Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster was given the authority to resolve a lawsuit settlement between the county and Mike Blackwood, former E-911 dispatch director.

The Cumberland County Commission met for a closed session with county attorney Philip Burnett last week prior to the county commission meeting. The closed session started at 5 p.m. and lasted nearly an hour.

When the county commission meeting began Rebecca Stone, 3rd District commissioner, moved to amend the agenda to add a motion authorizing Foster to negotiate for the county. Both the agenda amendment and the motion were unanimously approved.

Blackwood has filed the federal lawsuit alleging the city and county and Central Communications Committee violated his constitutional rights and unlawfully terminated his employment in August 2018.

The suit specifically names former Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr., Cumberland County Central Communications Committee (CCC), Cumberland County 911 Emergency Communications District and the city of Crossville. 

After the meeting Burnett said, “A settlement could be reached but the details may not be released.” 

Burnett did acknowledge the county commission would have to approve funds for a settlement.

Burnett said the parties had failed to reach a settlement during recent mediation attempts.

Blackwood seeks reinstatement to his position, back pay and damages for lost benefits, and compensatory damages for “embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and anxiety, inconvenience, damage to reputation, and loss of enjoyment of life,” as well as punitive damages and litigation expenses and attorney fees.

Blackwood was hired as dispatch director December 2015, and was fired from the position August 2017, following a unanimous vote of the CCC.

Blackwood claimed he was not provided a written notice of the charges against him, preventing him from responding or rebutting the charges, and the county failed to follow its own policy and customs in disciplinary action against him. 

He said the county did not pay him for his last day of work or for compensation time he believed he was owed. He also said the county reported inaccurate information to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System regarding his length of service, adversely affecting his retirement benefits, and the “false allegations against him” led to the loss of his government security clearance and other job opportunities. 

The lawsuit was also a motivator for the county, city and E-911 emergency communications district to renegotiate the agreement for the operation and control of the E-911 dispatch department.

A new agreement went into effect July 1 and the entire dispatch department is now under the E-911 emergency communications district supervisor with the county and city paying the E-911 district a share of the cost.

The CCC was disbanded at the end of June.

Gary Nelson may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com

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