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LaFollette City Council to consider consequences of West Tennessee wreck

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By PETER SAWYER

The LaFollette City Council will consider possible consequences of the West Tennessee accident that occurred Jan. 4 involving interim city administrator Cade Sexton and city council member Hansford Hatmaker.

“I’m friends with everybody involved,” LaFollette Mayor Mike Stanfield said. “We’re not trying to cover up anything.”

Stanfield met with Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Lori Phillips-Jones Tuesday.

“They’re wanting us to do an internal investigation on it before they proceed further with it,” Stanfield said.

Stanfield hasn’t yet spoken with members of the city council, but feels the issue will be discussed in a workshop.

“There’s a good chance somebody will resign or lose their job for it,” Stanfield said.

Hatmaker and Sexton had attended a graduation ceremony at the Mark Luttrell Correctional Facility for women in Memphis, and were on the way back. Hansford Hatmaker was driving the 2002 Ford Explorer, which is registered to the city, when it struck a Nissan Versa that was pulled over by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, according to Dalya Qualls, from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The accident occurred near Jackson, and Hatmaker was cited for failing to move the Explorer over, Qualls said.

Both Sexton and Hatmaker claim to have been on city business. It allegedly involved meeting with the Tennessee Department of Corrections staff to establish a halfway house in LaFollette, Sexton said. However, Stanfield had no knowledge of official business with the TDOC in Memphis. TDOT can’t confirm an official meeting either.

Sexton and Hatmaker charged $545.41 to a city credit card during the trip. They spent $210 to have Duncan Wrecker Service tow the vehicle and $335.41 to rent a car from Hertz Rent a Car. They used the rental to return to LaFollette.

The wrecked vehicle was towed to a surplus parking spot at Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 4 in Jackson, said Jennifer Nolan, assistant to regional director at TDOT.

Normally, vehicles involved in accidents are stored at the lot of the wrecker service that towed it, Stanfield said. TDOT’s parking lot is primarily used for TDOT vehicles, Nolan said. However, a THP officer had the vehicle towed to TDOT, according to Nolan and Stanfield. It is unclear why the trooper had the vehicle towed to TDOT.

“We obliged,” Nolan said.

Tuesday, Stanfield made arrangements with Sweat’s Towing to retrieve the vehicle from TDOT.

“I got a call from TDOT,” Stanfield said. “The guy wanted it towed off TDOT’s lot.”

TDOT probably won’t charge the city of LaFollette for the use of the parking space, TDOT Spokesperson B. J. Doughty said.

“We don’t normally have vehicles from accidents towed to our facilities (unless they belong to TDOT),” Doughty said. “We don’t have a mechanism in place to charge those kinds of fees.”