Hatch Act complaints snag East Tennessee law enforcement officials

Two East Tennessee police chiefs and a police lieutenant are facing complaints they violated federal law when using departmental letterhead to endorse a judicial candidate and posing in uniform alongside the candidate for endorsement photographs.

Tazewell Police Department Chief Jeremy Myers, New Tazewell Police Department Chief Ben Evans and New Tazewell Lt. Gary Ruszhowski are accused of violating the U.S. Hatch Act, a 1939 law governing political activities by employees of agencies supported by federal tax dollars.

The law prohibits government employees in the federal executive branch and local government employees of agencies that receive federal funding from using the power of their respective offices to try to sway the electorate.

It specifically bars police chiefs, who are appointed to office by their respective governments, and police employees at agencies that receive federal funds from using departmental letterhead, office space, gear and uniforms for political activity, including issuing endorsements.