Pictures show Rutherford Co. deputy promoting company while on l - WSMV Channel 4

Pictures show Rutherford Co. deputy promoting company while on leave

Posted: Updated: Jan 26, 2016 06:25 PM
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Administrative Chief Joe Russell Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Administrative Chief Joe Russell
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

Pictures show what a Rutherford County deputy has been doing while on paid leave.

Joe Russell is Sheriff Robert Arnold’s administrative chief at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. But Russell hasn’t been at work since late April. He is currently under state and federal investigation. In May, the RBI raided his house and office.

The investigation has to do with JailCigs and other companies Russell co-owns with Arnold’s relatives. JailCigs sells electronic cigarettes to jail inmates, including inmates at the Rutherford County Jail.

Russell is on paid leave during the investigation. He is collecting a regular paycheck from his $71,653 annual salary to stay home.

But the Channel 4 I-Team found Russell has been keeping busy.

Pictures taken Monday show Russell at the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association meeting in Sunset Beach, NC. In the pictures, Russell was at the JailCigs booth promoting his company to North Carolina law enforcement.

The I-Team showed the photos to Rutherford County Executive Mayor Ernest Burgess.

“So these are current? These are recent?” Burgess asked. “So while we’re paying Mr. Russell for the duties that he’s not performing, he is promoting, again, the sale of electronic cigarettes. That’s extraordinarily disappointing, in my view.”

The sheriff’s office said it can’t comment because of the investigation, but a citizens group trying to oust Sheriff Arnold from office had plenty to say.

“My first reaction is a word that keeps coming to mind through all of this, is the audacity of it,” said Steve Lane with Tennesseans Against Corruption.

Since Russell is on paid leave from his county job, it’s unclear if there are any restrictions on how he spends his time.

“People have been saying that it’s a paid vacation for a paid period of time,” Burgess said. “So I guess you can do what you want on your vacation. I don’t know.”

Russell had been on administrative leave with pay until July 1. That was when he applied to change his status to family medical leave. According to county officials, that has not yet been approved.

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