Town leaders seek court order to force mayor to ‘uphold official duties’

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By Beth Braden

JELLICO—Aldermen are asking town attorney Terry Basista to seek a court order calling for Mayor Les Stiers to abide by his oath to execute council decisions.
During a  meeting last month, Alderman Alvin Evans asked Basista if a letter he drafted was legal.
The letter, included in the board member’s packets, asked Basista to file an injunction on Stiers to require him to abide by his oath and release important information to the board. The letter cited the mayor’s alleged failure to inform the board when the town lost its health, liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
“We do not desire to take responsibility as a board for his wrong doings [sic],” the letter stated. “Especially when we are unaware of what is going on behind his closed doors.”
Spaces were provided for each of the board members to sign their names. Vice Mayor Venita “Cissco” Johnson’s name, as well as Darrell Byrge’s name, was misspelled.
Basista called the request “dicey.”
“I actually don’t work for the mayor,” Basista said. “I work for the city of Jellico Board of Mayor and Aldermen. I take my orders from this body as an entity.”
Basista did call the mayor’s decision to disregard a council vote inappropriate.
The request came after Stiers reportedly ignored a board vote regarding fire dispatch.
“My view is that would be inappropriate. That was passed by the council and that’s what should be done,” Basista said. “Do I have the authority to make the mayor do anything? I guess not without taking some action in court and I’m not certain there’s an actual cause of action at this point.”
Stiers said he received a message from the comptroller regarding the board’s decision.
“That’s the reason I was called on the carpet by the comptroller because of the action taken by this council while I was on vacation,” Stiers said.
He reportedly received a call about the decision because it added $41,000 in expenditures without compensating on the revenue side.
Alderwoman Pam Carbaugh said the comptroller knew of the decision before Stiers did.
“I’d like to say the comptroller was called and MTAS (municipal technical advisory service) was called before we made our decision,” she said.  
While Basista has declined to file an injunction, the board could retain another attorney to do it for them.
Injunctions can be granted when one person’s actions will infringe on the rights of another person, as well as cause another to suffer immediate and irreparable damage. The injunction keeps the adverse party from acting until the courts can look further into the matter.
The mayor said he was not surprised to hear the board wants to file an injunction.
“I’m not surprised of anything in Jellico to this point,” he said.