State commission dismisses Bluff City mayor's discrimination complaint

J. H. Osborne • Nov 14, 2012 at 10:39 AM

BLUFF CITY — The Tennessee Human Rights Commission has dismissed Bluff City Mayor Irene Wells’ discrimination complaint against the town and fellow town officials.

Wells filed a complaint with the HRC more than a year ago.

“Examination of the evidence indicates that there is no reasonable cause to believe that (the town of Bluff City) has engaged in a discriminatory practice,” HRC Executive Director Beverly Watts wrote in a notice of determination dated Oct. 30. “Therefore, the complaint in this matter is dismissed.”

The notice outlines three possible ways Wells could further pursue the matter:

• File a written request for reconsideration with Watts. Such a request “must state specifically the grounds on which it is based and be filed within 30 days of Wells’ receipt of the notice of determination dated Oct. 30.

• File a private action in chancery or circuit court within the state’s court system, also within 30 days.

• File a private action in federal court. If federal law is involved, the HRC will send a copy of the notice of determination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the EEOC will in turn mail Wells and the town of Bluff City notice of its closure of this case and/or a right to sue in federal court. Such suit must be filed within 90 days of the receipt of the EEOC notice of closure or right to sue.

Wells and former aldermen J.C. Gentry and Mark Weaver appointed Wells mayor at a called BMA meeting three days before Gentry and Weaver left office in mid-2011. Town voters had rejected Gentry’s re-election bid in May of that year and Weaver did not seek re-election. Their terms expired June 30, 2011.

On July 1, 2011, new BMA members elected in May officially took office, joining Wells and two aldermen who were halfway through their own four-year terms.

At the first meeting of the new board that night, a called meeting that Wells refused to recognize as legitimate, aldermen Melvin Carrier, Robert Miller and newcomer Bryan Mullins voted to name Lon Gene Leonard — a former BMA member elected to a new term by voters in May — as the town’s vice mayor.

A majority of the board later voted to name Leonard as the BMA’s designee for signing checks and eventually named City Recorder Judy Dulaney also to serve as city manager.

Wells has voiced discontent with those and other decisions, which left her with little authority as mayor.

A message left by the Times-News on Wells’ home telephone, seeking comment Wednesday on the HRC’s decision, received no response before end of the business day.

Bluff City voters will next have the chance to elect a mayor in May 2013.

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