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Patton lawsuit prompts formal action on resignations

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

The ramifications from the Mark Patton case were evident at Monday night’s county commission meeting.

When it came time to accept the resignation of Harriman Mayor Chris Mason from the Roane County Industrial Development Board, the commission didn’t simply acquiesce like it has in the past.

Commissioner James Harmon made a formal motion to accept the resignation, and the commission voted unanimously by voice vote.

Patton was elected as a constable in August 2006.

He resigned “effective immediately” on Aug. 9, 2007.

Roane County Executive Mike Farmer then reported the resignation to the commission at that month’s commission meeting.

There was never any motion made nor a vote taken by the commission to accept the resignation.

Patton changed his mind and wanted his job back.

He later argued in a lawsuit that the job was still his because the county didn’t accept his resignation properly.

A chancellor ruled in his favor last month, and Patton was allowed to return as constable.

For months, the county contended that Patton’s resignation was valid because it followed a long-established precedent in how it accepted the resignation.

However, Monday night’s action on the Mason resignation could be a sign that the commission plans to do things differently from now on.

“We need to make a motion to accept Mr. Mason’s resignation,” Harmon said.

Mason, in his resignation letter, explained the reason for his withdrawal.

“Effective immediately, I am resigning my position,” he wrote. “I have recently accepted employment for Roane County government and am unable to fulfill my obligations on the board.”

Mason said ethics do not allow him to be employed by the county and serve on its board.

He said he also had to resign from the tri-county board that oversees the Plateau partnership industrial park.

Mason also praised the Roane County industrial board and its work.

“I have total confidence in Leslie (Henderson, the CEO of The Roane Alliance), the chairman and the board,” he wrote.

“I hope to be able to once again contribute to this board again in the future,” Mason added.

Oak Ridge resident Jim Palmer was chosen to fill the spot on the industrial board that was vacated by Mason.

Other county business involved a new veterans clinic.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced its plans to open a new outpatient clinic in Roane County.

On Monday, the commission voted on a resolution to state its desire that the clinic be located in space that’s available in the building that houses the Roane County Health Department. Harriman is also putting in a bid for the clinic.

The commission also elected Troy Beets to serve another term as chairman.

Harmon was picked to serve as chairman pro-tempore.