Sullivan mayor calls off called meeting on sheriff's lawsuit

J. H. Osborne • Feb 22, 2013 at 12:41 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The called meeting has been called off.

Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey’s office issued a short notice Thursday canceling what had been a scheduled called meeting next week of the Sullivan County Commission.

Two days earlier, Godsey announced the called meeting would begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 and the purpose would be to share information with the commission about what has been going in on closed-door mediation between Godsey, Sheriff Wayne Anderson, and lawyers representing each.

The mediation is an attempt to settle the sheriff’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit seeking additional county funding Anderson said is needed to provide the level of service required by state law.

On Tuesday, both Godsey and Anderson said in public that they’ve been working together and making progress toward a resolution which will best serve the taxpaying public. Both said they would be ready to present information to the full commission on the 25th.

But Thursday afternoon Godsey’s office issued a notice that the called commission meeting is off — “due to ongoing negotiations.”

State law allows constitutional officeholders, like a sheriff, to seek court relief if they can show county funding isn’t sufficient to provide the services they are required, by law, to provide.

Anderson told county commissioners early last year that he would consider such a lawsuit if funding wasn’t increased for his department — which state law requires to include patrol, investigation, crime prevention, courtroom security, and operation of the county jail (which locally includes multiple facilities).

Last month, Godsey’s attorney for the case told commissioners if the case goes to court and the sheriff gets all the funding he’s seeking, the county’s liability could be as much as $2.4 million — and reminded them that whatever amount the court might order be added to the sheriff’s budget will be retroactive to last July 1 — and will need to be carried over in years to come.

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