MOUNT CARMEL, TN (WJHL) – Mount Carmel Mayor Chris Jones has to pay almost $600,000 in damages, fees and interest after a West Virginia judge concluded he “intentionally converted and embezzled” hundreds of thousands of dollars from his dying grandmother, according to court records filed in Randolph County, WV in August.
The final order granting judgment is the result of a lawsuit filed against Mayor Jones by his uncles and mother. They accused him of using power of attorney to drain his grandmother’s accounts.
“…sometime after his appointment as power of attorney, Marceline M. Carpenter lacked mental capacity to make her own decisions,” the complaint said. “Upon information and belief Defendant represented to Marceline M. Carpenter that her children were deceased, and therefore unavailable to tend to her needs.”
Bill Nunnally represents those family members in Tennessee.
“It’s a matter of taking something that didn’t belong to you and taking it in very large amounts from someone who was suffering from dementia and was quite elderly,” Nunnally said. “It certainly would raise serious questions about whether or not he should be serving in any sort of public capacity.”
Nunnally said Jones took most of his grandmother’s money in the months before she passed away.
“There were a few checks written after her death but the vast majority of it was taken before she died,” he said. “He took it in large increments, $5,000, $7,000, just numerous checks being written very quickly.”
The West Virginia judge who considered the case called Mayor Jones’ conduct “reprehensible.”
The mayor, who told us he took care of his grandmother, argues his relatives think they’re entitled to the money she gave him, which he says is not nearly as much as the lawsuit suggests. Nevertheless, court records show he failed to fight the case in West Virginia and is now trying to prevent a Tennessee court from validating the judge’s final order.
“My client believes the allegations in the default judgment to be without merit,” attorney David Darnell said. “If my client is willing to give a statement on the matter I shall contact you directly, but it is my advice to not comment on pending litigation. The best time to comment on the matter would be after the resolution of the Hawkins County matter. This is a very personal matter of a dispute amongst relatives that deeply affects my client. I would request that you consider not running a story on the case until after resolution of the Hawkins County matter as I suspect it would be resolved within the next 90 days or less.”
Darnell said Mayor Jones is currently challenging the judgment’s validity in Tennessee.
“Since Mr. Jones is a Tennessee resident it is our position that a West Virginia state court did not have personal jurisdiction over him and the matter should have been brought in Federal Court,” Darnell said.
Nunnally said he doesn’t think Jones will win that argument.
“I would say that their chances of doing that are slim to none,” Nunnally said.
Mayor Jones said the reason he didn’t go to West Virginia to fight the case is because he never received a notice of any of the hearings.
“I never received any notice of a hearing or anything or else I would have gone up there,” he said.
While this is a civil matter, Nunnally said he will eventually ask the district attorney to review the case.
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