Attorney hired to represent CCT in lawsuit

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Star Photo/Rebekah Price Richard Tester address the Board about economic development plans and the hope to have the help of Jon Hartman during this process.

Star Photo/Rebekah Price Richard Tester address the Board about economic development plans and the hope to have the help of Jon Hartman during this process.

In a special called meeting at the Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, the Carter County Tomorrow Executive Board voted to move $40,000 from the Workforce Development Complex Account to the Attorney Charleton Devault trust account. Devault will represent Carter County Tomorrow against a lawsuit filed by Carter County Aug. 18 regarding legalities of contracts and lease agreements.
“I’ve represented Elizabethon for years in litigation and in municipal matters,” Devault said. “I first started over here in the early ’90s with some annexation cases for Elizabethton, and it’s always been a pleasure. I will try to help CCT to the best of my ability.”
Board Member Sam Laporte acknowledged that there are attorneys from the area who are just as competent, but said, “We thought it would be better to look outside the community and get an experienced individual without perhaps any difficulties from inside the county.”
Laporte continued saying that Devault is well-versed in municipal, state and federal litigation and that he highly recommended Devault as “a person qualified and competent to handle this matter as well as being of high moral authority.”
CCT must respond to the suit within 30 days of its issuance. Unused monies transferred to Devaults trust account will be returned to the WDC account.
The disagreement between the county and the CCT stems from a dispute about whether the assets of the Private Industry Council, including the WDC, belong to the CCT or to the county.
According to Board Member Richard Tester, the county leased the land to the PIC which is doing business as the WDC, and the CCT is the mother company controlling the WDC.
“In 2012, we, the Private Industry Council specifically, run by Carter County Tomorrow, leased for, I think, 25 years from the county with County Commission approval, and the mayor signed,” he said. Just a few years later, the mayor thinks the PIC is null and void and that those building should be returned back to the county, he said.
“When we joined the partnership with PIC, in their minds, with the sublease agreement, CCT was to assume all debts, which isn’t correct because they have their own AIN number and we have ours, and we left the WDC as its own entity,” WDC Director Kim Eggers said.
Five businesses currently rent space from the WDC on property owned by the county. Eggers, Ron Kirby and Roy Silvers maintain the complex from tenant and structural issues to overseeing finance.
“We are such an asset to this operation,” she said. “We sink every bit of money back into the buildings…There are only three of us who maintain 100,000 square feet of property sitting on 23 acres of well-groomed property.”
She said the way that they manage everything saves money and that they are very effective, handling issues immediately and insuring that each tenant’s needs are met.
Eggers said the CCT rents the WDC for $41,000 per year. Through an agreement with the county, the WDC just installed a new roof on the campus of Northeast State Community College, one of the five tenants. The project totalled $154,000 and has been paid down to a debt of $117,762.83, which is owed to Citizens Bank. The CCT Board approved of the renovation, and the county commission agreed to pardon rent for four years in exchange for the improvement of county-owned WDC.
Eggers said this issue could have been resolved easily and that a lawsuit is unnecessarily wasting time and money.
“Lawyers are going to get rich off of this and then we’re not going to have money to put a roof on Building One,” she said.
The board proposed working with Jon Hartman from the City of Elizabethton to work with business recruitment and retention and on planning regional efforts. Currently, in the absence of former Director of Carter County Tomorrow Tom Anderson, a transition team has been appointed to lead the CCT including Richard Tester, Sam Laporte and Dale Fair. With board approval they will seek the insights of Hartman to continue to develop the economy.
“We thought it would be a good fit with his knowledge base,” Tester said.

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