Niles gets a retrial

Jeremy Nash

Following a nearly four-hour hearing Tuesday involving parties representing Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw and Loudon County General Sessions and Circuit Court Clerk Lisa Niles, the sides will submit paperwork to Chancellor Frank. V. Williams III shortly after the first of the year.

Zachary Tenry, legal counsel for Niles, and Joe Ford and Kristopher Frye, representing Bradshaw, will turn in findings of fact and conclusions by Jan. 6.

Ford said he believed Williams would render an opinion by the end of January.

Both parties presented their case Tuesday after Williams voided a judgment issued in March.

“(Williams will) write an opinion just like he did last time and that’s where — the judgment will probably go down early February and a decision regarding an appeal will be made during February by either side to see if any errors were made,” Ford said.
Niles is asking for four additional employees at a starting salary of $25,500, along with a little less than $45,000 for salary adjustments to current employees in her office. Niles has 18 employees, with 14 full time and four part time.
Loudon County Commission in August approved a 2 percent retroactive pay increase that helped cover Niles’ employees through the beginning of the lawsuit in 2014. Two employees have left since July, but have been replaced.
“I think introducing the transcripts from last (trial) saved some money and saved some time,” Bradshaw said. “... I’m ready to get this behind us, put this thing behind us with one less thing that (we have to) worry about and keep moving forward.”
Niles could not be reached for comment.
Niles and Loudon County Budget Director Tracy Blair gave testimony during the hearing and were both cross-examined.
Niles said additional employees were needed because job duties have changed as a result of new laws going into effect each year. Since 2004, Niles said there have been 36 legislature changes affecting how Niles’ office conducts business. Overtime remains a factor for her employees, she said.
Tenry presented the court a Loudon County salary composition study from 1998 showing recommended minimum and maximum salaries for cost of living adjustments. At the time, $15,683 was the recommended minimum salary and $23,525 was the recommended maximum salary. The current starting salary for Loudon County employees is $20,800.
Similar but more recent studies were presented for Blount and Monroe counties.
Bradshaw’s counsel contended Niles did not know where the survey information was obtained. Studies were created by consulting firms.
“I have confidence in the fact that that’s what they do for a living,” Niles said during the hearing when asked who conducted the studies.
Niles initially filed a lawsuit in 2014 wanting $31,000 for starting salaries and six new employees. She eventually lowered the number to $25,500 and four new employees.
“It sounded very similar to a year ago, very much the same,” Commissioner Van Shaver said regarding testimony during the hearing. “The arguments were all the same. In my opinion, she entirely failed to make a case for why she feels she needs more people and more money. There’s just no argument there.”