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Friday, May 19, 2017

Smallwood complaint filed
Attorney Tom Jessee has filed a Complaint for a Declaratory Judgement in the case of former Cocke County Fire Chief William Smallwood, naming Cocke County as defendant. Filed Thursday in Cocke County Chancery Court, the action asks the court to determine whether the Cocke County Fire Civil Board actually exists and is valid under Tennessee law. The Cocke County Legislative Body(CLB)created a Fire Civil Service Board some time ago and appointed representatives to the board. More recently however, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger announced that the board is invalid because there is no provision in state law for such a panel. The mayor points to an opinion by County Attorney Carter Moore and the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), that the civil service board is illegal under state law. Mayor Ottinger maintains that she has the authority to manage the fire department. On March 7, Fire Chief Smallwood was terminated as a result of a reported investigation of the department by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The findings of the investigation have not been released. State Attorney General Herbert Slattery and the Tennessee Legislature both have refused to address the question of the legality of the Civil Service Board, informing the CLB that the decision is a local one. On a number of occasions, the legislative body has declined to rescind it's resolution that established the Fire Civil Service Board. The complaint filed by Attorney Jessee, alleges that Smallwood was wrongfully discharged, in violation of his constitutional rights, solely for political reasons. "Specifically that he was terminated for refusing to support the County Mayor in her political campaign and refusing to terminate certain employees of the fire department after being pressured to do so by the County Mayor." According to the complaint, Smallwood asked to be re-instated to his position or that he be provided a hearing on his termination. "But to date, he has not been reinstated or given a hearing, and as such, he has not been afforded due process," the action says. Smallwood alleges he was the victim of a retaliatory discharge in violation of public policy, and that makes his case an exception to the Tennessee "employment at will" doctrine. The litigation says in the event the court determines that there is no civil service board, the county should follow state code which holds that "the county fire chief shall be appointed by the county mayor, subject to confirmation by the county legislative body or other governing body." Jessee says that the process for Smallwood's removal from his duties as fire chief, should follow the same procedure. Smallwood asks that the court determine whether the Fire Civil Service Board exists and is valid under Tennessee law, and if the Board is valid, that he be given a hearing before the Board. If the court finds there is no legal civil service board, Jessee asks that the Court set out the procedure for removal of the Fire Chief from his position. The attorney also asks the court for a declaratory judgement, holding that the actions in removing Smallwood constituted a violation of his civil rights. The action also asks that Smallwood be reinstated to his position, with back pay and benefits, and that his attorney's fees be paid. Contacted Thursday afternoon for comment, County Attorney Carter Moore told the NewsSource; "I do not have a comment, I have not reviewed it (the filing)." There have been reports that Jessee, prior to filing the complaint, had offered to drop the pending litigation if Smallwood was reinstated to his position, he was given back pay and benefits, and that his legal fees are paid. "I'm not going to confirm or deny any settlement offers that have been made to this point," he said. Moore did say he will be in contact with the county's insurance carrier regarding a response to the complaint.


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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

  • Clarification
  • Finance Committee considers sheriff's budget
  • Newport Utilities Board
  • Update on Gatlinburg wildfires

    Tuesday, June 27, 2017

  • Funding for animal shelter tentatively approved.
  • Tressler arrest
  • Senate bill bad for Tennessee hospitals
  • Weekend activities in Parrottsville and Cosby
  • First Saturday

    Monday, June 26, 2017

  • Ramsey ruling overturned by Appeals panel
  • Terry Fine arrest
  • Rodriguez arrest
  • Tax changes come on Saturday
  • Gas prices take a dip

    Saturday, June 24, 2017

  • Parrottsville to receive low-interest loan
  • Food and housing grant for Cocke County
  • May jobless numbers
  • Haslam to make job recruitment trip
  • TWRA on wildlife

    Friday, June 23, 2017

  • Healthcare bill
  • Monument vandalism
  • Brandt charged with aggravated assault
  • Nease charged with attempted jail escape
  • Newport couple charged with child abuse or neglect
  • Cocke County Corrections Partnership
  •    

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