Tennessee prosecutor defends marriage to office subordinate

Friday, May 14, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 20

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A Tennessee prosecutor is defending his marriage to a subordinate in his office.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said in a statement to the Chattanooga Times Free Press that his management decisions are "both legal and ethical."

The comments came after the newspaper reported on Thursday that Pinkston married his chief of staff, Melydia Clewell, in November 2019.

"After working for years together, Melydia Clewell and I discovered we had more than simply our shared interest in our jobs," Pinkston said in a statement. "As many other people have discovered, a mature love can develop over time between friends, and that is what happened in our lives."

He said he would continue in his position "with integrity and diligence" and intends to run for re-election when his current term expires next year.

The issue surfaced on Wednesday when a Hamilton County commissioner asked Pinkston during a budget hearing if he had relatives on his county-funded staff.

His brother-in-law, Kerry Clewell, is also employed by his office as an investigator, the newspaper reported.

Melinda Clewell's salary has increased significantly since 2015 and is currently $87,948 a year, but Pinkston indicated that she does not get special treatment.

"At least 18 of my employees have received substantial raises during my tenure as we have worked to bring their government salaries in line with today's competitive market," his statement said.

Boyd said late Thursday that he would seek a state audit of the office.