TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN) – The residency of a Tullahoma alderman has been called into question, and she has been asked to step down, according to an announcement from the county district attorney.
Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott announced at the Monday, Oct. 10 meeting of the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen that he had received a formal complaint regarding the residency of Alderman Jenna Amacher.
According to Northcott, he was presented the residency complaint Monday, Oct. 3. The complaint was signed by approximately 270 citizens. It was the second such complaint filed against Amacher’s residency, he said, as the alderman also had a failed bid for county office that drew similar questions.
Northcott did not investigate that complaint, as Amacher was engaged in litigation against one of his assistant district attorneys, he said, and he wanted to avoid the “appearance of impropriety.”
That complaint was dismissed about two months ago, Northcott said, meaning there was no longer any appearance of conflict of interest on his part.
“I am now tasked with dealing with this new and separate complaint,” he said.
The basis of the complaint, he said, is that Amacher has not resided within the city limits since February of 2021, and thus is no longer operating as an alderman by the letter of the law.
Northcott said when Amacher was elected and took office in August of 2020, she did reside in a Tullahoma neighborhood, but by February of 2021 she sold that property and thus no longer had any residence within the City of Tullahoma.
Northcott said Amacher purchased “unimproved property” on Ledford Mill Road on the edge of town in August of 2021. The property is both in the Coffee County and Tullahoma limits, but there is no residence on the property, he said. Instead, Amacher has admitted to residing at a different location, which is not in the city limits.
“By her own admission, by witness statements, she has been residing at a property on Blue Creek Road, which is in Franklin County and outside the city limits of Tullahoma, for approximately 20 months,” he said.
The city charter of Tullahoma requires anyone running for or holding an aldermanic or mayoral role must live within the city limits. Additionally, the charter also states an alderman or mayor must continue to reside in the city limits for the entire term, Northcott said over vocal objections from Amacher.
“She resided at this property on Blue Creek Road for nearly 20 months of what was then a three-year term as alderman. It has now been extended to four years,” Northcott said.
According to state law, the district attorney general is empowered to bring action to remove a public official who is “unrightfully holding office,” Northcott said.
Northcott then asked Amacher to “do what is required of her and step down,” saying that every vote that she takes action on as a member of the board from that moment forward could be called into question.
“That is not best for this city; it’s not best for you; it is not best for anyone for that to continue to happen,” Northcott said. “If you do not take that road, I’ll have no choice but to file the appropriate action to have you removed by court order. I do not wish to do that.”
Northcott said he did not want controversy and asked Amacher to do what’s right and move forward within the next business day, or else he would take the action “the law requires me to take in this.”
“Please don’t make me do this,” he said.
Amacher bit back, avering that she did, in fact, reside in the city limits of Tullahoma, citing Tennessee Code Annotated 2-2-122, which defines residency for the purposes of elections.
“The property that I bought is not unimproved,” she told the DA. “It had two barns on it, and I put a travel trailer on it. And yes, I know what you’re about to say: ‘A travel trailer is not a legal residence in the city of Tullahoma based on our code,’ except for the fact that that 20 acres is zoned agricultural, and there is a state law that actually says, Mr. Northcott, and you being the district attorney ought to know this, that a municipality cannot interfere with agricultural property per Tennessee Code Annotated 6-54-126 from the year 2005.”
The use of agricultural purposes, Amacher said, can also mean a residence on the purpose, meaning her travel trailer constitutes a legal residence per state law.
TCA 6-54-126 reads: “For any land that is used for agricultural purposes as of May 10, 1998, a municipality may not use its zoning power to interfere in any way with the use of such land for agricultural purposes as long as it used for agricultural purposes.”
According to the Tullahoma zoning map, Amacher’s Ledford Mill Road property is zoned R-1, or low-density residential, not agricultural. However, official real estate assessment records from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office categorize the property as agricultural with three different sheds, a loft barn and a farm shop listed on the land. No building description is listed on the record.
“I have a travel trailer. I have a residence. My driver’s license says 1744 Ledford Mill Road, and I am a resident, so I suggest you go ahead and file whatever it is you need to file,” she said.
Per the zoning ordinances of Tullahoma, a travel trailer is not considered a home; rather, it is included in the definition of a “recreational vehicle.” City planning staff also tell News 2 that travel trailers are not considered an allowable residence in the R-1 zoning.
Tullahoma Mayor Ray Knowis then called for a brief recess to speak with the city’s legal representation, and the matter was not discussed further.
News 2 has reached out to Amacher and Northcott for comment.