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Mount Carmel mayor, alderman under new criminal investigation for alleged fake eviction notice

Jeff Bobo • Jun 10, 2020 at 4:03 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel Mayor Chris Jones and his longtime political ally and landlord, Alderman Carl Wolfe, are now the subject of a criminal investigation — and separate ouster proceedings from city government stemming from an alleged bogus eviction notice posted for Jones' girlfriend.

Jones, 48, was arrested the night of May 28 and charged with domestic assault after he allegedly pushed down his girlfriend Amber Page Hale, 31, during an argument over his TV being removed from his room.

A condition of his bond on that charge was that he have no contact with Hale, whose legal address is the house on Hemlock Street in Mount Carmel that Jones rents from Wolfe. As a result, Jones was effectively homeless.

City attorney John Pevy, who also serves as the city's ethics officer, filed a writ of ouster in Hawkins County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon for the purpose of commencing with ouster proceedings against Jones and Wolfe on the grounds of official misconduct.

The writ of ouster alleges Jones and Wolfe allegedly cooked up a bogus eviction notice scheme to get Hale out of his house so that he could return home.

Jones allegedly drafted a fake three-day eviction notice on June 3 titled “Notice to Vacate” on his desk computer at City Hall.

“In the presence of Mount Carmel police officers, Jones stated that under the auspices of making the unlawful eviction document 'look more official' he would stamp it with the town of Mount Carmel official seal,” Pevy stated in the ouster notice. “Jones requested the town's official seal from the Mount Carmel Court Clerk without informing her of the use for which it was to be utilized, and he was provided with the seal owing to his position as the mayor of Mount Carmel.”

Jones then allegedly placed the city seal on the fake notice in the presence of police, the city manager, and Wolfe. Wolfe then allegedly signed the bogus notice and posted it on the door of the house where Hale resides.

“At some point thereafter Amber Hale discovered the unlawful eviction notice which had been posted to her door and which bore the town's official seal,” Pevy further states. “At no point were either Jones or Wolfe in their official capacity as members of the Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Aldermen, authorized to carry out eviction proceedings, nor to emboss personal documents with the town's official seal.”

On Wednesday, Third Judicial District Attorney General Dan Armstrong confirmed for the Times News that both Jones and Wolfe are now the subject of a criminal investigation, although Armstrong wasn't at liberty to discuss the allegations.

Armstrong, who is already prosecuting Jones on the domestic assault, as well as an unrelated charge of theft over $250,000, has also agreed to join Pevy's ouster action against Jones and Wolfe.

This writ of ouster adds to a growing list of legal problems for Jones, who most recently was indicted in Sullivan County earlier this month on charges of felony criminal simulation and two counts of criminal impersonation.

He was accused of using a Mount Carmel police badge in an attempt to view Walmart surveillance video on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 on the pretense of a stolen van investigation.

Jones also has a charge of theft over $250,000 pending in Hawkins County Circuit Court stemming from allegations he embezzled $394,000 from his grandmother’s estate shortly before she died in 2016; as well as a 2019 Hawkins County Chancery Court judgment against him in the amount of $571,000 stemming from a civil lawsuit filed by his mother and two uncles related to that same embezzlement allegation.

Although there had been a public outcry for Jones’ removal on each of the occasions he’s been arrested, the city had no legal standing to proceed with an ouster because Jones hasn’t been convicted of anything, and the charges are pending. The alleged misuse of the city seal, however, is an act of official misconduct against the city, and can be used as grounds for removal from office.

Jones was elected mayor in 2016 and served the previous two years as an alderman. Jones was also a longtime Mount Carmel police officer, detective and fire chief until 2013, when he was fired by former Mayor Larry Frost amid allegations he had stolen pills that were in a jacket that was turned over to the police department after being found at the City Park.

No criminal charges resulted from that allegation.

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