boner added that the charges caused too much pain and agony to his 11-year-old grandson and 9-year-old granddaughter.

"Grandpa, we don't want you to go to jail," Boner recalled his grandson saying while giving the Republican a hug.

Boner's attorney Joe Brandon, of Murfreesboro, would not commit to a false arrest lawsuit.

"As with any case, you always fully explore your options in order to make an educated decision, and that is the process that we are currently engaged in," said Brandon, nothing that Mitchell could have avoided missing most of his first day as property assessor has he not been a no-show in August when the preliminary hearing was initially scheduled. "We appreciate them finally exercising maturity."

Boner also faces a threat of a federal lawsuit from two former female property assessor employees he fired who contend he retaliated against them after they had made sexual harassment complaints against him.

Boner denies the charges and contends the women in a letter from their attorney asked for their jobs back, a month and a half of back pay and $2,000 in fees for their attorney. He contends that if he agreed to those conditions, they would not pursue formal charges against him. He said refused to do that because he perceived it as blackmail.

Boner has made formal request to County Mayor Ernest Burgess and Josh McCreary, a lawyer for the county, to re-obtain the letter in question that the former property assessor said he turned over to the County Human Resources Office.

Boner said he fired the women for gossiping and refusing to stay separated at work. The women previously filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but the EEOC decided in July it couldn't continue the investigation because the property assessor's office employs less than the required number of employees or is not otherwise covered by the statutes.

Prior to Tuesday's preliminary hearing, Mitchell said he would dismiss the charges if Boner apologized for tearing down the campaign banner. "A simple apology would take care of it," he said in the hallway at the judicial building.

After negotiations between the lawyers took place, Boner rejected Mitchell's settlement offer.

"I'm not going to apologize," Boner said. "He's the one that did it. He's cost me a lot of money. You know what that's going to bring on."

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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