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Former property assessor Teresa Kirkham has been accused of fraudulently lowering an assessment for Dr. Clary P. Foote, whom she once dated.
Leading the charge against her is current assessor David Morgan, who has his own ties to Foote.
“Have you established a primary care physician here in Tennessee?” Morgan was asked during a deposition.
“Yes,” he responded. “Dr. Clary P. Foote.”
Morgan was deposed by an attorney for the Villages of Center Farm L.P., whom he’s suing over an alleged ankle injury he suffered in 2006.
Foote treated Morgan for his alleged injury and is a potential witness for Morgan in the lawsuit, in which Morgan is seeking money.
“Please state the name and address of each person you expect to call as an expert witness at trial,” Morgan was asked in a set of interrogatory questions.
“I do expect to call my treating physicians/healthcare providers who have provided medical treatment for the injuries alleged herein,” he responded. “Said physicians/health care providers shall testify as expert witnesses regarding the injuries and treatment I received as a result of this accident.”
Morgan blamed the alleged injury for his firing from Exedy America Corp. However, in the deposition he states the reason he got fired was for receiving sexually explicit emails.
Foote purchased the Regions Bank building in downtown Harriman from First States Investors 4200 LLC on Jan. 20.
Last month Morgan went before the Roane County Commission and asked the body to approve a $4,577 refund for First States Investors for the tax year 2011.
Less than five minutes after commissioners voted to approve the refund, Morgan was questioned about it by a reporter.
“We had the square footage wrong on that one, and when the appraisers went back and checked it they found they were wrong, so they corrected the square footage,” he said.
“Also, there was some structural elements that were adjusted to reflect the actual quality present.”
Morgan didn’t mention anything about the refund being the result of fraud.
“I questioned the appraiser,” he said. “I said is this right or was somebody sort of indicating that you should change this and they said it was right.”
However, not long after giving those statements Morgan began to allege that Kirkham did something illegal.
“This resulted in the huge decrease in overall assessment,” he said in an email to County Attorney Tom McFarland. “Being that Teresa Kirkham was dating Dr. Foote when these changes were made, I would consider this activity very unethical and illegal.”
Kirkham denied Morgan’s allegations.
“I don’t change appraisals based on a boyfriend or not a boyfriend,” she said. “That had nothing to do with it.”
Both Foote and Kirkham said the first time they met was when Kirkham showed up to appraise his building.
“We weren’t dating at the time,” Foote said. “We did date a little bit afterwards.”
According to county records, the building was appraised at a little more than $2 million for the 2011 tax year. Kirkham said she lowered it to about $1.5 million for the 2012 tax year because the building’s use changed after Foote purchased it.
Foote said he wasn’t happy with the appraisal because he only paid $280,500 for the building.
“If the assessor’s office knows of anyone willing to pay me $1.5 million for the building, I would appreciate it if they would contact me directly,” he said.
Foote said he plans to appeal the appraisal to the State Board of Equalization.
“I feel the appraisal should not be five times what I have paid for the property,” he said.
Morgan still considers it a bank building.
“The correct code should be that of a ‘bank’ building, since that is the primary use of that building currently,” he said in an email to McFarland.
Not so, according to Kirkham.
“It’s an exceptional use building, which means it’s a building that has three different uses and it’s all finished different,” Kirkham said. “Each floor is finished different now.”
Foote’s office is on the bottom level.
“That’s where I moved my practice to,” he said.
The bank is on the first floor, and Foote said a chiropractor will be going on the second floor.
“It was appraised as a three-story bank building,” Kirkham said. “It’s no longer a three-story bank building.”
Kirkham also said she believes the county shouldn’t have issued First States Investors a refund for 2011.
“Morgan went in and changed a 2011 (appraisal), which he had no authority to do,” she said. “He was not the assessor at the time, and he gave them back $4,500. He refunded $4,500 in error.”
The refund check was sent to Foote. Trustee Wilma Eblen said he mailed the check back to her office. Eblen said she’s holding it until she gets more information.