Dresden Aldermen, Mayor Settle Suit
BY SABRINA BATES
DRESDEN (July 13) – A civil lawsuit filed by Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn against his six board members was settled within five days when the aldermen collectively opted for representation by Dresden attorney Roy Herron.
According to a press release issued by Herron’s office Wednesday, July 13, board members met with Washburn and Herron that morning and agreed to a settlement, which was signed by Weakley County Chancery Court Judge Mike Maloan and filed in the Weakley County Courthouse by noon.
Washburn filed a civil suit naming Gwin Anderson, Lyndal Dilday, Ralph Cobb, Sandra Klutts, Willie Parker and Kenneth Moore on Friday, July 8 with claims the board members violated the state’s Open Meetings Act, his First Amendment rights and the City of Dresden’s Social Media Policy. The claims came nearly one month after five board members – Anderson, Dilday, Cobb, Klutts and Parker – voted in favor of a resolution censuring Washburn and asked him to resign from his position during the June 6, 2022, city board meeting.
The resolution noted Washburn put the city at risk for liability when properties on the south side of the court square were demolished without written consent of the owners and indebted the city to more than $82,000 for architectural drawings for a municipal complex on those lots not owned by the city. The resolution also asked Washburn to stop posting city business, particularly concerning tornado updates, on his personal news page on Facebook as all citizens were not able to view the information due to the mayor “blocking” individuals from the page. This censuring was noted in the civil suit as a violation of First Amendment rights, according to Washburn’s civil suit.
The resolution stated Washburn acted unprofessionally as Administrator of the City of Dresden’s Facebook page by blocking citizens, deleting comments and name-calling in the forum. Those actions led the board to vote to delete the city’s Facebook page, on city attorney Beau Pemberton’s recommendation, instead of removing the mayor as administrator. In the complaint filed by Washburn against the aldermen, the mayor requested his rights of office be restored as an administrator for the City’s Facebook page.
Moore was the sole alderman to vote against the resolution presented by Klutts during the city’s June 6, 2022, board meeting. Although Moore was named in the lawsuit after voting against the resolution, Washburn noted in the complaint he thought Moore had knowledge of board members’ planned actions.
Due to a lack of discussion after the resolution to censure Washburn and ask for his resignation during the June board meeting, Washburn claimed in his suit board members had discussed prior to the meeting and behind closed doors, in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
On Wednesday, an Agreed Order of Dismissal with Prejudice was signed by Washburn and the six aldermen. The agreement is as follows:
All parties agree to comply with the Tennessee Open Meetings Act;
All parties agree to comply with the City of Dresden’s Social Media Policy;
All parties agree to rescind the Resolution of Censure recently approved by the Board of Aldermen;
All parties agree to immediately dismiss this lawsuit with prejudice.
Costs associated with the filing of the complaint were incurred by the plaintiff, Washburn. The Dresden Mayor represented himself in the suit.
“I did public service for 26 years, but you couldn’t pay me $100,000 to go through what these public officials have endured since the tornado. For seven months, they have all worked days and many nights to serve Dresden’s citizens. I am grateful they once again have put their citizens first by quickly resolving this lawsuit,” the press release issued by Herron’s office noted.