Bradley County: Miller 'surprised' at misconduct charges

Bradley County: Miller 'surprised' at misconduct charges

March 26th, 2009 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Former state Sen. Jeff Miller said Wednesday evening he will "defend myself vigorously" against charges of official misconduct and conspiracy to commit official misconduct and perjury brought against him and his secretary.

"I'm surprised at the charges that have been leveled against me," Mr. Miller said Wednesday evening after posting a $10,000 bond at the Bradley County Justice Center.

"We've cooperated fully with the TBI; we answered everything they asked and showed them everything they wanted to see," he said. "They know the truth, but they charged us anyway."

He said he could not answer questions about the case.

"I've served the citizens of Bradley County proudly and with honor in the state Senate and as their delinquent tax attorney. I would never do anything to misplace that trust they have put in me. I look forward to the conclusion of this and will defend myself vigorously," he said.

Mr. Miller was indicted by the Bradley County grand jury on Wednesday on one count of official misconduct, one count of conspiracy to commit official misconduct and one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated perjury.

According to the indictment, Mr. Miller refrained from performing lien searches as part of his statutory duties as Bradley County delinquent tax attorney.

His secretary, April Miles, was indicted on one count of aggravated perjury, one count of conspiracy to commit official misconduct and one count conspiracy to commit aggravated perjury.

"I think the case is built," said District Attorney General Steve Bebb, whose office asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into Mr. Miller's previous work. "We wouldn't have gone to the grand jury if the case wasn't built."

TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the agency searched Mr. Miller's records on Jan. 28 and interviewed several people while collecting evidence.

"This is a culmination of that evidence that was gathered during that search warrant and all of the interviews that we did," she said.

Bradley County commissioners questioned whether Mr. Miller had performed his duties as back tax attorney for the 2004 tax year. They voted to fire Mr. Miller as back tax attorney for that year.

When he appealed the termination, county officials filed a memorandum in Chancery Court, saying, "Mr. Miller's services as delinquent tax attorney have subjected Bradley County to liability and responsibility as a result of his failure to perform the duties and responsibilities as delinquent tax attorney."

The document cited a case in which a Charleston, Tenn., property was sold for back taxes even though the owner may not have been notified of the sale.

Mr. Miller was appointed back tax attorney by his father, former County Trustee Anderson "Jute" Miller, an action which opponents labeled nepotism. He was replaced when Mike Smith was elected trustee in 2006.

Mr. Miller is a Cleveland Republican who served in the state Senate from 1994 to 2006. He was investigated but never charged in connection with the FBI's Operation Tennessee Waltz probe into public corruption.

Mr. Miller acknowledged accepting $1,000 in 2005 from a representative of a sham company set up as part of the corruption sting but said it was a campaign contribution.

Staff writer Judy Walton contributed to this report.