Two of planner's claims against Carter Co. mayor dismissed

John Thompson • Nov 6, 2012 at 9:44 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Claims against Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey in a $600,000 lawsuit have been dismissed.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Seeley Jr. announced his decision in court Friday. The lawsuit was filed earlier in the year by Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler, accusing the mayor of malicious prosecution and abuse of process.

Seeley dismissed both of those claims, but he said a claim of defamation (libel or slander) remains outstanding at this time.

Schuettler filed the lawsuit earlier this year against Humphrey and against Carter County. He later filed an amended motion that requested the county be dropped as a defendant because state tort reform law made the county immune from such a lawsuit.

The lawsuit stems from criminal charges that had been brought against Schuettler in 2011, alleging he had been on the payroll clock when phone records showed he was in North Carolina.

Schuettler claimed the phone records for calls made in North Carolina were merely charges from calls he had made from the mountainous eastern section of Carter County while he was on the job. He said the nearest cell phone towers were in North Carolina.

The criminal charges were brought by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and were dismissed in Criminal Court last year.

Following the dismissal, Schuettler filed the lawsuit, alleging Humphrey had failed to follow proper procedures, as set forth in the county’s rules. He also claimed Humprhey had a “vendetta” against him and was attempting to use his position as mayor to terminate Schuettler’s employment with the county.

Schuettler said in his suit that Humphrey gave information to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and state comptroller’s office, which led to the criminal charges against him.

Seeley said Humphrey brought the complaint to the TBI and it was the state agency that investigated the matter and brought the criminal charges. “Humphrey did not bring the charges against Mr. Schuettler. Therefore, plaintiff’s claim for malicious prosecution against Humphrey must be dismissed.”

Seeley said abuse of process is for actions after the charges have been issued. He said there were no allegations of improper process after the charges had been issued, so the abuse of process claim must be dismissed.

Seeley concluded by saying that Schuettler had presented no specific statements of Humphrey’s alleged defamation and Humphrey had not addressed the libel or slander claims in his motion to dismiss, so the court left that matter outstanding at this time.

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