BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson held true to his word Monday, filing a $9.9 million lawsuit against the county for what he has said is needed funding to provide public safety at the appropriate levels.
“It is with deep regret that I have to do this, but after a lot of consideration and soul searching, I feel I have no other choice,” Anderson said in a written statement released to media outlets Monday afternoon. “In 1998 as I was being sworn in as Sheriff, I took an oath to protect the citizens of this county. I take that oath very seriously and know that we cannot continue on the same path, and adequately protect our citizens, with the amount of funding we currently have.”
The release indicated no further interviews of any kind will be granted concerning this matter, under advisement of the attorney representing the sheriff in the lawsuit.
Anderson told county commissioners earlier this year that he would consider such a lawsuit if funding wasn’t increased for his department — which under state law is includes patrol, investigation, crime prevention, courtroom security, and operation of the county jail (which locally includes multiple facilities).
The Sullivan County Commission ultimately voted to increase the county’s property tax rate by 20 cents per $100 of assessed value for the fiscal year that began July — but did not provide any new funding for the sheriff’s office or jail. The increase instead went largely to schools, the county highway department, and to try and build up the county’s surplus.
Anderson said his budget hasn’t increased in six years, despite rising costs for staple supplies like fuel, medical treatment and food costs for jail inmates.
The suit, filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court and served on Steve Godsey in his capacity as Sullivan County mayor, states that on July 30 the Sullivan County Commission approved a budget for the sheriff’s office “that was woefully inadequate and which will not permit (Anderson) to properly and efficiently perform his statutory duties without (i) hiring additional deputies, detectives, assistants, transport officers, and detention officers; (ii) providing reasonable salary increases to his existing deputies, detectives, transport officers and detention officers; (iii) provide proper equipment, training vehicles and fuel for the new deputies and detention officers; and (iv) being allocated sufficient funds to permit (Anderson) to property operate and maintain the Sullivan County Jail.
The suit goes on the call for:
• about $1.43 million to cover the hiring of 30 additional deputies to be dedicated to patrol, maintaining the peace, detection and prevention of crime, and to make lawful arrests.
• about $667,000 to hire 14 additional deputies to serve process and/or be assigned to protect courts.
• about $226,000 to hire four new deputies dedicated to serve as vice detectives.
• about $749,000 to hire 17 additional detention officers.
• about $132,000 to hire three additional detention officers dedicated to serve as transport officers.
• about $526,000 to hire nine additional sergeants to serve in the Sullivan County Jail.
• $78,000 for two additional assistants to serve as cooks at the jail.
• $52,000 for an additional nurse in the jail.
• more than $2.46 milllion “to provide necessary and long-overdue salary increases for existing deputies, detention officers, detectives and assistants.
• $595,000 to equip and train the 44 additional deputies.
• about $55,000 to train the four new vice detectives.
• $95,000 to train and equip the 20 new detention officers.
• about $43,000 to train and equip the nine new sergeants.
• about $678,000 to maintain and repair jail facilities.
• $150,000 to maintain, repair and provide sufficient fuel for the existing fleet of sheriff’s department vehicles.
• more than $1.36 million to purchase 47 additional vehicles.
• Another $60,000 for four more vehicles for the four vice detectives.
• $540,000 to provide sufficient fuel for the 51 (total) new vehicles requested.
County Attorney Dan Street told the Times-News he already has advised County Mayor Steve Godsey to seek outside cousel regarding the sheriff’s lawsuit.
Street said his duties as county attorney regularly include representing the county’s constitutional offices and he is constantly called upon to defend the sheriff’s department in matters.
Street said it would be conflict, and unethical, for him to try to represent the county against the sheriff’s lawsuit.