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The day before J.T. Woods committed suicide outside the home of Roane County Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham, a hearing regarding his unemployment benefits was held in Knoxville. An appeals tribunal determined Woods should not have received unemployment benefits.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released records in the case on Monday.
Woods was a former employee of Kirkham’s, and at the time of his suicide on May 31, a candidate against her in the property assessor’s race.
According to the record in the unemployment case, Woods testified at the hearing. The employer was represented by Kirkham. Melvin Moore, Kirkham’s chief appraiser, testified on behalf of the employer.
“The employer’s testimony was more credible than that of the claimant’s (Woods’),” the tribunal concluded. “The claimant (Woods) provided contradictory testimony and an incorrect reason for his separation when he filed his claim for unemployment compensation benefits.”
Woods worked in the property assessor’s office from Sept. 21, 2008, to Nov. 15, 2010.
Kirkham said she fired Woods because he lied to her about being in bed sick one weekend when he was in Florida on a golf trip. Woods claimed he was laid off.
The tribunal determined the evidence in the case supported Kirkham.
“The evidence establishes that the employer discharged the claimant (Woods) because he was dishonest with the property assessor when questioned about his trip to Florida,” the tribunal concluded. “He initially reported that he was sick in bed at his brother’s residence over the weekend. He later admitted that he participated in a golfing trip during the period that he was absent from work.”
Woods’ dishonesty, according to the tribunal, harmed the employer-employee relationship.
“The claimant’s (Woods) conduct was willful and breached a duty that the employer rightfully expected; therefore, he is disqualified for benefits,” the tribunal concluded.
The tribunal also found that any payments received by Woods under his unemployment claim were an overpayment and needed to be refunded.
“The total amount of the overpayment is $16,913,” the tribunal concluded. “The claimant (Woods) is not eligible for a waiver of overpayment because he gave an incorrect reason for his separation.”