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City of Lebanon ex rel. Craighead v. Dodson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 30, 2018

CITY OF LEBANON EX REL. PHILIP CRAIGHEAD
v.
DEREK M. DODSON

          April 13, 2017 Session

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Wilson County No. 2016-CV-74 C. K. Smith, Chancellor

         This appeal concerns the Tennessee Violence in the Workplace Act. After a citizen was disruptive at several city council meetings, the city filed a petition under the Act, seeking to enjoin the citizen from attending city council meetings and from contacting city officials. The trial court granted an ex parte temporary restraining order and, following an evidentiary hearing, granted an injunction for three years. On its own motion, the court also issued a three-year injunction "separate and apart" from the Act. Because the city failed to meet its burden of proof under the Act and there was no other basis on which to grant injunctive relief, we reverse.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed and Case Remanded

          Luke A. Evans and Mary R. Hutto, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Derek M. Dodson.

          Andy Wright, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Lebanon.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL MCBRAYER, JUDGE.

         I.

         Under the City of Lebanon's charter, the mayor presides over all meetings of the city council. 1929 Tenn. Priv. Acts 2007, 2027. The meetings of the council, which are required to occur at least once each month, follow an agenda. Id. at 2026. The agendas, except when the council is meeting in special session, include an item called "Communication from Citizens." During this period, citizens may address the council and make comments.

         One such citizen, Derek Dodson, regularly attended the council meetings. And he frequently availed himself of the opportunity to make comments. For the most part, Mr. Dodson would address the council and sit down. But in more recent years, Mr. Dodson began accusing individuals of corruption and dishonesty. At the March 3, 2015 city council meeting, after he was allowed to speak for a while, the then mayor, Philip Craighead, requested that Mr. Dodson conclude his comments and sit down. Still Mr. Dodson persisted.

         As captured by the minutes of the meeting, Mayor Craighead and Mr. Dodson engaged in the following colloquy:

Mayor: I am sorry, but you are kind of like a broken record from the week before. So, please make your comments and then sit down.
Mr. Dodson: Oh, I'm not a broken record. I've got a lot of interesting information here, that you don't want exposed and it's about to get exposed right now. So, when the Bible Park arrived in town, it arrived in September of 2008 and it was here until March of 2009. You became Mayor in December of 2008. The Bible Park came into town in September as Hard Rock Park was going bankrupt. You supported that. They came into town with an economic impact study, not a feasibility study, but a sales pitch economic impact study which they provide the critical numbers for -
Mayor: Your three minutes are up.[1]
Mr. Dodson: They committed the same fraud at the Hard Rock Park.
Mayor: Your three minutes are up.
Mr. Dodson: Let me explain a concept for you Mayor Craighead -
Mayor: I'm sorry but your three minutes are up. Your three minutes are up, sir.
Mr. Dodson: Let me explain a concept for you. If you and I are in a bank, and it's getting robbed, and you are robbing a bank, all rules are off. I'm exposing your corruption, and the best you can do is have the police come and try to defend you from ...

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