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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Ellison vindicated
A conflict involving several members of the Cocke County Fire Department and the Cocke County Emergency Management Agency now has been resolved in Cocke County Circuit Court. In January 2018, a Cocke County Grand Jury returned a sealed presentment naming Cocke County Fire Captain Clayton "Skip" Ellison, 50, Susong Street, Newport, on two counts of stalking. The indictment alleged incidents in January, March and September which former Cocke County EMA Director Kevin Benton said made him feel "intimidated and threatened". Following the indictment, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger terminated Ellison. Benton testified during the Wednesday trial that Ellison, had stalked him, and he presented video which he said showed Ellison stalking him, after he filed a complaint against Ellison. While Ellison worked at the fire department he also had a part-time lawn service. On one occasion Ellison and former Fire Chief William Smallwood were found working on a lawn mower at the fire station. Benton reported they were working on the mower while on duty. But in response, Ellison said he mows the fire department free of charge while he is on duty and was making minor repairs to his mower when Benton confronted him. Ellison did not testify in his own defense but former Fire Chief Smallwood and Firefighter Rick Gregg testified in defense of Ellison. At the time of the indictment, Ellison also was serving on the Cocke County Legislative Body. He was defeated in his re-election bid for the Seventh District seat in September 2018. Ellison talked with the NewsSource after the jury returned the verdict, following less than an hour of deliberation. "I believe in the justice system and believe it is fair. I said from the start that I am not guilty, but I lost my job over this, I lost my reputation over this. People have slandered me and talked bad about me, but now they see the truth; the jury found me not guilty." Asked about the future, Ellison said, "I intend on getting my job back, and my back pay. That is what I was fired over, this indictment. I will try to negotiate with the mayor about putting me back to work and see what she says." Ellison added that, "I'd like to say to the citizens of Cocke County that I am sorry they had to pay money out to find me innocent of all charges. It's a shame we paid all this money out for all this stuff." Mayor Ottinger in response to a request for comment said she is out with the flu and had not heard the verdict in the case. "I don't have a comment on the verdict and he will not be reinstated to his position at the fire department," she said of Ellison. Benton also had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission(EEOC) alleging harassment. Deborah Walker of the EEOC found that the evidence and record "establish that there is reasonable cause to conclude (Benton) was subjected to retaliation after he filed a protected complaint. And that the county failed to take prompt and immediate action." Walker also found that the county's anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures are ineffective. Benton also alleged he was harassed because of his gender, but Walker found no harassment based on his sex. The federal agency found that the county's harassment policy was inadequate and so the CLB late last year, as part of an effort to settle the EEOC claim, decided to implement one hour of harassment training for all county employees.

Return to Today's News Stories - Front Page

Monday, July 15, 2019

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    Thursday, July 11, 2019

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    Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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