By David Divelbiss

On Monday, June 22, 2009 the Lenoir City Council went into executive session. When they returned, they passed on first reading an ordinance repealing the ordinance enacted 13 months ago - establishing an appointed city court clerk. The vote was a unanimous 5-0 (Tony Aikens wasn’t present). The second and final reading took place 7/13/09


Why the sudden about-face? Just six weeks earlier this same ordinance failed by a 3-2 vote.


According to a June 23rd article, Jr.'s Back In Charge by Van Shaver:

“Council gave no indication why the executive session was called nor why the sudden change of heart on the clerk's position.”

Maybe I can help:


Reporting on the April 28 city council meeting, News Herald reporter Tammy Cheek wrote the following:

<<<Littleton noted though, there was another opinion from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), upon which the city relied the night the council passed the ordinance (separating the two offices). That opinion turned on the word “notwithstanding.” “Whatever the interpretation of that word was, turned the whole landscape of what the decision would be and how you would handle the court clerk’s position”, Littleton said.>>>


So, according to Mr. Littleton the opinions were not as unanimous as everybody had thought. MTAS attorney Sid Helmsley opined that the appointed court clerk wasn’t legal. State Attorney General Cooper said the same thing. But Littleton asserted that the AOC had issued an opinion saying contradictory.


Curious to read it, I wrote the AOC and asked for that opinion. The response I received, dated June 9, 2009, says the following:

“…concerning an opinion issued by the AOC with regard to Lenoir City’s recorder and city court clerk. It does not appear that our office issued any written opinion concerning this matter.” (Emphasis added)




A few days after receiving this response, I was given a copy of what the Vann-Littleton duo were claiming to be the AOC opinion.…




 …..which appears to be nothing more than an e-mail exchange between Judge Vann and an old friend who works at the AOC.  

Judge Vann gets the opinion he wants by answering his own question, and simply asking his old pal to agree with him.


One problem though: The e-mail is from Mr. Aaron Conklin – the very same person who signed the letter stating that no opinion had been issued by the AOC!


I mailed Mr. Conklin this so-called “opinion” and asked if he had actually sent it to Judge Vann. In a reply dated June 19, he assured me that he did in fact send Judge Vann that e-mail. He then explained that “it was an informal opinion to an inquiry rather than a formal opinion by our office”. (I agree. It certainly was “informal”.)


By a strange coincidence (???), the day I received that reply (Monday, June 22nd) was the same day the city council went into executive session, then approved a repeal of the May 2008 ordinance.


I have my suspicions that Mr. Aaron Conklin did not appreciate his e-mail to an old pal being touted as an AOC opinion, and used as the basis for a city ordinance.


I further suspect that he contacted M. Shannon Littleton and/or Terry G. Vann, and told them so!


I report, you decide.