Wise County Accused of Mismanaging Grant Money

The Wise County Circuit Court is under fire this week after an audit by NASA's Office of Inspector General. Over 8 million dollars was awarded to Wise County in 2008 and 2014 for the County's DEVELOP program which focuses on environmental management and public policy. The audit indicates nearly half of this money was mismanaged, funding items unsupported on the agreement.  Wise County Financial Administrator David Cox says the report is inaccurate. Circuit Court Clerk Jack Kennedy explains a questionable $300 flower bill went to a deceased county official, a county board member, and a diligent supporter of the DEVELOP program who had just given birth.
The audit also claims more than $165,000 was rolled over from previous grants, which the OIG says is not allowed. But Jack Kennedy claims no directive was given on this matter.
Cox says proper documentation was provided for every payment, but auditors claim otherwise. He also says he wasn't contacted until after the audit was complete.
Kennedy went on to point out that the county's and NASA's financial systems have changed in that time period, so finding the proper documents will take time, but the county values the program and will comply with all suggested remedies.


Taylor Ray Holbrook Returns To Lee Theatre

Taylor Ray Holbrook will be returning to Lee Theatre on November 14th at 7 p.m.
Tickets are on sale now at Town Hall, 528 Industrial Dr. or call 276.546.4000 with a credit card.

Lee Social Worker Indicted

A former Lee County, Virginia social worker has been indicted by the Bell County Grand Jury.

Amanda Celeste Szemak, 38, of Middlesboro, was indicted for first-degree trafficking a controlled substance, greater than two grams of methamphetamine.

In  an earlier report, Middlesboro Police Officer Barry Cowan found Szemak to be in possession of an ounce of crystal meth in July.

  Szemak was employed by the Lee County Department of Social Services at the time of her arrest. She also worked as a social worker in Bean Station, Tennessee from January-October 2011 and with child protective services for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services in Tazewell, Tennessee from June 2006 to 2011.

Szemak was arrested as a passenger in a truck driven by Billy Marlow of Middlesboro in July when the two were parked on the Cumberland Village parking lot. Cowan stated he knew Marlow’s license was suspended and the Toyota truck he was driving appeared to have excessive window tint. When measured, the window tint meter showed 14 percent.

The report said while Cowan used the tint meter, Marlow handed the passenger, Szemak, an ounce of methamphetamine. The meth was later found concealed in Szemak’s pants.

Marlow was charged with excessive windshield/window tinting, operating on a suspended operator’s license and first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance.

Szemak and Marlow were both held on $5,000 cash bonds. Szemak posted bond on July 16.




October 13th Last Day To Register To Vote

The last day to register to vote in the 2015 November General Election is next Tuesday October 13 by no later than 5 p.m. The Voter Registration Office is located in room 104 of the Courthouse in Jonesville and is open from 8:30-4:30 Monday through Friday. Virginia law now requires all voters to show acceptable photo ID at the polls. Those without the proper form of ID can get one for free at any voter registration office.



Pre-Registration for Wilderness Road Festival

Wilderness Road will hold their Annual Heritage Festival this weekend October 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include a second annual Chili Cookoff. Teams must pre-register for the event. Interested teams, as well as crafters or demonstrators who would like to set up to sell food at the event can call 276-445-3065 or visit friendsofwildernessroad.org.

National Guard Called To Assist With Storm

The Virginia National Guard unit in Gate City was called up over the weekend after severe weather caused destruction across the state. Troops were on standby for high water rescues, transporting flood victims to safety, and clearing debris. VDOT kept more than 2000 workers on standby across the state. A number of  VDOT trucks were visible on local roadways as flooding impacted the lower areas of Lee and surrounding counties.

Lee Sheriff’s Office Arrests Harlan Fugitive

On Wednesday evening, officers at the Lee County Sheriff's Office along with the Pennington Gap Police Department arrested a fugitive from Harlan Kentucky. Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons reports that officers obtained information that 26 year old James Curtis Lewis an escapee from Harlan was hiding at a residence in Pennington Gap. Parsons said his officers got a search warrant for 234 Derby Avenue, a residence that is currently unoccupied. Once inside, officers discovered Lewis hiding under an old water bed frame. According to Parsons, he was arrested without incident. He has waived extradition and will be returning to Kentucky. Parsons said he was pulling two years in Harlan for drug distribution and burglary when he walked away from a work crew on August the 28th.

Flooding Possible on Heels of Joaquin

Hurricane Joaquin is expected to cause heavy rains and winds for our region as it moves up the coast this weekend. Governor Terry McAliffe has already declared a state of emergency. With the heavy rains and wind, flooding is very likely along with possible downed trees and power lines. Mudslides are also a possibility. These conditions could last through Sunday, depending on Joaquin's course. Our area could see 2"- 5" of rain this weekend.
The national weather service has issued a flash flood watch for Lee County and surrounding counties through 7 a.m. Monday. They remind motorists to avoid closed and flooded roads.

Luckily the inclement weather will not affect either lee county football teams this week. Neither Thomas walker nor lee high will have games tonight.

Flash Flood Watch for Lee



Issued at: 3:04 PM EDT on October 1, 2015, expires at: 7:00 AM EDT on October 05, 2015
  • …Flash Flood Watch in effect from Saturday morning through Monday morning… The National Weather Service in Morristown has issued a
  • Flash Flood Watch for portions of southwest North Carolina… east Tennessee and southwest Virginia…including the following in southwest …North Carolina…Cherokee and Clay. In east Tennessee…Blount Smoky Mountains…Bradley…Cocke Smoky Mountains…east Polk…Grainger…Hamblen…Hancock… Hawkins…Jefferson…Johnson…Knox…Loudon…McMinn…NW Blount…north Sevier…northwest Carter…northwest Cocke… northwest Greene…northwest Monroe…Sevier Smoky Mountains… southeast Carter…southeast Greene…southeast Monroe… Sullivan…Unicoi…Washington TN and west Polk. In southwest Virginia…Lee…Russell…Scott…Washington and wise.
  • From Saturday morning through Monday morning
  • abundant rainfall from Hurricane Joaquin will be funneled onshore leading to heavy rainfall.
  • Widespread rain…locally heavy in some areas…may cause flash flooding through early Monday morning. Precautionary/preparedness actions… A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation. You should keep informed…and be ready for quick action if flooding is observed or if a Flash Flood Warning is issued. If you come to a closed or flooded Road…turn around! Don't drown!

Lee County Sheriff’s Monthly Activity Report


Total calls received  by Lee County Dispatch Office 6,807.


Total calls received, deputies  responded to 929.


There were 360 calls dispatched to  the Fire Warden, Conservation Officer, V.D.O.T., Juvenile Services, Department  of Social Services, Animal Control,  State Police and the Towns of Jonesville  and Pennington Gap Police Departments.


There were 235 rescue squad calls  and 9 ambulance calls.


There were 37 fire department calls dispatched.


Deputies escorted 19 funerals.


Deputies unlocked 44 vehicles for the citizens.


Deputies served 90 felony and misdemeanor warrants, 213 Subpoenas, 109 show cause summons and 311 civil papers  for the three Lee County Courts.  Deputies served 53 protective orders.


Deputies processed 60 people on 90 charges.


Lee County Sheriff's Office Executed 3 search warrants.


Deputies traveled a total of 71,245 miles with 4,319 miles being on  transports.


Deputies transported 1 juveniles, 9 mental health patients, and 4 prisoner from other jurisdictions.


Inmates from the Regional Jail along with Deputies picked up 635 bags of trash from Lee County roadways. 


The Lee County Sheriff's Office Reserve Officers worked a total of 144 Community Volunteer hours this month.