Ex-deputy clerk files lawsuit against former boss, Loudon County
Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
A former Loudon County deputy clerk that claims she was improperly dismissed after witnessing violations of state and county policy in the clerk's office has filed suit against Loudon County and her former boss.
Christy Russell filed the case in federal district court in Knoxville on Wednesday afternoon, according to her attorney, Katherine Young.
Russell contends she was improperly fired by County Clerk Darlene Russell, no relation, following the May primary election after expressing her support for another candidate for the clerk's office.
In the complaint, Christy Russell alleged that during her seven years in the clerk's office she witnessed violations of state and county policy that included acceptance of gifts, extra charges for marriage ceremonies, a ban on interracial marriages and violation of vehicle registration and transfer policies.
The complaint also states that Darlene Russell and other employees in the clerk's office were engaged in campaign activities during work hours. The lawsuit alleges that the improper activity in the clerk's office has been known to the county for years. Christy Russell is asking for her job back, damages and an injunction to stop the illegal and unlawful policies.
The complaint was sent to the outgoing County Mayor Estelle Herron and members of the county commission several weeks ago. County Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough said she had received a copy of the complaint but that commission had taken no action that she knew.
Yarbrough said that regardless of whether the case goes to trial or is settled out of court the allegations are serious enough that they should be thoroughly investigated.
Wayne Schnell, chairman of the Cross County Patriots Tea Party, wrote a letter this week to 9th District Attorney General Russell Johnson requesting an investigation.
"We are appalled by the blatant violation of the taxpayers' trust. We respectfully request that you do due diligence and investigate this office, including a full audit of their records. It is important to deal with this quickly to return the trust of the citizens and tax payers of Loudon County," Schnell wrote.
Reached by email, Johnson said he has contacted the auditor with the state Comptroller's Office who oversees investigations in East Tennessee and informed him of the basic complaints that their office would be best suited to investigate.
Attorney Jonathan Taylor of Knoxville said his firm represents the county's insurance company and would be handling the case. He did not respond to requests for comment.