Denton sues; county selects Shofner for defense attorney

Friday, April 30, 2010

A member of the Marshall County School Board has sued the County Commission for nearly $2,340, claiming he's not been paid all he's due for mowing grass at county buildings.

Curt Denton, 1559 Spring Place Road, proprietor of Denton Lawn Care, filed the civil complaint in Marshall County General Sessions Court on March 30. On Monday night, county commissioners voted to have County Attorney Ginger Shofner serve as defense attorney in the case.

Denton Lawn Care was hired last year by the county on a condition that he obtain workers compensation insurance. He applied, but did not obtain it for technical reasons involving documentation issues raised by the underwriter. As a result, Denton Lawn Care is no longer cutting county grass.

"It's pretty cut and dried," Denton said of the case when asked to name his attorney. "I don't think I need an attorney."

His complaint is simple.

"I feel there's some money that's still owed to me and I'd like to be paid," Denton said.

Denton's bid to mow the Courthouse lawn, and grass at other buildings such as the Hardison Annex on College Street, was $7,600 per year, for three years. It was to be paid in equal monthly installments according to reports based on statements at county meetings.

That could be interpreted two ways: His way, and the county's.

"The thing everybody is forgetting is that we won the bid to cut the county's lawn on a monthly fee basis, and growing season is for eight months, but the county wanted to pay me monthly over a 12 month period, so you have to be short-paid during the growing season to receive a check for the other four months," Denton said.

"They didn't pay me for all of the four months of the growing season," he said. "I mowed for four months. That's half a growing season. I received a check for December. The growing season stopped in November."

Denton's explanation indicates he was shorted $316.67 per month because he claims he was to be paid one eighth of the total per month, or $950, instead of one twelfth per month, or $633.33.

The case is scheduled for May 28, a Friday. Lincoln County General Sessions Court Judge Andy Myrick will preside instead of Marshall County Sessions Court Judge Steve Bowden. He recused himself because the county is the defendant. County Budget Director Freda Terry was served court papers in the case.

"They've spent more on lawyer fees than what they owe me," Denton said.

A check with the budget office shows that the county has paid Shofner $803 for research and work related to lawn care contract issues before Denton filed suit. No bill has been received from Shofner for the private attorney-client meeting that preceded Monday night's commission meetings. It's unclear whether that would be a separate charge since she was in town for the commissioners' monthly meting.

As for two previous hearing dates and the pending trial date, Denton said Shofner "is the one who postponed so she could be officially hired for it."

Denton wants to be compensated for a total of $2,339.20 plus $172.50 in court costs.