About eight months after General Sessions and Circuit Court Clerk Lisa Niles filed a lawsuit against Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw and the county seeking six new deputy clerks at a base salary of $31,000 for fiscal year 2014-15, neither party has shown progress in resolving the case.
“There’s been no hold up,” Joe Ford, attorney for Bradshaw, said. “The cases generally move at the pace that the complaining party wants them to move, so there’s been nothing procedurally or administratively or any other way that has caused any hold up. ... You know, it’s not made a lot of progress.”
Ford said he and Niles’ legal counsel, Knoxville attorney Zachary Tenry, were coordinating dates to begin taking depositions. With no resolution, Ford said the earliest date a docket hearing could be made is April 29. A trial date could be set sometime in July or December, he said.
“We’ve done — from a civil case you have a written discovery phase first, which is asking questions in writing, and both sides have asked questions in writing and answered the questions in writing,” Ford said.
“So, we’re about to move into the oral discovery phase, which is the taking of depositions, and the lawyer for Lisa Niles and I are now coordinating dates to start taking depositions.”
Tenry could not be reached for comment.
Niles filed the lawsuit in September asking for six additional deputy clerks to assist in court along with pay increases for all 17 full- and part-time employees. In October, the Loudon County Budget Committee voted down a compromise deal that would have offered two new staff members with a starting salary at $27,000 and raises amounting to $98,500.
“My thought has always been we have a budget process that we go through each year at the county commission to provide the services for Loudon County, and each department comes to us with their request, and we do the best that we can to provide what we can within the budget constraints of the revenue that we have coming in,” Commission Chairman and Budget Committee member Steve Harrelson said. “... We’re going to give them what we can, but if they don’t get all they want this year, then come back and justify and ask for it next year.”
The Budget Committee met for the first time Monday to begin plans for the coming year’s budget.
Bradshaw said the committee would meet Monday, Wednesday and Thursday throughout April to hammer out a budget plan.
“We may have more (meetings),” Bradshaw said. “Hopefully, we would like to have less than that, but if it comes to that we’ll use more (days) if we need to.”
Harrelson said members would look into offering more funding for the court clerk’s office, but just how much has not been determined.
On Monday, the county passed a resolution in support of adding a second judge, subject to approval by the Tennessee General Assembly, to work alongside General Sessions Court Judge Rex Dale, which Harrelson said could impact Niles’ department.
“So, I know there’s need out there as far as Lisa’s concerned, and our goal is to address that need the best we can and just as far as how much we can give her this year, whether we’ll totally satisfy her, I don’t know,” Harrelson said. “That’s going to be discussed when we meet with her over the next few weeks.”
Niles could not be reached for comment.
“I think if we can find something as we go through this budget process and meet some of her wants and wishes then I think it could very well go away,” Bradshaw said about the lawsuit.