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Agreement reached in Sullivan County lawsuit

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Apr 25 2013 02:01:38 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 01:23:21 PM CDT

A Sullivan County judge has approved a settlement made by both sides in a Sullivan County lawsuit against the county.

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. -

A nine-month legal battle between two Sullivan County officials comes to end, at least for now.

Last August, Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson filed a $9.9 million dollar lawsuit against the county for funding. Click here to read more about that story.

Wednesday morning, a settlement was reached. The terms were agreed upon Monday night between Sheriff Wayne Anderson and Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey. Later on that same day, Judge James Beckner agreed to those terms.

But we found out this may be a temporary 'band-aid' of sorts to a much larger funding issue, and the resolution may not be any real long-term resolution at all.

In a matter of minutes, a lawsuit costing taxpayers $60,000 is put to rest; Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson and Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey have come to a two-pronged settlement agreement.

We learned that includes a two percent pay raise for all sheriff's employees, which will cost about $40,000 for the rest of the fiscal year and about $160,000 dollars for next year. "I didn't want to go into this lawsuit in the first place. I really didn't, but I felt like that I had a duty to the citizens of Sullivan County to protect them the best I know how," said Sheriff Anderson.

"It's a signal that we're going to have to sit down and really focus on trying to find ways that we can save money and do the best we can with what we have," said Mayor Godsey.

That signal may be needed -- we found out the financial frustrations are far from over.

This settlement did not include funding for new officers, something the sheriff still believes is needed.

We got a copy of Sheriff Anderson's budget request for next fiscal year and found out it's about $8 million dollars more than last year's budget, and it includes 30 new patrol officers, 30 new cars, and 32 new jail employees. "I'm willing to work with the county commission, and I'm wiling to sit down and talk with them," said Sheriff Anderson.

Back in February, Mayor Steve Godsey asked all county departments to slash their budgets by five percent, meaning these requests may not come easily. "It's a tough time right now. The economy is really flat. I mean there's jut not a real influx of additional revenue coming in, so hopefully everyone will realize that and work to the best of their abilities and work with the budgets that we're able to supply," said Mayor Godsey.

The sheriff also told us he is planning to amend his budget request for next year and add on another 18 percent in salary increases to help their pay competitive and keep deputies working in the county.

If commissioners won't approve the compromise there's the possibility it could end up back in the courtroom.