|County plans appeal of ruling in Niles lawsuit
Loudon County officials maintain taking the lawsuit with General Sessions and Circuit Court Clerk Lisa Niles to appellate court again is the right decision and in the county’s best interest.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said a judgment will likely be entered this week and then an appeal will be made July 1-10.
“We had the 30-day window to file an appeal and once it’s filed then we will, I guess, look to be posted on the docket at the court,” Bradshaw said.
“Sometimes those waiting lists can be lengthy to say the least. ... You see some of these appeals go on for just to get on the docket — I think once we’re on the docket I think that’ll be it because it’s not going to be a long, drawn-out process as far as the hearing, I don’t think, but it’s just a matter of getting us on the docket and getting us in front of the appellate judge.”
Loudon County Commission during its April 3 meeting voted 10-0 in favor of appealing.
Earlier this year, Chancellor Frank V. Williams III handed down an opinion in favor of Niles’ efforts to gain additional employees and funds. Williams granted Niles four additional employees, with a deputy clerk/bookkeeper at $32,000 and deputy clerks at $25,500, along with $50,000 for salary adjustments to current employees in her office.
Officials claim they want clarification on how the $50,000 can be spent.
“That was one of the commission’s big questions was as far as — that was a different number than what Ms. Niles had requested and so that’s part of the thing that’s going to be clarified in the appeal,” Bradshaw said. “We’re going to request to clarify it.”
Legal fees to date amount to $80,554 for Bradshaw’s counsel and $82,632 for Niles’ counsel. Initially, the amount was $91,332 from attorney Zach Tenry, but Bradshaw said that figure was negotiated down between both attorneys. The lawsuit began in 2014.
Ford’s invoices have been paid as they come in, but Bradshaw said Tenry’s fees likely won’t be paid until after the case. No determination has been made from where funds will come, he said.
Despite costing $163,186 to date after the reduction in Tenry’s costs, county officials claim costs would have been higher had they gone with Niles’ requests in 2014 when the lawsuit began.
“Her original lawsuit was asking for six additional employees with some money in there for raises and when you look at the cost per six new employees — I believe she was asking for $31,000 each, plus some part-time employees plus some raise money in there — when you figure that out with benefits, adding insurance benefits, your Social Security, medicare, retirement and things of that nature it would have totaled up to about $1.3 million over this three-year period,” Steve Harrelson, commission chairman, said.
Although unable to speak about the lawsuit, Niles said she looked forward to getting the case behind her and the county. Tenry could not be reached for comment by News-Herald presstime.
“The way the whole situation has just unfolded I don’t think neither party thought it would evolve into what it’s evolved into,” Bradshaw said. “This was two different opinions on how to move forward and so it’s just kind of where we’re at on it.”