Lenoir City Housing Authority lawyers challenge mayor's changes

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
Attorneys for the Lenoir City Housing Authority are going to court today requesting an injunction to stop newly appointed housing authority commissioners from participating in a Thursday board meeting.

The motion for temporary injunction, filed Jan. 17 in Loudon County Chancery Court, was accompanied by a petition to declare illegal the termination several months ago of housing authority commission members by Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens.

Aikens maintains he is following the law. He said that after meetings between both sides to find a compromise, he was very disappointed to learn the issue was going to court.

"I hope for a quick resolution to this issue," he said.

On Nov. 21, the complaint states, Aikens removed certain commissioners in violation of state law. He asked Commissioners Ott McGill and Linda Garner to resign. Commissioner Mary Brown was scheduled to leave at the expiration of her term.

According to the petition, the mayor of the city in which the housing authority is constituted has the authority to appoint and reappoint commissioners after the term of a commissioner has been completed or becomes vacant. However, lawyers allege, "the mayor is not a member of the authority and has no right to control the method by which the housing authority performs its duties,"

The petitioners, including board members Garner, McGill and Brown, Deloris McAmis, Jeff Ward and the Lenoir City Housing Authority, want the court to void Aikens' actions.

Removal of a commissioner requires a specific process including written charges against the commissioner and a 10-day notice of a hearing during which the commissioner has an opportunity to be heard or represented by counsel.

Aikens also appointed three new commissioners, Frank Hahn, Cheri Brown and Larry Hardison.

Board member Frank Hahn has attempted to schedule meetings of the board, according to the petition. If granted, the injunction would prevent Hahn or any of the other board members appointed by Aikens from attempting to vote or take any action to interfere with the board meeting Thursday.

Aikens said it was never his intention to control the policies and procedures of the authority. He said he was asked by Debbie Cook, the authority's executive director, to clear up past illegal appointments.