Chattanooga contests paying $74,427 in legal fees after losing Sunshine Law case

The city of Chattanooga is contesting legal fees awarded to a citizen who sued and won over a violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, Chattanoogan.com reported Sunday.

Helen Burns Sharp, who sued the city's Industrial Development Board over a Sunshine Law violation and won. She also got her legal fees awarded.

Helen Burns Sharp, who sued the city’s Industrial Development Board over a Sunshine Law violation and won. She also got her legal fees awarded.

Helen Burns Sharp brought the lawsuit after the city’s Industrial Development Board awarded a tax-increment financing deal worth $9 million to a private developer building a golf course community one on of the moutains surrounding the city.

A judge agreed with her that the IDB made the decision in secret in violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, also called the Sunshine Law, without holding a public meeting to discuss and vote on a key issue in the award of the TIF.

In September, Chancellor Pamela Fleenor ruled that Sharp had a right to recover her legal fees. Chattanoogan.com reports that a recent court filing puts those fees to Sharp’s attorney John Konvalinka at $74,427.

This is the second time this year that the city of Chattanooga has been ordered to pay attorney fees after violating the state’s open government laws. Earlier this year, the city of Chattanooga was ordered to pay citizen Rebecca Little’s legal fees of $71,343 after she showed that the city violated the Tennessee Public Records Act when she sought sewer and other records. It contested those fees as well, and appealed to the Court of Appeals, who ruled in Little’s favor.

Meanwhile, Chattanoogan.com reports that the city’s IDB is promising more transparency, and gave Ms. Sharp two minutes to speak at a recent meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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