Friday, November 26, 2010

November 26, 2010 Final Judgment in Holden v. Swann: Hamblen County Ethics Committee and Its Members Violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act

The Tennessee Open Meetings Act, like the Tennessee Public Records Act, is an extremely important law for those who truly support open and accountable government.

Ironically, the Hamblen County ETHICS Committee violated this law in December 2008 and failed to even attempt to correct its violation of the law until after a citizen, Gwen Holden, filed suit on February 17, 2009. I represented Ms. Holden in this matter (Holden v. Swann, et al)

The 3-page Final Judgment in Holden v. Swann was signed on October 1, 2010, finding that the Defendants (Hamblen County Ethics Committee, Joe Swann, Stancil Ford, Bill Brittain, James Harrison, and Jack Cartwright) violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.

The Judgment enjoins the Defendants from future violations of the Open Meetings Act and provides that the County pay all court costs ($282.50) in the matter and pay $1500 for attorney fees and discretionary costs incurred by Ms. Holden.

You can click on each page to enlarge, read, and print it out. 

Interestingly, the Hamblen County Ethics Committee was dissolved by the Hamblen County Commission on February 18, 2010, while Holden v. Swann was still pending and before any Judgment had become final in this case.  

When it dissolved the Ethics Committee, the Hamblen County Commission, in a divided vote, appointed the county's attorney, Frank "Rusty" Cantwell, as the "County Ethics Officer."  [Cantwell, acting as county attorney, represented the Ethics Committee and the individual defendants in Holden v. Swann, et al.]

All future Ethics Complaints against a county official or county employee will be referred to County Ethics Officer Cantwell.

Then County Ethics Officer Cantwell, who is also the county's attorney for county officials and employees, will decide what to do with any complaint against his client(s).  More on this set-up later.

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