Judge favors Lisa Niles in opinion
Jeremy Nash news-herald.net
Chancellor Frank V. Williams III has issued a memorandum opinion in
favor of Loudon County General Sessions and Circuit Court Clerk Lisa
Niles for her efforts to gain additional employees and funds.
Williams issued the opinion Wednesday for a court hearing Dec. 20,
2016. As it stands the county will be responsible for providing
Niles with four additional employees, with one being a deputy
clerk/bookkeeper at $32,000 and others deputy clerks at $25,500. Starting salaries currently stand at $21,500.
“The Petitioner may start new employees at a lower pay and make
graduated increases in salary based upon their performance and
ability as incentive for further improvement, so that in any given
year the County may not actually incur the entire costs for these
salaries,” according to Williams’ opinion. “... The Court finds that
starting salaries should not be less than $25,500.”
Niles will also be given $50,000 for salary adjustments to current
employees in her office, including $11.25 per hour for three tenured
part-time deputies. She currently has 18 employees, with 14 full
time and four part time.
“We’ve got 30 days to appeal,” Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy”
Bradshaw said. “I’ll get with Chairman (Steve) Harrelson and see if
we want to discuss in a workshop or have an executive session or if
we choose to maybe have a special-called (meeting) or just wait — of
course if we don’t choose to appeal then we’ll go ahead and adopt it
probably next commission meeting. Hopefully we’ll have it all worked
out by then. We may end up having a special-called (meeting) or an
executive session to figure out if that’s the route we want to go.”
The county will seek clarification on the memorandum opinion before
entertaining a final judgment, specifically the sum of money
Williams gave to Niles and how those funds are to be distributed,
Commission Chairman Steve Harrelson said.
“I think we would like to see the judge clarify who gets what
according to the positions in the office and not just give a lump
sum of money like that,” Harrelson said.
Whether the county will appeal Williams’ ruling remains to be seen,
“After hearing more details it’s definitely going to be a full
commission decision on which route to take, whether let’s just go
ahead and try to alter and amend the judge’s opinion or whether we
just need to file an official appeal and get everything settled
through the appeal process,” Harrelson said. “I just don’t know
which way the commission will lean towards. ... We want this put
behind us but we also have to look what’s best for Loudon County too
and make the best decision for the taxpayers.”
Harrelson will push for an executive session just before the March
20 workshop begins.
“When I took my oath to do my job to the best of my skill and
ability, I took it seriously,” Niles said in an email
correspondence. “There is no personal gain from following the budget
process ending with the Chancellor’s opinion. However, it is a very
difficult task and one I took an oath to perform.”
County officials believe the Niles lawsuit will affect budget
preparation, but Harrelson said a tax increase is not expected at
“That’s definitely an impact. We’ve got the Tate & Lyle and
Kimberly-Clark (tax appeals),” Bradshaw said. “Of course, we’re
going to be losing close to $1 million here on the Hall Income Tax
and the jail coming up, so it’s going to be a interesting budget
cycle to say the least and we’ll just have to see what the — we’ll
get with Tracy Blair and find out what the ultimate impact will be
and address it from there. ... It’s been drawn out a lot longer than
I ever imagined it would and so that’s a double-edged sword.
Certainly we wouldn’t mind to see it get behind us.”
Williams has now ruled in Niles’ favor twice.
“It’s clear the chancellor gave very careful consideration to all
the evidence and he’s now ruled in Ms. Niles’ favor twice,” Zach
Tenry, Niles’ attorney, said. “... The two memorandum opinions the
chancellor has handed done speak for themselves, and I think they
speak volumes. Anybody who is still on the fence as to whether Ms.
Niles did the right thing should take the time to read those two
opinions because it lays out the facts and the evidence that was
presented very clearly and substantiates her request in what she’s
been saying all along.”