Chancellor rules in mayor's favor in Housing Authority board dispute

By Hugh G.

KINGSTON — Following a full day of testimony, Loudon County Chancellor Frank Williams on Thursday removed two members of the Lenoir City Housing Authority board and limited the term of another.

The ruling came during a lawsuit filed by the Housing Authority against Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens over a disagreement about appointments made to the authority’s board in November.

Attorney T. Scott Jones, who represented Aikens, said he was pleased with the verdict.

“I think the chancellor utilized his best judgment to clear up problems created by a previous administration,” he said.

According to state law, the Housing Authority board is supposed to consist of five members appointed to staggered five-year terms by the mayor. One term is set to expire every year, enabling the mayor to appoint one new member each year

Aikens, who did not testify in the case, previously said that he appointed three new board members because one members’ term had expired and the other two were not appointed properly.

“The mayor did what he had to do. They just didn’t like who he appointed,” Jones told Williams on Thursday.

Housing Authority attorney Michael Kelley attempted to establish a timeline to support his case in which board appointments were properly documented. His argument, however, was hampered by inconsistent and missing records and witness testimony that conflicted with the records.

“Everything from 2001 on is speculation?” Jones asked Debbie Cook, the Housing Authority’s executive director.

“That’s correct,” Cook answered.

Williams asked both sides to decide between themselves which board members should be removed and the correct expiration dates for each of the terms.

“Somebody has to go,” he said.

Board member Linda Garner was removed from the board because her term expiration date in 2015 conflicted with other board members. It was determined that board member Ott McGill’s term already was expired. Board member Mary Brown was given a term expiration date in 2014.

Aikens said he will immediately appoint Larry Hardison to serve until 2016 and Frank Haun to serve until 2017. Before the end of 2013, the term of board member Deloris McAmis will end and he will either extend her term or appoint another member until 2018. When Mary Brown’s term expires in 2014 he will appoint a member to serve until 2019.