Two local college instructors arrested; TCAT probe expected to widen

10:00 am | October 29, 2013

An investigation into potential criminal misconduct at a local college has resulted in the arrest of two school officials and may, according to a local law enforcement official, result in several more.

On Monday, Carter County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Tim Horne arrested two instructors, Joe Churchwell and David Scott Simerly, from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Elizabethton. Churchwell was charged with theft under $500, while Simerly was charged with communicating a threat to a school employee.

Sheriff Chris Mathes said he expects “more to come” as the investigation continues.

“We have an open investigation on the technology school,” Mathes said. “The more we investigate, the more we keep finding issues. That has resulted in these two charges.”

In the official offense report, Horne wrote he has been investigating “numerous complaints of criminal misconduct” at the college since the period between late August and early September. In the Oct. 10 edition of the Elizabethton Star, it was reported the sheriff’s office was investigating the school’s director, Dean Blevins, for potential misappropriation of student labor.

Blevins has denied any wrongdoing, and a spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Regents said publicly that a TBR audit did not find that Blevins violated any rules.

But, like the Blevins’ investigation, Mathes said the arrests of Churchwell and Simerly resulted from information provided by “students, faculty and the public.”

As written in the offense report, it was a former student, who has not been identified, who first led Horne to Simerly. Horne reported that the student was “concerned for a staff member’s safety” because of comments allegedly made by Simerly. According to Horne’s report, the student provided six videos and an audio recording allegedly made while attending the school and, in those recordings, Simerly is seen and heard threatening the safety of Teresa Nidiffer, the school’s financial coordinator.

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