By Richard Rourk
In the latest battle over the ambulance service in the county, Unicoi County Attorney Doug Shults filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit recently filed by John Day against Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely and the Unicoi County Commission on grounds that Day lacks standing to sue.
According to Shults’ motion, which was filed on Feb. 21, the lawsuit should be dismissed due to failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Shults cites that the plaintiff is seeking declaratory relief instead of a writ of certiorari. Declaratory relief is a judgment of the court which determines the rights of parties without ordering anything be done or awarding damages.
The Erwin Record previously reported that Day is not seeking any damages from the lawsuit.
“The lawsuit is not punitive toward the mayor and commissioners or seeks any damages from them,” Day previously said. “It simply is a mechanism that will allow the commissioners to rebid the ambulance service contract in a manner that meets state law and without fear of a lawsuit by MedicOne.”
Shults’ motion to dismiss also states that Day’s lawsuit fails to include a dispensable party. Shults proposes that if the court goes forward with the lawsuit that Day would have to join MedicOne as a dispensable party. Currently, Day’s lawsuit aims to retract a possible contract between Unicoi County and MedicOne. Shults is claiming that a scenario may arise where Unicoi County could be bound by contract to MedicOne yet could also face being required to seek ambulance services from a provider other than MedicOne. According to Shults’ motion for dismissal, the lawsuit exposes the county to the possibility of being contractually tied to more than one ambulance service.
Day, a former Unicoi County mayoral candidate and leader of a group of citizens who have expressed concerns over the process that led to MedicOne receiving the contract to provide ambulance services to the county from April 2019-2023, is representing himself in the suit. He filed an amended complaint with the Chancery Court for State of Tennessee First Judicial District, Unicoi County on Feb. 4.
The new contract with Medic -One includes a $225,000 annual subsidy to be paid by the county to the company, which has provided ambulance services in Unicoi County for the past eight years. The county’s previous contract with MedicOne, which is set to expire when the new one begins, included an annual subsidy of $132,000.
The Unicoi County Commission voted to approve the bid and contract during its Dec. 17, 2018, meeting on a 6-2 vote. County Commissioner and Ambulance Committee Chairman John Mosley made the motion to approve the contract with MedicOne and Commissioner Jamie Harris seconded the motion. Joining commissioners Jamie Harris and Mosley in voting to approve a new contract with MedicOne were commissioners Glenn White, Todd Wilcox, Stephen Hendrix and Matthew Rice. Commissioner Marie Rice and Commissioner Jason Harris voted no on the contract. Commission Chairman Loren Thomas, whose wife Cathy Thomas is an employee of MedicOne, abstained from voting.
In the weeks that followed the December approval of the contract, Day encouraged the Unicoi County Commission to reconsider the decision, citing issues with the bidding process and contract status.
The MedicOne contract came before the commission again on Jan. 28. During that meeting, Wilcox made a motion for the panel to reconsider awarding the contract to MedicOne and put the contract out for bid again. That motion, however, failed on a 5-3 vote as only Wilcox, Jason Harris and Marie Rice voted in favor. White, Matthew Rice, Mosley, Jamie Harris and Stephen Hendrix voted against Wilcox’s motion. Thomas again abstained.
Also during that meeting, White expressed concern over a possible lawsuit MedicOne could file against the county for breach of contract that could cost $900,000.
The case will be heard in Unicoi County Chancery Court on Friday, March 15, at 9 a.m. Hearing the case will be the Honorable Judge John C. Rambo.