Suit Claims Nashville's Environmental Court is Unconstitutional

Three Nashville residents are suing to shut down the the city's environmental court, which enforces codes violations, because they say the 1993 law that created the court was not implemented correctly, the Tennessean reports. The residents, who have had recent cases in the city's environmental court, filed the suit against Metro and state Attorney General Herbert Slatery, claiming the court unfairly levies fines on poor citizens to boost revenues.
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Tennessee's Lack of Oversight for Animal-Related Business Under Fire

Following the death of a dog found severely malnourished after a five-week stay in a Johnson City training facility, the lack of oversight in the state for kennels, shelters and other animal-related businesses is coming into question, the Johnson City Press reports. While such entities run by municipalities and commercial breeders require licensing and inspection, there are currently no laws in Tennessee governing private businesses operating as training facilities or kennels. State Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, when asked by the paper said he believes the laws currently on the books are sufficient and the fact the owners were arrested is proof that they are working. The owners of the training camp in Johnson City were both charged with aggravated animal cruelty regarding the dog’s death.

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City of Jackson Passes Mandatory Spay, Neuter Ordinance

The city of Jackson just passed an ordinance requiring owners with pets over six-months-old to have the animal spayed or neutered, the Jackson Sun reports. The move comes as a recommendation by a special task force created by the city to address animal overpopulation and money problems of the Jackson-Madison County Humane Society — which the municipality assumed control of in 2017 and renamed the City of Jackson Animal Care — after complaints regarding the mistreatment of animals. Some organizations panned the ordinance, saying that it does not address the root of the issue and that efforts would be better focused on providing better accessibility of services and low-cost spay-neuter options. The city initially earmarked $240,000 for the new animal care center; however, city council estimates now say the actual cost will be about $1.3 million.

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Rutherford County Adult Detention Center Offers Parenting Program to Incarcerated Mothers

The Rutherford County Adult Detention Center has started a novel initiative to assist incarcerated mothers by offering parenting classes and increased visits with their children, the Daily News Journal reports. The program, incepted in January, is operated in cooperation with the Family Center, an organization that provides guidance and assistance to families coping with trauma. There are currently four moms enrolled in the program and the jail plans to offer participation to fathers in the future. Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Chris Fly believes the resource will be beneficial to deputies as well by showing them a different side of inmates.

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Stewart County Director of Schools Facing DUI Charges

Stewart County Director of Schools Leta Jo Joiner on Tuesday was arrested on DUI charges, The Leaf Chronicle reports. Joiner, who has been the director since 2014 after serving as a principal at Dover Elementary School, is due in court on May 28.

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Shelby County Owes Suburban School Districts Millions

Shelby County’s suburban school districts are owed about $5.2 million by the county regarding funding of capital school projects, The Commercial Appeal reports. Current policy states that there be an equitable disbursement to each district; however, recent changes to the schools’ funding system when the suburban school districts seceded has created a two-year backlog on project development. Several of the schools affected were forced to find creative funding for existing projects such as bond sales, dipping into reserves — which cannot be reimbursed with county money — and completing projects piecemeal over several fiscal years.

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Bradley County Commissioner Arrested for Domestic Assault

Bradley County Commissioner Erica Davis on Wednesday was arrested on domestic assault charges after a “heated argument” in her home, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at the house where they reported a man with visible injuries, subsequently taking Davis into custody. She maintains that she did not assault the man and that the injuries were self-inflicted. In addition to commissioner, Davis serves as a behavioral intervention specialist with Bradley County Schools and on the municipality’s Finance, IT, Juvenile and Law Enforcement committees.

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This Week: Animal Law Forum 2019 to Feature 2 Special Guests

Register now for the TBA Animal Law Section's 2019 annual forum at the Nashville Zoo. This unique opportunity will provide updates on trends and advancements in animal law while allowing participants to network, enjoy all of the fun and activities offered by the zoo and a chance to meet the two latest additions to the organization's family. We will be joined by the zoo's president and chief executive officer, and the board's general counsel, who will discuss conservation efforts and laws affecting procurement and care for animals. The forum, May 17 at 8 a.m., will also feature two VERY special guests! Don't miss it!
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Roane County Sues TVA Over Coal Ash Cleanup

