The highest elected official in Cannon County can be heard in audio, obtained by the News 4 I-Team, discussing threatening letters sent anonymously to his critics.
An I-Team investigation tracked down the three women who received the letters, all which are tailored to silence each woman and contain the same block letter writing.
District Attorney Jennings Jones, who represents Cannon County, said he has asked the TBI to investigate.
Josh DeVine, spokesman for the TBI, confirmed to the I-Team that they are investigating a claim of “extortion” on behalf of Gannon.
It is unclear if the TBI’s investigation references what the I-Team has uncovered.
In an audio recording of Cannon County executive Mike Gannon, he can be heard describing in vivid detail one of the letters before it was sent to a woman who had frequently criticized the county government.
"That son of a bitch has been lit up," Gannon said in the audio.
The I-Team began investigating when we obtained audio of a private meeting from January between Gannon and county commissioner Adam Melton.
Deputy Clerk Tina George made the recording when she was walking past Gannon’s office in the Cannon County courthouse and could hear he and Melton talking loudly.
Fearing they were violating the open meetings act, which forbids deliberation of county business in secret, George sat down and started recording on her phone.
That’s when George heard Gannon talking about a letter, that had been delivered the day before, that threatened a local critic of Cannon County government not to say anything else on Facebook.
Gannon can be heard on the audio discussing what the letter contained, including a claim that the critic allegedly performed a sex act in a horse trailer, and that if the critic didn’t stay of Facebook, that story would be shared.
The I-Team obtained the letter. The exact wording, and what Gannon describes about the letter, are similar.
The letter begins with, “Jan, you need to think about not saying anything else on Facebook.”
In the audio, Gannon described the letter writing, "If you don't think they won't find out, I’m warning you. You shut up or I'm putting every bit of this on Facebook."
The letter then goes on to threaten that if Jan continues on Facebook, that the world will know about the time she was in a horse trailer and performed a sex act.
In the audio, Gannon said, “Then it said, if you're not (quiet), I remember when you were on a horse ride a few years ago and in the back of a horse trailer.”
Gannon then can be heard describing the sex act from the letter.
The letter also reads, “I wonder what your church would think about that.”
Gannon can be heard saying, “How would your church folks feel about you then?"
Gannon also said in the audio, ”Something like, I can't remember the exact words, if I were you. I would stay off, I’m telling you, if I were you. I would be quiet on Facebook."
Gannon went on to say, "She should have gotten it today, it was mailed yesterday. That’s what I heard."
"I couldn't believe that he would do such a thing. Or someone would be capable of doing such a thing," George said.
And when that meeting ended, George was waiting outside.
In the audio, you can hear George said hello to Gannon, and he asked her what she was doing.
"What do you mean what am I doing?" George responded. “I have heard everything you have said."
Gannon responded but it’s unclear what he said.
A few days after that meeting, Jan Powell went to her mailbox and found a letter from an anonymous sender, containing the insulting sex claim she said never happened.
"I was pretty scared because didn't know who it was, what they were going to do. I immediately started looking over my shoulder and I still look over my shoulder,” Powell said.
Powell went from scared to angry when George and her former county commissioner husband Kevin George shared with her what was said in the meeting.
"It's just strong arm politics,” Kevin George said.
The I-Team asked Powell how she felt that the county mayor appeared to have knowledge that the letter was going to be sent to her.
"I think he's a scum bag,” Powell said.
After the I-Team repeatedly reached out to Gannon for comment but did not hear back from him, we tracked him down in the Cannon County courthouse.
“Did you have knowledge that these threatening letters were being sent to these critics?” the I-Team asked.
“I just can't answer that,” Gannon said.
When the I-Team offered to play the audio for Gannon so he could hear it for himself, he declined.
Our investigation found that Powell isn’t the only woman in Cannon County who has received anonymous, threatening letters after clashing with the Cannon County executive.
Dotty Duggin, a longtime city councilwoman in Woodbury, said she received one of the threatening letters after she clashed with Gannon on the hiring of a candidate for a job opening.
We showed Duggin one of the letters that another female critic received.
“It's the exact same handwriting,” Duggin said.
In the audio of the meeting between Gannon and Melton, Duggin’s name was mentioned.
"Boy it sure shut Dotty up. It sure shut Dotty, it sure did," Melton can be heard saying.
“Do you know who mailed that letter?" Gannon asked.
“Don't want to know," Melton responded.
Another woman who received a threatening, anonymous letter said she felt mortified and ashamed.
The woman is still so frightened after receiving the letter that she asked the I-Team to conceal her identity.
After she received it, the threat worked: she stopped openly criticizing the Cannon County government.
“It's just to shut you up. And it did a really good job,” the woman said.
“It shut you up?” the I-Team asked.
“It did,” she said.
The I-Team asked Gannon about the other women who received threatening letters.
“You are the county executive. You're elected to this position. There are women in this county who have all received the same kind of threatening letter that have all been critical of you. Do you know that these letters are being sent to these women?” the I-Team asked.
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Gannon said.
Despite that claim, in the audio, Gannon can be heard discussing the exact date when Powell should have received her letter.
“You're welcome to call my attorney. I have no comment. Thank you,” Gannon said, and then closed the door to his office.
Danny Raider, Gannon’s attorney, said his client denies doing anything wrong and that Gannon wants to defend himself.
Raider said Gannon cannot comment until after the TBI investigation is complete.
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