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Patton lawsuit date changed to avoid conflict

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

The case of former constable Mark Patton versus Roane County will not conflict with voting at the courthouse for the Aug. 7 election.

Chancellor Billy Joe White tentatively rescheduled the case for Aug. 22 during a hearing that featured some heated exchanges between lawyers.

Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland was seeking to have the case moved from Aug. 7 because the courthouse is closed that day because of the election.

Chris Cawood, Patton’s attorney, said McFarland should have realized that when all parties agreed to the Aug. 7 date last month.

“I don’t see any reason not to have it that day,” Cawood said.

McFarland argued it would create a hardship on the voting process.

Having the case that day would force voters to go through extra security and be subject to search, McFarland said.

Cawood insinuated McFarland was using that as an excuse.

“If I was on their side I’d want to postpone it to because their case is weak,” Cawood said.

McFarland countered that Patton is the reason extra security will be needed.

The county attorney told White about the request for a restraining order he filed on behalf of his clients earlier this year.

Cawood and McFarland disagreed about whether that restraining order actually was ever granted.

After hearing all the back and forth, White decided that the case would be rescheduled. There’s no guarantee it will be heard on Aug. 22, though, because there may be some issues pertaining to courtroom availability.

“We need to get this case tried,” White said.

Patton was elected as a constable for the 6th District in August 2006. He resigned the position a year later, but contends he rescinded the resignation before it was properly accepted by the county.

Patton filed his lawsuit last November after the Roane County Commission appointed Caleb Strayer to his old position. All 15 county commissioners, County Executive Mike Farmer and Strayer are named as defendants.

“The longer they keep this man out of office, the more damages this man has,” Cawood said.

The case had been originally set for June 10, but it was postponed to give the defendants time to comply with an order to turn over phone records, text messages and e-mails to Cawood.