Director of 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force fired amid TBI investigation

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The 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force director has now been fired after a two-month leave of absence amid a TBI investigation into the seizure of drugs and money in an operation in Sequatchie County in 2020.

Cody Smith, director of the task force since 2017, had been placed on leave in early March as the probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began in connection with the seizure of drugs and money in a the 2020 search operation, according to 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor.

photo Staff file photo by Ben Benton / A new photo of 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor

"The board of directors met on May 28 and voted to terminate his employment effective May 31," Taylor said this week. "I personally sent him a letter, as chairman of the board, notifying him of that fact."

There have been no criminal charges filed against Smith.

Smith's attorney, Howard Upchurch of Pikeville, Tennessee, said Tuesday no explanation for the firing was given.

"I received a short, three-paragraph letter from General Taylor on May 28 advising Mr. Smith and me that the board of directors for the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force had voted to terminate Mr. Smith as director, effective May 31, 2021," Upchurch said. "No explanation for Mr. Smith's termination was contained in the letter."

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett, a member of the board of directors, said Tuesday that the panel's vote to fire Smith was unanimous and based on a TBI report. The board, which met in a special-called meeting on Smith's case, is made up of members of law enforcement agencies in the six-county 12th Judicial District that contribute funding to the task force.

"The board met with General Taylor and he presented the findings the TBI had given him on the investigation of Cody Smith and the decision was made by the board to terminate his services," Burnett said. "The case has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chattanooga."

Meanwhile, Chad Johnson, a member of the task force and a detective with the Marion County Sheriff's Office, remains interim acting director as the investigation continues, according to Taylor.

The TBI investigation was launched in March after Burnett and Sequatchie County Sheriff Coy Swanger came to Taylor with concerns "about a particular case and the seizure of money and narcotics," Taylor said at the beginning of the probe.

When he was suspended in March, Smith was directed to surrender his official vehicle and all task force property, officials said. The director's post is the only salaried task force position.

Contact Ben Benton at [email protected] or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.