Cooper: Attorney general's shifting of employees amounts to a less than transparent 'shell game'

Staff file photo / Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston speaks during a RICO case call-in in Judge Tom Greenholtz's courtroom on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

What is the general public to make of the kerfuffle over the Hamilton County district attorney general's employing of relatives in his office? Is it much ado about nothing or a symptom of something worse?

Unfortunately, we think it's more the latter than the former.

If all were on the up and up, the situation would have ended with Attorney General Neal Pinkston's answer to Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd in a budget hearing in May as to whether he had any relatives on the county payroll.

"No," he said. "They're not."

Technically, Pinkston was right. His wife, Melydia Clewell, who is the office's chief of staff and is paid $87,984 annually, and her brother, Kerry Clewell, who is an investigator and is paid $48,992 annually, are on the state payroll.

Unsatisfied, Boyd asked state Sen.