Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 23, 2013

Kerley questions city attorney’s actions

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — During a recent special-called meeting, Crossville city councilman Jesse Kerley brought up an incident that occurred following January's regular city council meeting involving an exchange between city attorney Ken Chadwell and councilman Pete Souza.

Councilman Kerley asked to have the item put on the agenda. Councilman Souza and attorney Chadwell had a few strong words during the meeting that have previously been reported but the exchange in question followed the adjournment of the council's meeting as Mr. Souza stopped Mr. Chadwell behind the council desk.

Kerley began by saying he wanted Mr. Chadwell to “apologize for the way he addressed him up here behind the councilman's bench.”

Mr. Chadwell spoke to the council, thanking them for the chance to speak and address Mr. Kerley's concerns. Chadwell said that only he and councilman Souza were the only participants in the exchange.

Chadwell continued, “Immediately following the meeting councilman Souza asked me if either I or my family take vacations with Millard Oakley. Your questions, councilman Souza, caught me off guard and I took it personally. I couldn't figure out why anyone would be prying into my personal life and taking it personally was my mistake.”

“What this question has to do with city business is unknown to me,” continued Chadwell, “but I will try and answer your question on the record.”

Chadwell explained that Mr. Oakley was a client and a very good friend and most times they traveled together there was a business aspect to it. Chadwell stressed that he had never traveled with Oakley in his capacity as city attorney, but the location of the trips and the business conducted are privileged.

“The subject matter of our trips has nothing to do with city business past or present,” explained Chadwell. “There is no aspect of the relationship between Mr. Oakley and me either individually or in my capacity as city attorney to gives rise to a conflict under the supreme court rules of the state of Tennessee or the code of ethics of the city of Crossville with regard to any city business, including any business related to Interchange Park.”

Chadwell added that he did not negotiate the terms of the Interchange Park deal, he only documented the deal negotiated by others pending council approval.

Chadwell said that the remainder of councilman Souza and Chadwell's conversation was attorney client privilege. “The city attorney has never threatened to sue councilman Souza or any other councilman. The city attorney is trying to keep the city from being sued and to prevent council members from being sued,” added Chadwell.

“I don't recall every word of our conversation, but to the extent that I was disrespectful or that a misunderstanding ensued, I take responsibility for that Mr. Souza.” Chadwell concluded, “I don't want to do anything that would bring a black mark on this city, or hurt its reputation.

The only comment following Chadwell's statement was from Mr. Souza who said, “I think it's time for us to move on and forget this incident.”

Chadwell responded, “I'm pleased to move on.”

Also on the called meeting agenda, Councilman Wyatt brought up the previously discussed issue of a city charter review committee and said there were several things that needed review in looking at possible changes. Wyatt said he felt it should be handled by three independent people along with help from the city clerk and city attorney. Originally three councilmen planned to meet on the matter but no meeting was ever held.

Wyatt made a motion that the city manager find three people willing to sit on the committee and look at it to make some recommendations before sending to back to the council. Wyatt's motion was approved unanimously by the council.

The council also approved the second reading of the budget amendment ordinance on the city hall renovations. The motion was approved unanimously.