THE HUNTER REPORT
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens reads HUD letters (Dec 17, 2012 meeting)
Mayor, housing authority clash over HUD note
By Hugh G. Willett
Saturday, March 2, 2013
A handwritten note, allegedly penned by a Housing and Urban Development employee and presented as justification for removal of several Lenoir City Housing Authority board members, is not authentic, according to a court motion filed by housing authority attorneys.
According to the “motion to strike” filed Feb. 19 in Loudon County Chancery Court, the note and statements in regard to it “should be stricken, as they are immaterial, impertinent and scandalous.”
The document, allegedly signed by Victoria R. Brown, a former employee of HUD’s Nashville field office, urged Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens to remove several members of the board for not being appointed correctly.
The note, which described the board’s record-keeping as a “fiasco”, also suggested that the appropriate remedy was for Aikens “to appoint a whole new board.”
After trying to remove two LCHA board members and appoint three new members in November, Aikens encountered resistance from authority executive director Debbie Cook. Cook asked attorneys for the authority to provide guidance as to whether Aikens’ actions were legal.
The motion to strike also included a copy of a Feb. 8 letter to Aikens from Ed Ellis, director of the Knoxville HUD field office, denying that Brown wrote the letter or that it reflected HUD policy.
“Ms. Brown, when contacted by HUD, denied the validity of the note you purported to be from her,” Ellis wrote.
Ellis said HUD disputes that the note was written by any current or former employee.
“The note does not in any way reflect HUD’s position regarding the appointment of members to or the validity of the board of Lenoir City Housing Authority,” he continued.
The letter first surfaced at December at a meeting between Aikens and attorneys for the housing authority. At the meeting, Aikens said he had received several letters from LCHA executive director Cook, including the one purported to be written by HUD’s Brown.
The letter was presented by attorneys for Lenoir City and Aikens in a Chancery Court hearing in January at which attorneys for the housing authority sought an injunction against an upcoming LCHA board meeting. The judge denied the injunction.
The motion to strike alleges that at the hearing for the temporary injunction, counsel for Aikens made representations to the court regarding the note, asserting it represented HUD’s position.
Aikens’ attorney T. Scott Jones said he wanted to make it clear that the original source of the “Victoria Brown letter” was Cook.
“For them to now cry foul relative to a document they delivered to the mayor when it’s used against them is both improper and disingenuous,” Jones said.
Housing authority attorney Michael Kelley said he is certain that the letter did not come from Cook. Furthermore, the tone and language of the note was not consistent with what would be expected from a document produced by a government agency, he said.