Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron Randolph, who is on probation on charges related to an investigation of the family’s insurance business, unsuccessfully applied for two jobs in the county property assessor’s office, according to public records and a county official.
One state official said Ketron Randolph should not be working in any job connected to her father.
Ketron Randolph is serving eight years’ probation after having pled no contest to various charges including fraud, forgery and theft related to having worked as vice president of her father’s insurance firm; some of that work happened while her license was inactive.
The Murfreesboro Post obtained copies of two job applications she submitted for openings in the property assessor’s office – Administrative Support II and Appraiser I – Real Property.
The DA’s response
Bruce Garner is the communications director for the 11th Judicial District in Hamilton County, the district attorney’s office that prosecuted Ketron Randolph’s case because the local DA’s office recused itself.
Garner said by email, “Ms. Ketron did apply for these jobs. It’s our understanding that she was turned down for both. Our understanding is that Ms. Ketron has indicated that she will not be taking any offers from either position, should they change their minds and extend an offer for whatever reason.”
Garner continued, “That said, while these particular positions are not expressly prohibited in her probation conditions, Kelsey is not to be working in any position that can be connected in any way to selling insurance, to Universal or to her father, Bill Ketron, and his position in their local government.”
The Post emailed Mayor Ketron and asked this question: “It is my understanding that a county employee’s relative may work for the county as well, as long as a relative is not the other’s supervisor. However, do you have any comment on whether a close relative of yours, as the county mayor, should work for any section of the county government?”
Ashley McDonald, the county’s public information officer, provided this statement from the mayor: “Rutherford County is the second largest employer in the County. Therefore, it is not inconceivable that the County may employee family members, as long as the employment does not violate the County’s nepotism policy which states, ‘Members of an employee’s immediate family will be considered for employment on the basis of their qualifications. However under TCA § 8-31-102 to 106, immediate family members may not be considered if employment would place them in a direct supervisory line with respect to each other.’ A family member of mine applying for a position with an office of a constitutional officer (elected official) does not violate the policy as the constitutional officers operate independently and have the ability to create and abide by their own policies.”
The Post called Rob Mitchell, Rutherford County’s property assessor.
He said Ketron Randolph and other applicants were interviewed for the appraiser job, which involves working in the field. She was not interviewed for the administrative job. She was not a top candidate for either position, he said.
Both positions pay in the low- to mid-$30,000s, Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that while his office has been interviewing for two openings, he actually is short on staffing by four positions, according to a survey conducted by the County Technical Assistance Service.
Ketron Randolph entered a nolo contendere plea on 15 counts in Rutherford County Circuit Court on Feb. 24. The legal term means “no contest,” and is a process in which a defendant accepts a sentence as though she was convicted, but admits no guilt. However, the judicial system considers this a conviction of guilt.
Ketron Randolph pleaded not guilty on Nov. 25, 2019, to the counts related to an investigation of her family’s insurance business as well as alleged theft from her father’s campaign finance accounts. She was arrested and charged on Nov. 4, 2019.
There were three indictments, containing 72 counts, Ketron Randolph’s attorney, Trey Harwell, said at the time. She pled no contest to 15 counts in one indictment. Those counts were Facilitation of Fraudulent Insurance Act, Facilitation of Forgery, Attempted Fraudulent Insurance Act, Fraudulent Insurance Act, Theft and Impersonation of a Licensed Professional. The 57 counts in the other two indictments were dismissed.
Her record will be expunged after her parole is finished, Harwell said.
Her probation terms say Ketron Randolph must, during that time: serve 300 hours of community service; pay a $10,000 fine; seek no insurance license; not work for Universal International Insurance Agency; not engage in political campaigns; and take at least five random drug screenings. She cannot have contact with her victims.
On Jan. 17, Ketron Randolph agreed with insurance regulators to pay a $23,000 civil penalty and lose her inactive insurance producer license. The deal is with the Insurance Division of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. She may not apply for an insurance producer license until the civil penalty is paid. She must cease from any activities requiring a license.
Kevin Walters, communications director for Commerce Department, said Ketron Randolph is up to date on paying her penalties.
“The order called for 1 payment of $5,750 per year; she made the first payment,” Walters said by email. “The next one is not due until February 2021.”
Several county departments have relatives of other workers employed, Mitchell said. The only stipulation in the general county personnel policies is that an employee may not report to a supervisor who is related, he said. There is nothing in the county employee manual to prevent any elected official from hiring someone like a spouse, sister or brother, he said.
Mitchell’s job is established by the Tennessee State Constitution. He sets his own policies, and he said his personnel and ethics polices are somewhat stronger than the county’s. He requires his staff to file a conflict of interest form every year to show any potential conflicts; the county does not, he said. Mitchell says he will not hire a family member of any of his employees, although he could if he so wanted. He said he also would be free to hire the relative of any other county employee if he wanted to.