Documents link Rutherford Co. chief deputy to for-profit company - WSMV News 4

Documents link Rutherford Co. chief deputy to for-profit company

Posted: Updated: Oct 08, 2015 06:02 PM
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

The Channel 4 I-Team has uncovered new documents that firmly connect Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold's second in command to a for-profit company selling to the jail's own inmates.

The documents show that Chief Deputy Joe Russell has two jobs. He is the finance man for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, as well as the money-man for JailCigs, a Georgia-based company that sells electronic cigarettes to his own department's inmates.

JailCigs does business with jails across the country. One of them is the Sumner County Jail.

The company gives a cut of its profits, roughly $5 per order, to the jails.

A letter JailCigs sent to Sumner County with its monthly check says, "In appreciation of your facility allowing JailCigs to be mailed to your inmates in Sumner County, JailCigs LLC wanted to donate $2,340 to support your office."

The letter was signed by John Vanderveer, a co-owner of JailCigs and Arnold's uncle.

The check included in the letter was signed by Russell. The name on the checking account is JailCigs LLC, listed at an address on Osborne Lane in Murfreesboro.

That is also Russell's home address. He is the sheriff's next-door neighbor.

The Rutherford County Finance Committee met Thursday night. Arnold was not in attendance.

Rosemary Faulk from the sheriff's accounting office made the presentation.

Monday, Arnold told the I-Team that JailCigs makes payments to Rutherford County for the privilege of selling e-cigarettes to inmates.

"Yes, every so often there are payments that are given to the sheriff's office," Arnold said Monday. "I think it's about a dollar an order, about that line."

Faulk told the I-Team she has never seen a check from JailCigs. Lisa Nolen, budget and finance director for Rutherford County, said the same.

In other counties, the company shares the profits with the county. If that doesn't happen in Rutherford County, that means more profits in the pockets of the owners.

"I'm very, very concerned about it and we're going to cooperate to our fullest degree to allow a thorough and complete investigation to take place," Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said.

Rutherford County officials confirmed the state comptroller's office is investigating this case.

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