Ex-mayor admits to buying votes

LONDON — Longtime Pineville mayor Robert L. Madon admitted Thursday that he paid voters to support him in the November 2006 election.

Madon, 74, pleaded guilty to one federal charge of conspiring to buy votes. He faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 13, but will likely receive less time than that under advisory sentencing guidelines.

Madon acknowledged during a hearing in U.S. District Court in London that he gave his son Brent money to buy votes for him in his bid to take back the mayor's job.

A plea agreement in the case said Brent Madon paid voters $10 to $20 each to cast an early absentee ballot for his father.

Robert Madon defeated incumbent Bruce Hendrickson on the strength of such votes, getting 250 of the 305 absentee ballots cast in the race.

There was a miscue with at least one, however. One woman who sold her vote told a voting clerk she wouldn't really be out of town on Election Day; when Brent Madon told her to go back and change her story so she could vote by absentee ballot, a Pine ville police officer overheard the conversation, according to court documents.

"I have seen all I need to see," the document quoted the officer as saying.

Madon has been one of the best-known public figures in Bell County in the past 30 years.

In addition to serving a total of 18 years as mayor of Pineville at different times since the late 1970s, he served terms as a Pineville city-court judge and councilman, managed the local newspaper and did radio broadcasts of local sports events.

Madon said he also was on Republican Gov. Louie Nunn's staff in the early 1970s.

Madon was first elected Pineville mayor in 1977, the year flooding along the Cumberland River devastated Pine ville.

He is credited with helping win more than $50 million for a flood wall to protect the town, as well as other federal assistance.

However, he was later charged with improperly spending more than $11,000 in city money for lavish meals and personal items such as tires and clothes.

Madon had vigorously denied any wrongdoing and said the city never fully reimbursed him for thousands of dollars in personal funds he spent while lobbying for federal grants, but a jury convicted him in 1987.

He received a suspended sentence. The governor later restored his rights to vote and hold office.

In the current vote-buying case, Brent Madon, 45, pleaded guilty earlier and is scheduled to be sentenced the day before his father. He faces 24 to 30 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, according to a court document.

Robert Madon, who resigned as mayor after his November indictment, declined to comment as he left court Thursday.

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