Roane County and two cities within its borders filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Tennessee Valley Authority and its prime contractor in the cleanup of the nation’s largest coal ash spill, Knoxnews reports. The lawsuit accuses TVA and Jacobs Engineering of hiding from the public internal records showing a coal ash ingredient list of dangerous toxins, heavy metals and radioactive isotopes; destroying evidence including exposure threat test samples, test results, videos and photographs; tampering with exposure threat testing by watering down monitors designed to warn the public — and the EPA and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation — to lower results; and lying to the public, ratepayers and TVA’s own board of directors about the cleanup and the toxicity of coal ash both at the time of the spill and now.
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Metro Nashville Government Releases Report on Tax Incentive Funding

The Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County released its Tax Increment Financing Study & Formulating Committee Report, which examines Metro’s Tax Incentive Funding (TIF) used to promote redevelopment in blighted areas. Mayor David Briley signed ordinance BL2018-1315 creating the committee to formulate recommendations on implementation of and ensure more transparency regarding the municipalities use of TIF. In its report, the committee compiled a number of observations and 17 recommendations, formally asking the Mayor’s Office to provide Metro Council with a description of agencies or departments that will address the recommendations, including cost estimates for implementation. The committee was scheduled to present its recommendations to the Metro Council last week. 

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TSC Holds Cities Not Required to Share Liquor Tax Proceeds with Counties

In five separate lawsuits, the Tennessee Supreme Court held today that cities with their own school systems are not required to share with counties the tax proceeds the cities receive from the sale of liquor-by-the-drink. For over 30 years, cities that have approved the sale of liquor-by-the-drink have kept their portion of the tax proceeds, without sharing with the counties. Five Tennessee counties — Blount, Bradley, Coffee, Sullivan and Washington — claimed that Tennessee statutes required the cities to share a portion of those tax proceeds with the county schools. The TSC found that the General Assembly amended the liquor tax laws several times over the past decades, but it chose not to amend the laws on the cities’ responsibilities as to distributing the liquor tax proceeds.
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Bolivar Councilman Arrested for Defrauding Hardeman County

Bolivar City Councilman Jonathan Joy was indicted by a Hardeman County grand jury Monday for allegedly defrauding Hardeman County out of $1,609, the Jackson Sun reports. Joy was hired by the county to install four HVAC units at several county-owned buildings over a 10-month period between 2017 and 2018, according to the Tennessee Comptroller investigation. Each time Joy claimed to install a larger HVAC unit than he actually put in place. He billed the county for a total of $25,100 of work, when in reality, the units he installed were worth $23,491. Joy was indicted on one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of official misconduct because of his position as a city councilman.
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Legal Nonprofit Seeking Nashville-based Staff Attorney

A Better Balance, a national legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, is hiring a staff attorney for its Nashville office. The attorney would advance the goals of A Better Balance by promoting fairness for working families in the South and raising awareness nationally of local issues affecting Southern low-wage workers, especially marginalized communities. 3Ls, entry-level applicants and those with 1-3 years of legal experience are encouraged to apply. Read more on the organization’s website.
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Your TBA Free CLE Credits Expire June 30

TBA members receive three hours of free CLE programming. Your credits expire June 30 for the current bar year. You may apply them to any available course here or donate them. Members can use this credit to cover all or part of the cost of live programs or on any online CLE program. (The course does not have to take place by June 30.)
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Lawsuit Says Bradley County Inmate Died Because of Neglected Care

A lawsuit filed in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court claims that Brandon Gash died while in Bradley County custody due to negligent care, the Times Free Press reports. The suit, filed by Gash’s family, names the county government, the jail’s third-party medical care provider, former Sheriff Eric Watson and former Captain of Corrections Gabe Thomas. Gash was taken into custody last April for methamphetamine possession.
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More Than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School Employees Call Out Sick to Protest Budget

More than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School employees — including 1,091 teachers — called out sick today in protest of the 3 percent pay raise suggested by Mayor David Briley in his budget, saying that it’s simply not enough, The Tennessean reports. The action comes in response to Briley’s proposed $28.2 million increase in Nashville public schools' operating budget, far less than the requested $76.7 million. Most of the money asked for was to be earmarked for teacher raises. President-elect for the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association Amanda Kail said of the protest, "You have to understand that teachers haven't had a cost-of-living or a significant raise, depending on how you define significant, in 10 to 15 years … People are getting pretty fed up."

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Woman Sues Rutherford Election Commission Over Fall at Polling Location

Murfreesboro resident May Glover is suing Rutherford County and the county's election commission for $300,000 after she tripped over an extension cord and fractured two bones while voting, the Daily News Journal reports. The suit, which was filed on April 17, claims that her injuries from the fall amounted to nearly $60,000 in medical bills.
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Former Knox County Employees Claim They Were Fired for Whistleblowing

Two Knox County employees claim in newly-filed lawsuits they were fired for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing while the alleged culprit was promoted, Knoxnews reports. David Ball and Teresa Ferguson claim in lawsuits filed in Knox County Chancery Court that then-coworker Zack Webb repeatedly used his county credit card to buy computer equipment and office furniture in 2017 and 2018. The duo contend in the lawsuits they suspected Webb and Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell of giving away the items “for political gain.” The lawsuits do not detail the alleged plot’s political beneficiary.

