Indicted Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold has taken trips to conferences at taxpayer expense one of them was a recent visit to the White House.
Sheriff Arnold was charged with conspiracy, bribery and extortion in May, but this week, he took a trip to the White House.
He has been out on bond and awaiting trial, but, to the disgust of many, Arnold has not stayed put. Instead, the accused felon has taken approved trips paid for by the county.
According to Lisa Marchesoni, with the Sheriff's office, Sheriff Arnold was invited to attend the White House briefing by the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The U.S. attorney indicted Arnold for bribery and extortion in connection with the sale of E-cigarettes in the jail.
Arnold posted a quarter-million dollar bond. He surrendered his passport, but he's free to travel the country, which is what he's doing.
"He should be here taking care of his county is what he should be doing," said Rutherford County Commissioner Doug Shafer who heads up the Public Safety Committee.
He and others were frustrated to see the sheriff still traveling to conferences.
"It gives the county a black eye. It's a shame for something like this to happen," said Shafer.
Here's a log of Arnold's recent travels:
- July 24-29 in Sevierville, Tennessee for the state sheriff's association meeting. (That's 5 days hotel plus a per diem of $51 per day)
- August 9-11 There were photos posted on Facebook showing Arnold on the trip to Washington, D.C. for a 21st Century Policing Conference. (That's a $644 plane ticket, the cost of a hotel, and a per diem of $69 per day)
- August 13-17 Arnold has planned to leave for another conference in Orlando. (That's another plane ticket, cost of a hotel, and $59 per diem each day)
A press release from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office said that the White House briefing was a presentation that encouraged law enforcement agencies to work closely with the community.
In the release, Arnold described how his office was already doing so and how they would make improvements.
“We have already reached out to our community in many programs but will strive to have our community better involved with the Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Arnold said. “We will also use social media to inform our residents about Sheriff’s Office events.”
The county picks up the tab for these trips. It's all legal and most sheriffs do attend such conferences for training and education.
However, Shafer and others think such travels for an indicted sheriff looks bad.
"I think you can use the word being arrogant maybe and showing I can do this. I'm a constitutional officer. There's nothing you can do to me. That's what it looks like," said Shafer.
Short of Arnold resigning which he said he wouldn't do, the only way to remove him is through an ouster suit.
However, sources have told Newschannel 5 that is likely not going to happen so at least for now the sheriff is in Rutherford County to stay.
Sheriff Arnold did not return our calls for comment.