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Coffee County Considering Appealing Court Ruling

Coffee County plans to appeal a district court ruling in a lawsuit that, if settled now, could cost county taxpayers nearly $600,000.
Of that amount, $490,000 would be paid to plaintiff and former county employee Melinda Keeling, with $79,000 in attorney fees going to Jerry Gonzalez, who represents Keeling.
Keeling, an employee of the Coffee County Department of Codes and Safety from 2006 to 2010, filed a claim under the Tennessee Public Employee Political Freedom Act (PEPFA) following her dismissal.
Keeling was fired from the county’s codes department on May 27, 2010. At that time, Glenn Darden was the department director and David Pennington served as a county mayor.
Darden retired in September 2015, and Pennington didn’t seek re-election after his most recent term ended in 2014.
Keeling claims she was disciplined and ultimately fired because she brought up her concerns about Darden being unavailable to answer questions and address concerns brought by the public.
A jury found in favor of Keeling on Jan. 12, 2017, and awarded her damages in the amount of $10,000. Those damages, according to state law, were tripled to $30,000.
An order by the Circuit Court of Coffee County, filed on May 1, states that the plaintiff is entitled to back-pay damages and front-pay damages. The order also states that back- and front-pay damages should be tripled, as well.
The total amount the court ordered to be paid to Keeling by the county is about $490,000.
On Aug. 25, the court also ruled the amount the county pay her lawyer, Jerry Gonzalez would be $79,000 for attorney fees.
According to County Attorney Bob Huskey, Keeling was laid off because there was not enough work to justify keeping her position.
(Story courtesy of the Tullahoma News)