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Two college employees arrested in connection to houseboat investigation

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CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) -

Two Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Elizabethton instructors are now charged with crimes in connection to an investigation of a project involving the college director's houseboat.

As we've previously reported, Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes opened an investigation into TCAT at Elizabethton Director Dean Blevins back in August.

At the time, the sheriff said he was trying to determine if Blevins committed a crime when students and teachers helped him finish his houseboat. The director told us neither he nor the school did anything wrong. Instead, he said the investigation was the result of a disgruntled employee.

Now a TCAT employee is accused of threatening that "disgruntled employee." HVAC instructor David Scott Simerly is charged with communicating a threat to a school employee. Investigators arrested him earlier today.

Court records reveal Simerly accused the employee in question of helping a private investigator look into the houseboat situation. Investigators say a student used a cell phone to film Simerly making the threats.

"I will go up there and slap the (expletive) out of her today!" the affidavit of complaint said.

The complaint went into more detail about why he allegedly said those things.

"Apparently, someone had hired a private investigator to determine if students and faculty had performed work or provided materials and resources that resulted in TCAT-Eliz. Director Dean Blevins significantly receiving an increase in value to a boathouse he owns on Boone Lake in violation of Tennessee Board of Regents Policies: (#1-02-30-10; Conflict of Interest and 4-01-05050; Fraud)," the affidavit said. "The investigation being conducted by the private investigator had led to him/her attempting to interview students attending TCAT-Eliz. During the time of the alleged misconduct...When asked to explain why he said those things he said that he was just aggravated over the private investigator snooping around and bothering his students."

Officers also arrested millwright instructor Joseph Churchwell today and charged him with theft under $500. Court records reveal he is accused of taking steel and other resources that technically belonged to the state and scrapping the metal in exchange for $353.60. The metal, with a total weight of 1,470 pounds was recycled in April, court records revealed.

"He admitted he took those items to Omni-Source, received the amount of money as stated and kept it for personal use," the affidavit said.

To be clear, investigators have not arrested or charged Blevins with any crime, but the sheriff says the investigation is ongoing and these likely won't be the last arrests.

"This is a direct result of the investigation related to Dean Blevins," Sheriff Mathes said."As we do the investigation we anticipate there will be additional arrests."

Although a TBR audit showed Blevins did not break any policies in regards to the student work program that led to the work on his houseboat, auditors said there was at least the perception of a conflict of interest.


See also: 
College director accused of misusing student workers for the benefit of his houseboat

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