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By DAMON LAWRENCE
For months Mark Patton and his attorney have contended there is no constable vacancy in the 6th District.
That position has shifted a bit recently. There was no candidate for constable in the county election, but Patton did receive some write-in votes.
“We don’t think there was a vacancy, but if there was one, he may have been elected back to office,” attorney Chris Cawood said.
Patton was elected as a constable for the 6th District in August 2006. He resigned the position in August 2007, only to change his mind a short time later and claim the job was still his because the county never accepted his resignation properly.
The county disregarded that claim and appointed Caleb Strayer to fill the vacancy.
Patton responded by filing a lawsuit against the county.
Paper ballots were used during early voting for the Aug. 7 election. Electronic voting machines were used on Election Day.
According to the Roane County Election Commission, 93 write-in votes were cast for constable.
Patton received eight votes on the machines, seven cast for Mark Patton and one for MarkPatton.
Strayer, as well as Kingston City Councilman Norman Sugarman, Charles Reed and Angela K. Williams, each received one vote for constable on the machines.
Voters also wrote in non-names such as A, AAAA, AAAAA and NA for constable. But of the names and non-names that registered on the machines, Patton received the most votes.
“Our position is the one who got the highest number of votes in write-in would be the elected person,” Cawood said.
Sixty voters entered some sort of mark for constable on the paper ballots, but whether that was a name, letter, symbol or just a straight line is apparently a mystery.
Administrator of Elections Tony Brown said unless directed to do so by a judge, his office has no plans to even look at the paper ballots.
Brown also said no one who had their name entered as a write-in for constable can lay claim to the position.
The law mandates that write-in candidates file the proper paperwork with the election commission 50 days before the election to be recognized as a write-in candidate.
Brown said that wasn’t done by anyone.
“The law does not allow us to count any write-in ballots because there wasn’t a certified write-in candidate,” he said.
Strayer’s term runs out Sept. 1.
In his lawsuit, Patton is asking to be reinstated as constable.
Pending the outcome of his case, Brown said the plan is to put the constable position on the ballot for the November election.
“If he (the chancellor) rules that there is no vacancy and reinstates Mr. Patton, then we won’t have it on the ballot,” Brown said.
Constables have policing powers in Tennessee. Shortly before he resigned, Patton was accused of using his position to harass people, including police officers.
His lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in Roane County Chancery Court on Friday.
However, Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland is seeking to have the case thrown out.
McFarland and Cawood are set to argue that motion before Chancellor Billy Joe White in Tazewell today, Aug. 20.
White was assigned the case after Roane County Chancellor Frank V. Williams III recused himself.
The elections office has been issuing petitions to people who are interested in being a candidate for constable on the November ballot.
The deadline to file a petition is Thursday at noon.
Brown said Patton and Raymond Murray, who earlier this year said he was done in his attempts to become a constable, have both picked up petitions.
“We’re not even going to check the names on them (the petitions) until after that hearing,” Brown said. “If he (the chancellor) rules that there’s a vacancy, then anybody that has filled a petition out and turned it in before the deadline, we’ll put on the ballot.”
Commission Chairman and Kingston Mayor Troy Beets, a defendant, said he found it odd that Patton would pick up a petition for a position that he contends already belongs to him.