Anderson County Democratic Party to elect new leaders at convention

The Anderson County Democratic Party will hold a Biennial Reorganization Convention to elect new leaders on Saturday, August 21.

The meeting will take place at the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church at 809 Oak Ridge Turnpike in Oak Ridge, a press release said. Doors open for registration at 1 p.m. The convention will start promptly at 2 p.m.

Local Democrats will elect a chair, vice chairs, secretary, treasurer, and executive committee members from all areas of the county for a two-year term, the press release said.

“All Democrats who are residents of and who are registered voters of Anderson County are urged to attend to discuss the party’s agenda and events for 2021-2022,” the press release said. [Read more…]

Anderson County Democrats have picnic Saturday

Planning the picnic at the Pavilion are, from left, Ann Miller, Paula Daniel, Abbie Moore, Liz Ibbotson, Ann Mostoller, and Laura Carrington. (Submitted photo)

Anderson County Democrats will host a picnic from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, July 17, at the Pavilion at the Oak Ridge Marina on Melton Lake Drive.

Hot dogs, toppings, side dishes, and cold drinks will be provided at the picnic, sponsored by the Anderson County Democratic Women’s Club and the Anderson County Democratic Party, a press release said. They request that those attending don’t bring food to share, although they may bring food for themselves. [Read more…]

Lewis Ridenour running for Anderson County Circuit Court clerk

Lewis Ridenour

Lewis Ridenour, an Oak Ridge police officer, is running for Anderson County Circuit Court clerk.

Ridenour is a former chief deputy of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department. He is an Anderson County native who lives in Andersonville with his wife of 25 years, Pam, a press release said.

In the press release, Ridenour said he pledged to bring integrity, public service experience, sound judgement, and knowledge to the office.

Ridenour has served with the Oak Ridge Police Department since 2008, the press release said. His current assignment for the past seven years has been as liaison to the U.S. Department of Energy.

[Read more…]

For members: Witnesses testify in sexual harassment lawsuit filed against county

The Joel W. Solomon Federal Building United States Courthouse is pictured above on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

CHATTANOOGA—Four women who testified during a civil sexual harassment trial in federal court last week said their former boss, a former Anderson County elected official, caressed them around the waist, rubbed them, sent graphic messages about oral sex, and asked them to have sex with him and his wife, among other allegations of inappropriate behavior. The experiences have left them traumatized, the women said, unable to eat or sleep, suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, and in one case, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Two of the women have filed lawsuits in federal court over the alleged harassment by former Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones, who served one term from 2014 to 2018. A trial was held for one of the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga last week. That lawsuit was filed in March 2018 by former employee Gail Harness, who started working for Jones as a college intern in 2016. The lawsuit had alleged that Harness had endured a hostile work environment in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. 

On Thursday, a seven-person federal jury found that Harness had been sexually harassed while working for Jones, but the jury found that the county was not liable. No damages were awarded.

Jones was originally a defendant in the lawsuit, but he was dismissed in June 2019, leaving Anderson County as the sole defendant. Jones was not the employer, so Harness could not sue him, Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said in court Wednesday. 

Jones had denied the allegations of sexual harassment, and he filed counterclaims in response to both lawsuits, the one filed by Harness and a second filed by Amy Ogle. In response to the Harness lawsuit, Jones had alleged that he had been defamed and his privacy invaded. But that was before before a jury found that Harness had been sexually harassed. Responding to the Ogle lawsuit, Jones has asked for at least $15,000 for legal services and fees.

The trial of the Harness lawsuit left unanswered, at least for now, a question about what can be done when an elected official violates constitutional rights. The county’s human resources director said a change in law might be required. 

The four-day trial included disagreements between the testimony of former Anderson County Human Resources Director Russell Bearden and Mayor Terry Frank. The two disagreed about when the mayor knew about allegations of sexual harassment by Jones. They disagreed about whether the mayor retaliated and whether she protected Jones over the women he allegedly harassed. And they disagreed about whether she told the former human resources director to not take a complaint to the county law director because that would “cause a political storm.” 

The trial, which was Monday to Thursday, had nine witnesses. They included Harness, the former employee who filed the $7.5 million lawsuit against Anderson County in 2018; her psychologist, who testified that Harness had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; three other alleged victims of Jones; the current human resources director, Kimberly Jeffers-Whitaker; a deposition of the county law director, Jay Yeager; Frank; and Bearden. 

Attorneys for Harness said the litigation will continue, and they said during the trial that it could be appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Harness’ attorneys disagreed with the jury instructions. Among the questions raised by the judge during the trial was whether Jones made policy for Anderson County and whether he is a county official or state official. The defense, Anderson County, argued that the office of circuit court clerk is created by the state constitution, while Harness’ attorneys said the county had delegated authority to Jones and he supervised county employees.

The allegations against Jones became public in February 2018. The Anderson County Commission censured Jones that same month. Jones ran for re-election despite the allegations, although he lost the May 2018 Republican Party primary to the current clerk, Rex Lynch. However, Jones remains involved in local politics; he is currently vice treasurer of the Anderson County Republican Party. Jones declined to comment about the lawsuit or trial on Thursday. 

