Clinton, Tennessee Mayor’s Building Permit Paperwork Went Missing

Clinton city officials acknowledged in recent written communications with one another that paperwork current Mayor Scott Burton filed for building permits went missing for reasons they didn’t know at the time.

The Tennessee Star obtained these letters (embedded below) through an open records’ request it filed this week.

As reported, scuttlebutt around town says Burton skipped out on paying various building permit fees, which is against the law.

Two weeks ago, rumors of this made their way onto a mayoral debate on radio station WYSH between Burton and his opponent Stephen McNally.

At the heart of the matter are four missing building permits Burton didn’t originally apply for on heating and air units — because he thought they weren’t legally necessary, according to the debate.

But WYSH radio personality Jim Harris told The Star he found out later permits are indeed required.

Harris also learned Burton, or one of his representatives, after the debate, obtained and paid for years-old permits on the four projects, indicating they were originally improperly obtained, according to WYSH.

Becker has since paid a late penalty on that, said Chief of Police Vaughn Becker.

The penalty is double the original permit fee, he added.

Becker told The Star Monday this situation is “a bunch of nothing.”

Also at issue is one missing building permit application Burton filled out but never followed up on or paid for, Becker told The Star.

“When someone comes and files an application for a building permit sometimes they don’t get it right then. They fill out the application and then they come back at a later point and pay for it and get the permit. We are talking about the applications,” Becker said.

“As a courtesy, codes (department officials) actually leaves them in the office. If they come back in a few months they (the applicants) don’t have to do the paperwork again.”

In some cases, Becker went on to say, applicants don’t come back because they never follow up on the project.

“They have these permit applications, and I talked to Curtis,” Becker said of Clinton Building Official Curtis Perez.

“He (Perez) did find one from the mayor that was just an application that was not a permit that was not paid for.”

Burton did not return The Star’s repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

Clinton is in Anderson County, near Oak Ridge.

Perez, in an Oct. 16 letter to City Manager Roger Houck and Becker, said “it is very disturbing to me” that this is now an issue in the mayor’s race.

“The fact that our office has documents missing is the most disturbing considering we are supposed to be in a secure area restricting public access,” Perez wrote.

In a written response to Perez, Becker said the following:

“If Mr. Burton did fill out any other applications I believe that the document may have been already discarded due to the age of them.”

Becker told The Star he doesn’t suspect the mayor or anyone else of any nefarious behavior.

“I just think there are applications that weren’t picked up, and at some point they were gotten rid of or purged,” Becker said.

City Manager Roger Houck, to whom the October 16 memorandum was directed and recounted an October 15 conversation, told The Tennesseee Star on October 19 in a story published on October 23 that all he knew about the permit issue was what he heard at the October 12 debate.

Read the letters:

[pdf-embedder url=””]

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]












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2 Thoughts to “Clinton, Tennessee Mayor’s Building Permit Paperwork Went Missing”

  1. Horatio Bunce

    Page 91:

    “14-903 Application For/Issuance of Building Permits
    . For all multi-family residential, commercial, public, semi-public, or industrial uses, a site plan or PUD plan, whichever may be applicable, prepared in accordance with the provisions of Sections 14-310, 14-311, or 14-308, shall be submitted with an application for a building permit. Building permit applications for all other uses not requiring a site plan or PUD plan shall be accompanied by a dimensioned sketch or scale plan indicating the size and shape of the lot and the location and use of any existing or proposed buildings or structures on the site. No building permit for earth
    moving or construction shall be issued unless all the applicable provisions of this ordinance have been met. If the request for issuance of a building permit is refused, the building official shall state the reason for his refusal in writing.”

    Page 92:

    “14-905 Final Site Inspection/Issuance of Certificate of Occupancy
    . In order to ensure that a building, structure, or addition has been constructed in accordance with the approved sketch, site, or PUD plan and will be occupied by a use lawful within the zoning district in which it is located, the building official shall make a final inspection upon notification by the owner or occupant that a premises is ready
    to be occupied. Within three (3) working days of such application, the building official shall make a final inspection of the property in question, and shall issue a certificate of occupancy if the building or structure is found to conform to the provisions of this ordinance and the statements made in the application for the building permit. If such a certificate is refused, the building official shall state such refusal in writing with the cause. No land or building hereafter erected or altered in its use shall be used until such a
    certificate of occupancy has been granted.”

    “14-906 Violations
    Any person whether owner, lessee, principal, agent, employee, or otherwise who violates any provision of this ordinance, permits any such violation, fails to
    comply with any of the provisions or requirements hereof, including any conditions, stipulations, or safeguards attached to any permit, variance, special exception, or other such final authorization or approval hereunder, or who erects, constructs or reconstructs any building or structure, or uses any land in violation of any written statement or plan submitted and approved pursuant to this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

    14-907 Penalties
    . Any persons violating any provision of the ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than two dollars ($2.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00) for each offense. Each day such violation shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.”

    So, I’d like to see the required by “law” sketches that accompany the applications too. Has Perez completed the final inspections of those HVAC installations? Part of the permit fee is to pay for inspections. Not doing the inspections is kinda like municipalities do with their speed traps. $50 fine and $150 in “court costs”…except they didn’t hold court. $2/day penalty on those multiple misdemeanors really adds up too. Don’t see any other mechanism for “late fees” as the thin blue line claims. Pretty typical municipal kangaroo court $50 limit to avoid the constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial. These towns love their revenue generators, but it really sucks when they have to pay the piper too…don’t it?

  2. […] The Star issued a follow-up story on this issue Wednesday (October 24th).  Here is a link to their story. […]