Something Smells Fishy -  What, Arp & TRDA? 

 

Arp Flexes Muscle over TRDA Lawsuit

 

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Mayor Arp about to tell commissioners who hires legal counsel for lawsuits - its the mayor, not commissioners, Arp comments.

 

 

Hiring legal counsel to defend County in TRDA Lawsuit

Is that a Conflict of Interest for Arp?

 

By: Pat Hunter

September 9, 2008

 

Last week the local newspaper reported that Mayor Arp wasn't feeling well but it seems that he's  feeling much better. During the Executive Session, he sat in his seat, joked and smiled. Arp's spirits were high and he was even up to the challenge of expending energy to put commissioners on notice.

 

At Monday’s Sept. 8th Loudon County Commission meeting and listed under the agenda heading of Mayor Doyle Arp, was an update to the “Status of pending litigation.”  In attendance was Loudon attorney Wayne Henry. He gave an update on pending lawsuits (see below) .

 

Afterward commissioners called for an Executive Session with attorney Henry, but Commissioner Franke requested that Mayor Arp not attend. Arp is on the TRDA board and the Executive Session was to discuss TRDA litigation against Loudon County over permit issues in TRDA jurisdiction areas.

 

After 45 minutes in Executive Session, Commissioners returned to their seats and the meeting reconvened. Commissioner Bob Franke then made a motion that the County acquire a new set of attorneys for the one TRDA lawsuit. Franke’s motion was seconded by Commissioner Don Miller.

 

Mayor Doyle Arp looked at his paper and pushed the button to his microphone, “Mister Chairman, I’d like to remind Commission that Tennessee Code Annotated § 5-6-112 gives that authority to the County Mayor not the County Commission.”  Video clip of Arp comments

 

Mayor Arp should read the entire statute because it takes the majority of Commission to approve paying for "his" attorney (s) and I doubt seriously if any of Arp's attorney's would even consider working pro-bono for Arp! 

Mayor Arp referred to Tennessee Codes Annotated § 5-6-112. "The county mayor has the power to (1) If there is NO county attorney, employ or retain counsel, or both, to advise the county mayor and the members of the county legislative body as to their legal rights as such members, to prepare and draft resolutions for passage by the body, and to represent the county either as plaintiff or defendant in such suits as may be brought by or against the county, except suits by the county to collect delinquent taxes, which counsel shall be entitled to a reasonable fee for such counsel's services or retention, or both, to be fixed by a majority vote of the members of the county legislative body at one (1) of its regular sessions, to be paid out of the county general fund..."

 

 

 

Commissioner Franke then revised his motion to request that the county mayor hire another law firm. Franke also recommended the name of a law firm while Commissioner Wayne Gardin insisted that the decision to select a law firm was up to Mayor Arp.

 

New Commissioner Austin Shaver, an attorney, commented that someone had raised a point if he had a possible conflict of interest since the law firm, which he works for represents Tellico Village POA in the TRDA lawsuit. At this point, Loudon County and the Tellico Village POA's interests remain aligned in this matter, Shaver said. He explained because I am a commissioner and an attorney of high ethical standards and to avoid any appearance of anything improper, the firm of his employment had taken certain steps to ensure that Shaver remained neutral. He was “walled off” and did not have access to physical or electronic files and he was not privy to the discussion or strategy about the TRDA lawsuit.

 

But when the vote was taken, Commissioners were split right down the middle with 5 yes and 5 no votes and the motion failed. YES - Commissioners Earlena Maples, Austin Shaver, Bob Franke, Don Miller, and Nancy Marcus. NO -  Commissioners David Meers, Chairman Roy Bledsoe, Harold Duff, Chris Park, and Wayne Gardin.   See Video clip of Commission's vote     

 

Does Mayor Arp have a Conflict of Interest?

 

What reason could Mayor Arp have for not wanting to mount an aggressive legal battle to win the TRDA  lawsuit? Could the reason be his purported friendship with developers and special interest who stand to benefit from TRDAs win?

 

Why did Arp hire an attorney to represent Loudon County given his involvement with TRDA?  Arp should recuse himself because of his conflict of interest.   

 

Why did Arp hire a small town lawyer who seems to have given up before even going to trial? Henry said something to commissioners during the Executive Session that at least half were willing to vote to change attorneys.  

 

Why did Arp hire someone other than the county attorney? Arp has a county attorney with a Knoxville law firm. The same firm that defended Arp in the public records lawsuit when he spent over $50,000.

 

Pending Lawsuits Update

 

Mayor Arp announced that he had spoken to attorney Robert Hinton and that there was a pending lawsuit with Lakeside Partnerships and it looked like there was a settlement but that would have to go back to the BZA for a recommendation and then back to commission. Arp also spoke about 2 more pending lawsuits.

 

Attorney Henry spoke about Cooper vs. the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). At this point we are still doing our research and trying to get all the facts together, Henry said. The case is set in Chancery Court with an alternate of December 18, 2008. Henry described the lawsuit as more of a “paperwork” lawsuit than it is a “factual dispute.” Henry had his law clerk working on the legislative history of the Adequate Facilities Tax. Definition of “What IS” air and cooled and “What IS” heated and cooled space. What’s the determining factor, do you have to have air ducts or insulation or anything else?  Henry was referring to the Loudon County Adequate Facilities Tax (AFT), which charges $1 per sq. ft of heated and cooled space for new residential development.  Click to see related story  Villager meaning of WHAT "IS"

 

The other lawsuit is the TRDA, which has a trial date of November 3, 2008. Henry said that he was in the middle of trial preparation for that and a trial brief was due Oct. 17th. Commissioner Miller what is the trial briefing. The trial briefing sets the arguments and positions before the court, which was requested by the Court. Mayor Arp said that three other law firms that had joined the lawsuit. Henry confirmed the parties, which include the Tellico Village Property Owners Association and Rarity Communities and now four law firms are involved in this lawsuit. Commissioner Bob Franke then made a request for an Executive Session and he requested that Mayor Arp not be present during the Executive Session. Arp fired back, “I get sued enough.”   

 

 

Other information:

 

2007 Tellico Reservoir Development Agency (TRDA)

Board of Directors

Allan Watson, Chairman (Monroe County Mayor)

Jerry Cunningham, Vice Chairman (Blount County Mayor)

Doyle Arp (Loudon County Mayor)

Robert Bettis

David Black

Robert Davis

Charles Hall (former Tellico Plains mayor)

Gene Lambert (Loudon City councilman)

Jimmy Matlock (state representative Loudon and Monroe counties)

Ron Hammontree, Executive Director

 

Mayor Arp referred to Tennessee Codes Annotated 5-6-112.

Powers and duties — Powers as financial officer. —

The county mayor has the power to (1) If there is NO county attorney, employ or retain counsel, or both, to advise the county mayor and the members of the county legislative body as to their legal rights as such members, to prepare and draft resolutions for passage by the body, and to represent the county either as plaintiff or defendant in such suits as may be brought by or against the county, except suits by the county to collect delinquent taxes, which counsel shall be entitled to a reasonable fee for such counsel's services or retention, or both, to be fixed by a majority vote of the members of the county legislative body at one (1) of its regular sessions, to be paid out of the county general fund..."

 

 

 

 

 

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09-09-08