UPDATE: Chattanooga mayor denies inappropriate relationship with top adviser

UPDATE: Chattanooga mayor denies inappropriate relationship with top adviser

May 25th, 2016 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

In this 2015 file photo, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke speaks to members of the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Updated at 3:00 p.m. with a statement from Lacie Stone.

Robert and Lacie Stone

Robert and Lacie Stone

Mayor Andy Berke denied allegations that he maintained an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his senior advisers Wednesday, five days after his adviser's husband was arrested for domestic assault.

As soon as Bobby Stone, 54, went to jail, rumors quickly began to spread that he attacked his wife, Lacie Stone, 38, after discovering she was romantically involved with Berke, who is also married. Berke said in a statement that Bobby Stone was lying.

"Upon being arrested and charged, her husband made numerous false allegations about me and other people involved in city government," Berke said. "It is unfortunate that this situation escalated to the point of a domestic assault. Let me be clear: the allegations are absolutely false."

Berke did not answer multiple previous requests for comment from the Times Free Press and declined to comment further, "out of respect for the ongoing investigation."

Bobby Stone declined to comment when reached by phone on Monday. His attorney, Lee Davis, said today that he believes Berke's comments, as well as comments made today by Police Chief Fred Fletcher, threaten Bobby Stone's chance to have fair proceedings in court.

"I am highly concerned by these officials' actions and their voluntary choice to publicly offer opinions about a pending court case when each of them has a personal and professional interest involved," Davis said in a statement. "It is not fair to Mr. Stone and it is a disservice to the court."

Lacie Stone has not returned multiple requests for comment.

The domestic incident happened around 11:30 p.m. Friday, records show. Lacie Stone told police that she and her husband fought over her phone. Bobby Stone admitted to investigators that he dragged her by the belt to the door of their home in North Chattanooga and told her to leave, according to the police report.

Lacie Stone said her phone was crushed during the disagreement. Bobby Stone told police his wife hit him in the forehead during the struggle as she tried to keep the phone. Both Bobby Stone and Lacie Stone showed evidence of injuries, according to the report.

Lacie Stone then got into a vehicle and started to leave her home, according to a police report, when her husband threw a rock into the back windshield and shattered it. The report says he admitted to throwing the rock while being interviewed by police. 

At that point, Lacie Stone called Fletcher, who told Lacie Stone to come to his house, and she did, Fletcher confirmed Wednesday. He then called police communications and asked the watch commander to send officers to his home to interview Lacie Stone and investigate, he said.

"I made it clear that this incident will be investigated the same as any other crime," Fletcher said in a statement.

Davis said Bobby Stone spent several hours in police custody after Lacie Stone called Fletcher, and said that Bobby Stone cooperated fully and answered questions truthfully. Davis said Bobby Stone admits to arguing with his wife but is not guilty of any crime.

The police department initially refused to identify Fletcher as the person who Lacie Stone called for help, and in the police report filed for Bobby Stone's arrest, the person she called is referred to only as "a friend who worked at the police department."

Fletcher reiterated that he and Lacie Stone are friends in his statement. They are also neighbors and work together professionally. Fletcher said he had dinner with Bobby and Lacie Stone at the Stones' house a few hours before the incident, and that there was no indication that anything was wrong when he left the home.

"About an hour after I left the home, I received a panicked phone call from Mrs. Stone stating Mr. Stone had hurt her," Fletcher said. "I instructed Mrs. Stone to come to my home where I knew she would be safe."

He declined to comment beyond his written statement.

Bobby Stone was charged with malicious vandalism and domestic assault. He was released on bond and is due in court on Tuesday.

In the statement released today, Davis asked Fletcher and Berke to stop talking about the case.

"I ask that Chief Fletcher and Mayor Berke refrain from making further self-serving statements and allow the parties the privacy they are deserve until this matter can be fairly decided by an impartial judge. These publicly released comments that officials choose to make are clearly intended to influence the public and possibly the court. That is fundamentally wrong."