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By DAMON LAWRENCE
If the position of constable is abolished in Roane County, it won’t be because constables sat quietly and let it happen.
They plan to let their voices be heard, said L.K. “Butch” Barding, constable for the 7th District. Barding was recently chosen by his peers to serve as chief constable on the county constable council and will act as a political go-between with commissioners.
“We want what’s best for the county, and that’s why we want to meet with the proper authorities,” Barding said. “I’ve been talking with some of the commissioners. I’ve talked with the mayor (county executive), and I’ve talked with several people.”
“We’re going to try to work this thing out,” he said.
During last month’s regular commission meeting, Commissioner David Olsen said the time has come to let the constable position fade into history.
Commission Chairman Troy Beets said it will take an act by the state legislature to do away with constables in Roane County.
The commission’s legislative liaison committee will hold a meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the county executive’s office on the first floor of the courthouse to discuss the issue further.
Olsen isn’t the only commissioner who wants to have the discussion.
“Mr. Olsen took the words out of my mouth when he mentioned that,” Commissioner Ray Cantrell said.
Cantrell said with what he knows about the constable job right now, he wouldn’t vote for the position to stay.
“With no more chain of command, no more responsibility as far as answering to somebody, it’s useless,” Cantrell said. “That’s my opinion, so when it comes time, unless I can see some advantage then I wouldn’t be for keeping them.”
Constables are elected by voters in the districts they serve. They have full policing powers, which Barding said they use to serve their constituents.
“If people ask me to setup radar in their area, I can and I ask people to slow down,” Barding said. “I could write tickets, but I don’t. I write either a warning ticket or give a verbal statement asking people to slow down.”
Barding said he just wants to help his community. To do that, he said, his policing powers are needed.
“I get no pay for this,” he said. “I get self satisfaction when I know I’ve helped someone.”
The controversy over the constable position started this past August.
Former constable Mark Patton was at the center of the flap after allegations arose that he was using the position to harass off duty police officers and intimidate residents.
He was pictured in the Roane County News holding a “big stick” and boasting that it was all the backup he needed.
Patton was rebuked by District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
“Mark Patton is certainly no Buford Pusser, and Roane County is not a stage for Walking Tall,” Johnson wrote in a letter.
And although constables still have their state-granted police powers, Johnson also informed his office not to proceed in court on citations and war-rants written by constables.
Patton would eventually resign, then decide less than a month later to rescind his resignation.
He’s now suing the county for $100,000 and attorney fees after the county refused to give him his job back.
“That’s between the county and Mark Patton,” Barding said. “Mark Patton was relieved from his position with the Tennessee Constable Council sometime back.”
Barding said local constables are now urging their constituents to show their support.
Apparently some are listening. The Roane County News already has run letters to the editor in support of Barding.
“As far as I know, they’re all good men,” Cantrell said. “The Patton situation is the only thing negative that I know of that’s come up about con-stables. One bad egg shouldn’t destroy the whole bunch, but I couldn’t get any good answers. I need to have that before I’d be in favor of keeping them.”