MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Rutherford County officials have appointed an interim sheriff while their local sheriff remains in jail on charges that he profited from the sale of e-cigarettes to inmates.
The Rutherford County Commission voted 11-10 to appoint Michael Fitzhugh. Runner-up Dale Armour got the other votes in the final roll call, news outlets reported. There were initially 12 candidates for the job.
Fitzhugh will serve until the 2018 election unless Sheriff Robert Arnold is cleared of his charges. Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer and former sheriff’s administrator Joe Russell have pleaded not guilty to a 14-count federal indictment that includes charges of conspiracy, fraud and bribery. They are awaiting a Feb. 7 jury trial.
The indictment alleges Arnold used his official position to promote the sale of electronic cigarettes in the jail in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Russell and Vanderveer.
In addition to the criminal case, Arnold faces a lawsuit filed on behalf of 12 Rutherford County residents seeking to remove him from office. Davidson County Chancellor William Young suspended Arnold from his duties without pay Nov. 14, pending the outcome of the ouster trial, which is scheduled to begin April 10.
Fitzhugh had been with the sheriff’s office for about 19 years before he retired nearly four years ago because he said he disagreed with the way the sheriff’s office was being managed.
Fitzhugh said he intends to talk to his deputies soon.
“We need to come to an understanding,” he said. “We need to establish trust between each other. There is not a lot of trust there, unless you give people that and give people hope.”