After a hearing in Roane County between the city of Greenback and the Greenback Volunteer Fire Department and former mayor Tom Peeler, both sides agreed to take the matter to chancery court.
The city sought default judgment and disqualification of attorney James K. Scott, who represents the Greenback Volunteer Fire Department.
Melanie Davis, representing Greenback, said default judgment was denied despite answers for the fire department and Peeler being filed late.
B. Thomas Hickey, representing Peeler, in an amended answer filed July 8, notes the court “lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims and causes of action” and that the case should be dismissed.
The case will now go to chancery court but still be heard by Chancellor Frank V. Williams III.
“They objected to circuit court jurisdiction because they said I was asking for the type of relief that you get in chancery court, but I say I wasn’t and so we had a dispute about that, but since I don’t care I just went ahead and said if they’re fussing about it let’s just move it over there and get rid of the issue,” Davis said. “I mean, I had an argument to make that we were fine, but I don’t want there to be an issue down the road with jurisdiction if I can just by agreement make this change and it doesn’t matter.”
The city’s board of alderman in February voted 4-1 to reclaim property deeded Dec. 28 to the fire department. The lone opposing vote came from Robin Blankenship, Peeler’s daughter, who on May 23 issued a public resignation letter on social media in which she criticized current mayor Dewayne Birchfield and other board members Delmar Davis, Johnny Walker and Linda Black.
An amended answer from Hickey notes Peeler felt “at the time of the execution of the quitclaim deeds he acted appropriately and in accordance the law and directive” of the city board.
“Defendant denies that he acted in a malicious, wanton or otherwise egregious manner as claimed and alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint,” the document reads.
Davis said the next step will be going into a discovery period.
“The motion to disqualify Jim Scott was heard and the court ... wants us to do discovery and if we find specific reasons why we think he’s either a material witness or he knows something as a result of his prior representation of the town, then we can come back to the court at that time, but the court isn’t going to disqualify him just based on what it knows now, which is that he was the town’s attorney four months before he sued the town,” Davis said.
Hopes are to get a trial date “sometime in the winter,” she said.
“We’re going to do the discovery and then I don’t know if we may move for a summary judgment where the court would hear the matter on the pleadings as opposed to hearing witnesses,” Davis said. “That’s a possibility, but we don’t have a scheduling order and I don’t have any particular dates that require us to act by some time. We plan on moving this forward just as quickly as possible.”
Hickey and Scott could not be reached for comment.