Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Morristown Gets Slapped With Half-Million Bank Seizure

Resisting court orders is never a risky idea for government, and at the end of February, the city of Morristown had over $570,000 seized in a bank levy over a court case which should have been resolved a long time ago.

"Now that those funds have been seized by the U.S. Marshals, my guess is that Morristown has sobered up and is having some serious discussions with Plaintiffs' lawyers to settle the attorney fees, litigation costs, and/or civil penalties that were assessed against the City in the Stephens, et al. v. City of Morristown case. In this mix may be the dismissal of the City's appeal to U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a case that was brought only after Morristown refused to acknowledge problems with the Witt sewer line and refused to repair and rehabilitate that line, the City spent thousands in attorney fees for its lawyers, had to pay attorney fees and costs for the Plaintiffs' lawyers, and ended up under a court-order to fix the Witt line. [The Tennessee Municipal League (TML) paid initial attorney fees but that stopped at some point and then Morristown was directly on the hook for paying the City's defense team]

All this money was spent because the City ignored a serious problem with the Witt sewer line that was brought to its attention as soon as Koch Foods hooked up to the Witt line around 2005.

And the City would likely still be ignoring the problem today if several gutsy Witt residents hadn't  hired a lawyer after deciding that they had taken enough of the City's stonewalling and odors and overflows.

During the lawsuit, Judge Greer blistered the City in discussing the City's "malfeasance" in handling its finances, making illegal money transfers, failing to provide critical documents, ignoring recommendations of its experts, etc.

With two consecutive years (2009 and 2010) of the sewer fund being "in the red," you have to wonder if the City's appeal of the attorney fees and other costs was just another in an ongoing series of delaying tactics to avoid acknowledging the financial morass that has been present for years and years."

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