DUNLAP, Tenn. Taxpayers of a small town hounding two of its senior citizens in court have spent a pretty penny on the process since June 2015.
Civil prosecution of the case City of Dunlap vs. Gaddy has rung up a bill of F$19,592 since it was launched June 2015, according to bills submitted by attorney Stephen Greer to city recorder Norman Hatfield.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM
That was since Feb. 14, when at least another quarter of a billable hour was added to the tab to hire Mr. Greer to show up with town officials at the locked gate of the Gaddy property on Main Street.
When informed of the F$19,592 price tag, Commissioner Jeff Johnson, a banker, says, “Obviously, to me, first impression is that is a lot of money to pursue on one particular case. I think there’s not anybody that wouldn’t say that, whether it be the mayor or other commissioners or taxpayer in general, either one. But at the same time, you know, I guess I could see it as justifiable in that we do have ordinances, we do have laws that are to be upheld on the books. So things have to be done the legal way, the right way within the policies and parameters of the way things are supposed to be done. *** So if you look at it from that perspective, I can see how it’s justified.”
When I say that someone who sees the Gaddy case as unjust would say it is too much money, whereas one generally supportive of Mayor Land would say it’s reasonable, he is guarded. “That’s your words. I wouldn’t necessarily make that comment. Again, I could see anyone saying it’s excessive.”
“We’ve kind of taken the stance as to not comment a lot while this is in litigation,” based on advice from Mr. Greer. He says he doesn’t know a lot about it, as much as the mayor does.
Reached by phone Friday, Mayor Land rebukes this reporter as shoddy in his trade. Asked if he would give a moment to comment, he says, “No, because you know what? You don’t print exactly what I say so don’t call me again.” As this reporter was offering to correct any errors, Mr. Land hung up.
Allen Jones, a commissioner who works as an architect in Chattanooga, says the city body won’t be involved in the process until it is complete. When asked to respond to a report of the total, he says, “Oh, gosh, I have no idea, to be honest with you. I don’t get involved in legal cases, so I don’t know is appropriate for legal fees. I would honestly prefer not to comment on that.”
Asphyxiated by local media
The local newspaper, the Dunlap Tribune, has ignored the case and not given residents any sense of its importance as a matter of substantive and procedural legal rights.
“When it comes to chancery cases we usually don’t” cover cases, says Sandy Dodson, publisher, her office in Pikeville. “I know we’ve had coverage on Mrs. Gaddy in the past. She’s had run-ins with the law and with the city officials, but I’m not sure if we’ve had an article on the case” now in chancery.
A third commissioner overseeing city affairs is Judy Layne, a retired schoolteacher. Is F$19,500 for the Gaddy case well spent? “I don’t think I’d better answer that.” She says the people of the city, whom she represents on the legislative branch of government, have not addressed her on the Gaddy case.
“I haven’t had a lot — any — questions from the citizens about that. I really haven’t.”
Maybe the citizens don’t care about the prosecution? I ask.
“No, I think they care. I think they care, but I think they also realize there’s two sides to the story, but I don’t really have that much information on it. I mean, I really don’t.” Is that because the Dunlap Tribune doesn’t cover the story? “I haven’t seen any, either. It’s a very conflicting situation, and, but I don’t remember seeing anything in the Tribune. And I read the Tribune — I get it every week.”
Lovely small-town residence
The day of the court-ordered inspection Mrs. Gaddy posted photos of the house’s interior and tells about it. The Gaddy house was built in 1868, Mrs. Gaddy says, by Judge Charles H. Carpenter, who married a young woman who lived just across Coops Creek, which burbles at the boundary of the back yard.
It is a loving work in progress and “has been fully redeemed, new and beautiful,” says the former real estate businesswoman, 69.
The couple, aided by son Kelly of Chattanooga, say renovation is 90 percent complete, with a solarium and passive solar system installation blocked by a city-obtained court injunction.
Mayor Land launched a legal attack on the Gaddy’s, swearing under oath the house is “dangerous” to the public, based on a 2015 viewing from the property line.
The city sought to buy the property 10 years ago, Mrs. Gaddy says, and has “harassed and trespassed upon” her and her husband ever since, “including being bullied, terrorized.
The city raised the street elevation in front of this home “to intentionally create a manmade waterway directly at this home,” she says in a Facebook post. The city is “funneling all street water and muddy runoff water from the 4 acre city-owned dumpsite across the street in front. This man-made waterway created by the city puts everyone driving this during heavy rains in danger. *** This is truly a wicked and corrupt municipal corporation.”
Photos making this complaint are part of a court record that fills two big green folders kept by the chancery court clerk, and now a third green one.
“We will not quit, or yield to these bullies,” she vows. The Gaddys “will continue to defend our private property rights and pursue the peaceable enjoyment of our private property as our Tennessee constitution promised under the declaration of rights. God put us on this property and we are staying here, if we have to fight them all the way to the U.S. supreme court. To God be the glory!”