Knox County trustee pleads guilty to misconduct

3:33 pm | July 2, 2013

NASHVILLE — Knox County Trustee John Duncan III, a member of a prominent and influential political family in Knoxville, pleaded guilty Tuesday to official misconduct and resigned from office.

Duncan entered the plea to the felony charge in Knoxville on Tuesday and was sentenced to one year of probation. He also agreed to cooperate with any other investigations related to the $42,000 in bonuses he gave himself and others under his supervision for completing certified public administrator coursework that they didn’t actually finish.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Duncan’s father, Republican U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr., attended the hearing but declined to discuss the specifics of the case.

“We can rely on our faith to get on with our future,” the elder Duncan said.

The Duncans have been a prominent political family in the Knoxville area for more than a half century. An annual family barbeque draws thousands, and is a required stop for aspiring officeholders during campaign season.

Jimmy Duncan, a former Knox County criminal court judge, succeeded his father, John Duncan Sr., in Congress in 1988. The elder Duncan, who died a month after announcing he was leaving office, had held the seat since 1964. He had previously served as Knoxville mayor.

Jimmy Duncan’s sister, Becky Duncan Massey, was elected to the state Senate in 2011.

John Duncan’s election in 2010 as Knox County trustee was widely seen as a first step toward following the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Duncan had said previously that computer issues with the program’s administrator made it impossible for all to finish the coursework, while authorities alleged a single worker in the office took some of the tests needed to complete the course on behalf of his co-workers.

Prosecutors said Duncan told Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents that he hadn’t known that he shouldn’t collect bonuses before the training program was complete. But three employees told the TBI they had warned Duncan against the practice.

His image was still prominently displayed on the Knox County trustee’s website on Tuesday afternoon with the following message from Duncan: “I hope to always be working toward our three priorities: improving service, eliminating waste, and earning your trust.”

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