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BY DAMON LAWRENCE
Former constable Mark Patton is seeking $100,000 from the county and a return to his old job, according to a lawsuit filed in Roane County Chan-cery Court.
The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 21, names all 15 county commissioners along with County Executive Mike Farmer and recently appointed constable Caleb Strayer as defendants.
As of Tuesday morning, Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland said he had yet to see the lawsuit, but vowed to fight it vigorously.
“If he wants to sue the taxpayers over this position that his own lawyer admits is not worth fighting over, I guess that’s his prerogative,” McFarland said.
Patton was elected constable of the 6th District in August 2006.
He resigned this past August under controversy after allegations arose he was harassing off-duty police officers and showing hostility toward resi-dents.
“Please note that my resignation is effective immediately,” his resignation letter said.
Less than a month later, Patton rescinded his resignation and has made it known that he wants the job back.
His attorney, Chris Cawood, contends the job is still lawfully his because the county never accepted the resignation properly.
Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. issued an opinion on the matter in September, and Cawood contends the opinion supports his stance.
McFarland disagrees and contends the opinion supports the county.
Cawood had warned they would sue if the county appointed a constable.
“If I worried about everybody that said they were going to sue the county, I’d never sleep,” McFarland said previously when asked about Cawood’s threats.
Cawood addressed the county commission before its regular meeting on Nov. 19, so his position could become a part of the public record.
He said the constable position is inconsequential because it has no power after District Attorney General Russell Johnson instructed his office not to proceed on any warrants or citations brought by constables.
Instead of inviting a lawsuit, Cawood told the commissioners they would be better off consulting with McFarland or Johnson to see if there are grounds to file an ouster suit against Patton.
The commission wasn’t swayed and appointed Strayer, a Kingston police officer, to fill the position.
Cawood contends the county violated Patton’s civil rights by interfering with his right to hold office.
In addition to the $100,000 in damages, the lawsuit is asking the court to void the county’s actions on Nov. 19 and declare Patton the duly elected and installed constable of the 6th District.
The lawsuit also seeks attorney fees, which Cawood said are $150 per hour.
The lawsuit also accuses the county commission of violating the open meetings law, claiming some commissioners got together and discussed the matter outside of a called meeting.
Commission Chairman Troy Beets disputed that accusation.
Acknowledging he couldn’t speak for each individual commissioner, Beets said he “bent over backwards” to ensure everything regarding the con-stable vacancy was handled in a public forum.
“You can say anything you want to in a lawsuit,” Beets said. “We had a public meeting about the constable thing. Everything that was done has been done in an open meeting.”