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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Chancellor Frank V. Williams III apparently believes he is too familiar with the parties involved in former constable Mark Patton’s lawsuit against the county.
So much so that he has decided not to hear the case.
“Because of my relationship with some of the parties, I think it best to recuse myself in the captioned action,” Williams wrote in a letter addressed to attorneys earlier this month.
Eighth Judicial District Chancellor Billy Joe White has been assigned to the case, which was scheduled to be heard on June 10.
Patton attorney Chris Cawood and Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland said they don’t know if the change in chancellors will cause a delay in the case.
“I haven’t heard if Chancellor White intends to keep the same court date,” McFarland said.
In the lawsuit, Patton names all 15 Roane County commissioners, County Executive Mike Farmer and Kingston police officer Caleb Strayer as defendants.
Patton contends the county violated his civil right to hold office when it appointed Strayer to his old job in November.
The 6th District constable job was Patton’s until he resigned in August of last year. He later changed his mind and wanted the job back, contending his resignation was never properly accepted. The county disagreed and eventually appointed Strayer.
Williams presided over a hearing in the case last month. The county alleged that Patton was harassing the defendants by making obscene hand gestures.
Williams ruled the obscene gestures were a form of free speech.
“I have my right to freedom of speech,” Patton said following the hearing, which included testimony from several commissioners and law enforcement officers.
Cawood said he also hasn’t received a response on a motion he filed last month seeking records that would show calls placed and received “of any type of phone whatsoever” the defendants have used from July 2007 through now.
Cawood wanted to see the information by April 14. When it wasn’t provided, he filed a motion on Wednesday asking that the defendants be ordered to produce the documents.
The motion also asks that the defendants be sanctioned and pay for the attorney fees it cost Cawood to bring the motion.
McFarland and the Knoxville law firm of O’Neil, Parker & Williamson are defending the county in the lawsuit.
McFarland said the request for phone records is something they are still considering.