East Ridge Vice Mayor Larry Sewell, the city councilman who won re-election despite a misconduct inquiry, was cleared Monday of all wrongdoing related to $1,000 the city paid the photography business he owned while in office.
“There is no evidence of a conflict of interest,” Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox said.
Sewell did not return a detailed phone message Tuesday.
In 2008 and 2009, East Ridge contracted Still Motion Photo to shoot pictures of two parties the city threw for former city managers. Taken together, Still Motion billed East Ridge $1,008.50 for six hours of photography.
East Ridge, the district attorney’s office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reviewed documentation on Sewell after the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on the money paid to his business.
All three agencies found that Sewell properly disclosed his ownership of Still Motion Photo. None found proof that the councilman “voted on, negotiated, supervised or approved” any contracts between the city and his company.
According to the East Ridge City Charter, the city manager is not required to notify the council of payments under $5,000. The district attorney’s exoneration letter does not speculate whether the $1,000 from East Ridge went to Sewell or Still Motion’s co-owner, J.R. Mullins.
Sewell said he resigned from the company before the billings despite a 2009 Tennessee Ethics Commission disclosure that names Still Motion Photo as one of his three sources of income.