Sullivan County

Sullivan commission rejects lawsuit settlement, taxpayers continue to pay

Sullivan commission rejects lawsuit settlement

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - It is a legal battle that pits a sheriff against the county he serves.

Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson is suing to get more money to run his department.

Legal fees continue to rise after a chance to settle Sheriff Anderson's lawsuit against the county fails to gain support with commissioners.

That means, unless more negotiations happen fast, the case goes before a judge costing taxpayers even more.

A chance to end a pending 9.9 million dollar lawsuit is rejected by the Sullivan County Commission on the basis the proposal simply wasn't clear

"The information available to the commission at last night's meeting was not complete in its cost estimates and its times it might need to be implemented," explained Eddie Williams, a commissioner and head of the county's budget committee.

We got a copy of the letter written by the county mayor's attorney that outlines the settlement. It proposes a compromise of $325,000 in salary increases and a recommendation for 18 new deputies.

Sheriff Wayne Anderson's lawyer Richard Pectal told News 5 that's less than half the amount a judge could potentially rule on come April, 24, when the case is scheduled to go to court.

We learned it's those 18 new positions that have some people concerned.

The new deputies would be placed in schools in addition to patrolling, so commissioners said the school board would have to approve those hirings.

"We are not the governing body that needs to dictate that. That's the school board and their people," said Williams.

Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey told us his lawyer, Jim Logan, included that in the settlement to prevent a new lawsuit next year.

"That's something that should've been looked at last night maybe in dividing these two issues and telling them [commissioners] you can settle tonight's lawsuit today for only the $325,000."

But it's the taxpayers still taking the brunt of the battle, since the sheriff and county are still way apart on how much additional money the sheriff's department needs, the expensive legal wrangling will continue.

"Give into them [the sheriff's department]. I mean, there's always a compromise somewhere," said David Earl Peters, Jr., a Sullivan County resident.

"They need to get along. If not, they need to get out of office," said Jim Craine, another county resident we talked to.

Commissioner Eddie Williams heads the budget committee, he told us he believes there will be a settlement and the case won't wind up with a judge.

Mayor Godsey told us, he doesn't believe there's any support for a settlement.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking and the legal meter is running.

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