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Chattanooga Councilman Byrd Fears for Safety After Altercation With Neighbor

Chattanooga city councilman Anthony Byrd filed a police report out of concern for his safety after a community activist suggested that men drive by his house to “provide protection” for his neighbor, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The activist, Marie Mott, hosts a radio show that featured the neighbor who alleges Byrd threatened her when she was questioning him about her son’s killing, which was ruled as “justified” and why no one was charged in his death. Councilman Byrd later noticed a large amount of traffic driving on his street and became fearful for he and his family’s safety. Mott says that she did not threaten Byrd rather called him out "to hold him accountable” and that “if he's in danger, that falls into his own hands." No charges have been filed and the case was closed as "miscellaneous information."

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Add Savings to Your GEICO Insurance

Already a GEICO customer? Make sure to let a GEICO representative know that you are a member of TBA so they can add that information to your policy for your TBA member discount. You can reach an agent at 1-800-368-2734.

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Tullahoma Police Chief Pleads No Contest to Evidence Tampering

The Tullahoma police chief has pleaded no contest to an evidence tampering charge and resigned his position, the Times Free Press reports. Paul Blackwell resigned Monday as Tullahoma police chief after entering the plea in Coffee County Circuit Court. Prosecutor Jennings Jones declined to say what led to the charges against Blackwell. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in December that an investigation into Blackwell was launched at the request of 14th Judicial District Attorney General Craig Northcott concerning a traffic crash involving Blackwell's son.
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Governor Agrees to Provide Additional Funds for Tom Lee Park Redesign

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recently announced plans to provide an additional $10 million to the redesign of Tom Lee Park in Memphis, the Daily Memphian reports. However, Memphis River Parks Partnership and Memphis in May organizers continue mediation talks to resolve a dispute over the design of the park. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland requested the additional money and hopes it will hasten a resolution between the two parties. The park’s redesign is estimated to cost $60 million, with nearly $40 million coming from the state.  

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Documentary Addresses Housing Problems Faced by Low-Income Residents of Memphis

Two Memphis-based documentarians on Monday presented the first chapter in a series of films highlighting housing concerns in the city, The Commercial Appeal reports. Jordan Danelz and Benjamin Rednour created the documentary to address common problems faced by Memphis’ low-income residents. The films will look at predatory lending, foreclosures, inability to afford necessary home repairs, absentee landlords and lack of transit. The series was created with assistance from Neighborhood Preservation Inc., an organization founded by Memphis community leaders who seek to promote revitalization of blighted parcels in the city and clear legal hurdles regarding development of these properties.

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Local Government Section Hosts Successful Annual Forum

The TBA Local Government Section presented its annual forum at the Tennessee Bar Center last Thursday, which received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Attendees enjoyed top-notch programming, with TBA members gathering afterward to attend a guided tour of the Tennessee State Museum.
Through the dedication of the section and strong leadership, this event has become a staple for municipal leaders throughout Tennessee. Thanks to the TBA Local Government Section Executive Council for their time and assistance with another remarkable forum. Stay tuned for more exciting events to come from this section.
Charlotte Knight Griffin, Chair, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division
Kristen Corn, Vice-Chair, City Attorney of Brentwood
Shauna Billingsley, Immediate Past-Chair, City Attorney of Franklin
Daniel Street, County Attorney, Sullivan County
Joseph Jarrett, Attorney & Mediator, Knoxville
Rebecca Ketchie, Wilson Worley PC, Kingsport
Shelly Wilson, Owings, Wilson & Coleman
Jennifer Noe, Balthrop Perry Noe & Newcomb, Ashland City
Carter Gray, County Attorney, Shelby County
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Shelby County Swears in First Female Chief Public Defender

Shelby County swore in its first female chief public defender yesterday, The Commercial Appeals reports. Phyllis Aluko has spent 25 years in the office where she began as a volunteer, then moving to the trial division for 10 years, later transferring to the appellate division. Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said at the ceremony: "Phyllis Aluko is now, has been and will be an exceptional public defender … She understands the needs of the office, the needs of the community." Aluko replaces former Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush, who retired in February.
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