Official accused of stealing campaign signs resigns highways job - WSMV News 4

Official accused of stealing campaign signs resigns from highway department

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Joe Frank Jernigan (Photo from Rutherford Co. Sheriff's Office) Joe Frank Jernigan (Photo from Rutherford Co. Sheriff's Office)

A Rutherford County commissioner accused of stealing an opponent's campaign signs has resigned from his position in the county highway department.

District 6 Commissioner Joe Frank Jernigan was also accused of campaigning in a county vehicle on county time.

Jernigan was employed with the Rutherford County Highway Department for 20 years - first as a road commissioner and for the past 14 as assistant superintendent.

Jernigan did not resign his position as county commissioner.

On Wednesday, Jernigan was booked on a misdemeanor warrant after he was allegedly caught on camera stealing signs belonging to his opponent, Matt Harvey.

A Rutherford County family who lives on Weeks Road captured the commissioner on video allegedly campaigning in a county vehicle on county time Wednesday about 10 a.m.

"If he thinks he's just going to use our taxpayers money to campaign for himself, I'm hoping other people will see that it's wrong and they'll show him the door," said resident Andrew Anderson.

Anderson said he pulled into his family's property right behind Jernigan. He said Jernigan introduced himself and asked what they had against him, and he was told several times to leave.

They are supporters of Jernigan's opponent and ended up putting their Harvey signs in trees to keep them from being taken.

Anderson says it was only after the commissioner left that he noticed the vehicle Jernigan was driving had a county-issued license plate.

Jernigan denies the allegation.

"I don't campaign on county time," Jernigan told Channel 4 News after he was released Wednesday afternoon.

Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said he was disappointed to hear about the accusations.

"Any time that any of our people in our leadership position, whether it's an elected official or an official within an organization or even within a business relationship, are accused of something inappropriate, we take note and are concerned about that," Burgess said.

Burgess said there are no county policies that would allow action to be taken against Jernigan. He says it will have to play out in court.

"We all take note of that, and we're concerned about that. And we wish that none of this ever happened and no one was accused of something like this," Burgess said. "In any event, we live in a society where a person has the right to defend himself, and we certainly believe a person is innocent until proven guilty."

We were unable to reach Jernigan for comment about his retirement.​

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