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Patton lawyer shrugs off records delay

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

The defendants in former constable Mark Patton’s lawsuit are asking for more time to comply with a chancellor’s order to turn over phone records and other correspondence.

“The phone carriers forced us to file that motion, and I don’t think Mr. Cawood necessarily opposes that motion as long as we get it to him in time for trial,” Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland said of Patton’s attorney.

Patton is represented by Kingston attorney Chris Cawood in his lawsuit against Roane County.

The defendants, who are all public officials, had until June 21 to comply with the order.

McFarland filed a motion last week, asking Chancellor Billy Joe White to give the county additional time to produce the records. According to court documents, more time is needed because the phone companies are demanding payment for the phone records, even though the records have been subpoenaed.

“After we issued the subpoenas, these carriers, instead of sending us the records, they sent us a bill,” McFarland said.

Patton filed his lawsuit last November after the county commission appointed Caleb Strayer to the constable position he once held.

All 15 county commissioners, County Executive Mike Farmer and Strayer are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

White issued the order in May, requiring that the defendants provide Cawood with records showing all calls between defendants, along with copies of text messages and e-mails between defendants from July through September 2007.

When asked Monday, Cawood didn’t seem concerned about the delay.

“We’ve still got plenty of time,” Cawood said. “If they get it to me a month ahead of time, I’ll be in good shape.”

The case is tentatively scheduled to be heard on Aug. 22 in Roane County Chancery Court.

Patton was elected as a constable for the 6th District in August 2006.

A year later, allegations arose that he was using the position to harass police officers and intimidate residents.

Patton eventually resigned, but contends that the job is still his because his resignation was never properly accepted by the county.

The lawsuit also alleges that commissioners violated the state’s Open Meetings Law by discussing what to do about the constable controversy outside a public meeting.

Cawood said electronic correspondence and call records between the defendants could help prove those claims.

The county denies the allegations.