Terry Shaffer. Times-News file photo.
BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County's interim highway commissioner is retiring from his post, while the district attorney's office confirms an investigation into alleged improprieties within his department was launched more than two months ago.
Terry Shaffer has headed the Sullivan County Highway Department for approximately three years. He was appointed to the position following his predecessor's conviction on theft and misconduct charges.
Shaffer tells the Times-News that his stepping down has nothing to do with the current investigation into the Highway Department, but rather his more than 32 years of employment with the county.
He declined to comment on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe.
"I just decided to retire so somebody else will have time to run (for highway commissioner) for the election in May," said Shaffer.
Sullivan County District Attorney Gen. Staubus expects the TBI investigation to be concluded in January or February, at which point the findings will be presented to a Sullivan County grand jury.
The jurors will then decide if the alleged "impropriety" within the highway department merits the placement of charges or disciplinary actions against any individuals.
Citing the nature of the ongoing investigation, Staubus declined to specify the nature of the allegations that prompted him to request a TBI probe or who brought forth the claims.
The investigation and retirement are the latest incidents in a tumultuous four years at the highway department.
Former Highway Commissioner Allan Pope was tried in 2010 on multiple charges: four counts of theft of services more than $1,000 but less than $10,000; one count of official misconduct; one count of using public equipment for private purposes; one count of theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000.
A jury found him not guilty for theft of services less than $10,000, but guilty of the remaining counts. The trial court imposed a one-year suspended sentence for official misconduct and a three-year suspended sentence for theft of services less than $60,000.
Pope later filed unsuccessful appeals of his convictions to the Criminal Court of Appeals for Tennessee.
In November of 2010, Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey named Shaffer to serve as interim highway commissioner. In February of 2011, he was officially appointed to the interim job by the Sullivan County Commission.
Shaffer has been with the Sullivan County Highway Department nearly 30 years. He was promoted to section foreman on Sept. 1, 2006, when Pope took office as commissioner.