After almost a decade of legal wrangling, the county has resolved its lawsuit against former County Executive Kenneth Rogers.
Based on terms of the settlement, $60,000 will be paid to the county, with $10,000 of that coming from Rogers. The remaining $50,000 will be paid by a bond which covered Rogers in his role as county executive.
“I can’t speak for the other side, but I think certainly their desire was to bring this to a close,” said County Executive John Pelham, who was key in negotiating a settlement. “I know our desire was to see it come to a close. In reflection, as difficult as it was, I am proud we were able to get this checked off before Herschel and the new commissioners came in. So I’m thankful for that. But it was hard. It was a hard thing to go through. Based on our council, and the mediator, and the other side’s council, I feel like the agreement was a fair agreement.”
Rogers was contacted for this story, but declined to comment.
In an effort to avoid a trial, Pelham accompanied the county’s legal representation of Rogers, Duncan, & North to mediation in Cookeville on Aug. 18. A settlement was reached on that date. In a letter sent to the current Warren County Commission on Thursday, the terms of the settlement were outlined. The total paid to Warren County is $60,000.
In his duties as county executive, Rogers had a $50,000 bond. As a condition of the terms of the settlement, this bond will be paid to the county. Rogers agreed to pay $10,000 to the county on or before Sept. 1. Each party is paying half of the mediation costs and Rogers will be responsible for court costs.
The lawsuit on behalf of Warren County was drawn up after the county incurred a breach of contract with a FEMA/ TEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant which was applied for and administrated in 2004 by Rogers, who was county executive.
The $124,000 grant was given by FEMA/ TEMA to the county and was specifically designated to purchase, demolish and remove a flood-damaged home owned by Michael Hubbard.
However, instead of having the home destroyed, Rogers entered into a contract with Randall Dunn of RWRP Properties to have the home dismantled and moved, with Dunn providing a contribution of $16,000 to the county, $6,000 of which was paid back to Dunn with two checks for $4,500 and $1,500.
FEMA/ TEMA directed the county to repay the organization’s $93,000 share of the 75-25 matching grant, and also directed the county to pay $31,000 to Hubbard.
According to Pelham, “The original contract was acquisition and demolition. But because the demolition didn’t happen, it became acquisition and relocation, and under the relocation part of it, the homeowner does not forfeit his ownership of the home. So basically, we sold a home that did not belong to us. It still belonged to Mr. Hubbard, according to the way it’s been explained to us by council. So because he was still a shareholder, if you will, of that piece of property, then he is due his percentage back to him of what the property was appraised at.”
The house reportedly was moved to Centertown in the path of the new four-lane connecting McMinnville to Woodbury resulting in the Tennessee Department of Transportation purchasing the home from Dunn for $94,000. After that, the home was moved again to Hidden Valley subdivision in Centertown.
In regard to the mediation proceedings, Pelham said, “When I went, I went with our counsel from Coffee County and I knew I was going to rely on them. I certainly didn’t know who our mediator was when I arrived that day and I met John Turnbull. He was very impressive, a very fine man. As he met with each of us, and the way he treated us and the way he talked to us really through the process I started and did gain a whole lot of trust in him as we went through this process. It was a very lengthy process that day. So I gained a lot of confidence in him. He had stated at the beginning to us that he felt like a successful mediation was when neither side was really happy. And I think that probably fit.”