Mother of Patton child describes hardship

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By Damon Lawrence

When Mark Patton was “Walking Tall” as a constable, he was also falling short — in his child support payments.

Lynne Harris has a daughter by Patton, a former Roane County constable. He was recently jailed in McMinn County for not paying his child support.

“He wanted to hold all police officers to the same standard of law they held other people to, but yet at the same time he was not paying his child support,” she said. “To me, that’s ridiculous.”

Harris said Patton owes more than $30,000. She said August 2009 was the last time he made a payment.

“Some of that is for attorney fees and private investigator fees that I was awarded in court because of how difficult it has been to get him into court,” she said.

Harris said an agreement was recently worked out in court where Patton could get out of jail if he paid $5,000.

He was still incarcerated at press time Tuesday.

“I would think that he would pay just to get out of jail, and he would need to be arrested again before he would make another payment,” she said.

“That’s how it’s always been. He doesn’t pay until he’s threatened with jail. Then he doesn’t pay again until something else happens and he’s forced to.”

Patton tried to take on the persona of legendary lawman Buford Pusser during his tenure as constable, once boasting that a big stick was all the backup he needed.

Local officials weren’t amused.

“Mark Patton is certainly no Buford Pusser and Roane County is not a stage for Walking Tall,” District Attorney General Russell Johnson wrote about Patton in 2007.

Johnson and Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland filed an ouster suit against Patton in January 2009.

Patton was removed from office later that year after a judge determined he committed numerous acts of misconduct during his tenure as constable.

Harris lives in McMinn County and met Patton when he was a Calhoun police officer. Their daughter is in first grade.

“She’s a fantastic reader” Harris said. “She’s just a sweet little girl.”

Harris said it’s been a struggle.

“We’ve had to do without a lot of things,” she said.

She gets angry when she thinks about how Patton used to boast about upholding the law.

“If he’s wanting to enforce the law, then he needs to start being accountable for the very basic of accountability — and that’s for your child,” she said.

Harris said she hired a private investigator because Patton was elusive.

“He would refuse the certified mail,”she said. “He was just always doing something to avoid being served.”

Harris said she’s attending Cleveland State Community College and hopes to one day land a good-paying job, so she won’t have to struggle. She still has faith in the state’s child support system.

“If someone is out there manipulating the system, it’s not the fault of the system,” she said. “It’s the fault of the individual. ... He knows every trick in the book and he’s used them all.”