The presentation of the evidence during the civil trial last week lasted three days, Monday to Wednesday. The jury deliberated Thursday. Here we have included a chronological summary of the evidence presented to the jury. It includes information about the allegations of sexual harassment, the county’s response, and Jones’ response. We have also summarized discussions between the attorneys and Collier, the judge, and included more information about the jury verdict.

The rest of this story is available if you are a member: a subscriber, advertiser, or contributor to Oak Ridge Today.

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The Joel W. Solomon Federal Building United States Courthouse is pictured above on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

CHATTANOOGA—Four women who testified during a civil sexual harassment trial in federal court last week said their former boss, a former Anderson County elected official, caressed them around the waist, rubbed them, sent graphic messages about oral sex, and asked them to have sex with him and his wife, among other allegations of inappropriate behavior. The experiences have left them traumatized, the women said, unable to eat or sleep, suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, and in one case, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Two of the women have filed lawsuits in federal court over the alleged harassment by former Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones, who served one term from 2014 to 2018. A trial was held for one of the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga last week. That lawsuit was filed in March 2018 by former employee Gail Harness, who started working for Jones as a college intern in 2016. The lawsuit alleged that Harness had endured a hostile work environment in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

The Joel W. Solomon Federal Building United States Courthouse is pictured above on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

CHATTANOOGA—Four women who testified during a civil sexual harassment trial in federal court last week said their former boss, a former Anderson County elected official, caressed them around the waist, rubbed them, sent graphic messages about oral sex, and asked them to have sex with him and his wife, among other allegations of inappropriate behavior. The experiences have left them traumatized, the women said, unable to eat or sleep, suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, and in one case, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Two of the women have filed lawsuits in federal court over the alleged harassment by former Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones, who served one term from 2014 to 2018. A trial was held for one of the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga last week. That lawsuit was filed in March 2018 by former employee Gail Harness, who started working for Jones as a college intern in 2016. The lawsuit had alleged that Harness had endured a hostile work environment in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. 

On Thursday, a seven-person federal jury found that Harness had been sexually harassed while working for Jones, but the jury found that the county was not liable. No damages were awarded.

Jones was originally a defendant in the lawsuit, but he was dismissed in June 2019, leaving Anderson County as the sole defendant. Jones was not the employer, so Harness could not sue him, Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said in court Wednesday. 

Jones had denied the allegations of sexual harassment, and he filed counterclaims in response to both lawsuits, the one filed by Harness and a second filed by Amy Ogle. In response to the Harness lawsuit, Jones had alleged that he had been defamed and his privacy invaded. But that was before before a jury found that Harness had been sexually harassed. Responding to the Ogle lawsuit, Jones has asked for at least $15,000 for legal services and fees.

The trial of the Harness lawsuit left unanswered, at least for now, a question about what can be done when an elected official violates constitutional rights. The county’s human resources director said a change in law might be required. 

The four-day trial included disagreements between the testimony of former Anderson County Human Resources Director Russell Bearden and Mayor Terry Frank. The two disagreed about when the mayor knew about allegations of sexual harassment by Jones. They disagreed about whether the mayor retaliated and whether she protected Jones over the women he allegedly harassed. And they disagreed about whether she told the former human resources director to not take a complaint to the county law director because that would “cause a political storm.” 

The trial, which was Monday to Thursday, had nine witnesses. They included Harness, the former employee who filed the $7.5 million lawsuit against Anderson County in 2018; her psychologist, who testified that Harness had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; three other alleged victims of Jones; the current human resources director, Kimberly Jeffers-Whitaker; a deposition of the county law director, Jay Yeager; Frank; and Bearden. 

Attorneys for Harness said the litigation will continue, and they said during the trial that it could be appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Harness’ attorneys disagreed with the jury instructions. Among the questions raised by the judge during the trial was whether Jones made policy for Anderson County and whether he is a county official or state official. The defense, Anderson County, argued that the office of circuit court clerk is created by the state constitution, while Harness’ attorneys said the county had delegated authority to Jones and he supervised county employees.

The allegations against Jones became public in February 2018. The Anderson County Commission censured Jones that same month. Jones ran for re-election despite the allegations, although he lost the May 2018 Republican Party primary to the current clerk, Rex Lynch. However, Jones remains involved in local politics; he is currently vice treasurer of the Anderson County Republican Party. Jones declined to comment about the lawsuit or trial on Thursday. 

The presentation of the evidence during the civil trial last week lasted three days, Monday to Wednesday. The jury deliberated Thursday. Here we have included a chronological summary of the evidence presented to the jury. It includes information about the allegations of sexual harassment, the county’s response, and Jones’ response. We have also summarized discussions between the attorneys and Collier, the judge, and included more information about the jury verdict.

The rest of this story is available if you are a member: a subscriber, advertiser, or contributor to Oak Ridge Today.

Already a member? Great! Thank you! Sign in here.

Not a member? No problem! Subscribe here:

Basic

Pro

Temporary

If you prefer to send a check, you may do so by mailing one to:

Oak Ridge Today
P.O. Box 6064
Oak Ridge, TN 37831

We also have advanced subscription options. You can see them here.

We also accept donations. You can donate here. A donation of $50 or more will make you eligible for a subscription.

Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today. We appreciate your support!