Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is now suing all thirteen Shelby County Commissioners to stop the opioid abuse lawsuit they filed earlier this month.
But on Monday, the Shelby County Commission hit back, and voted “to direct Mayor Mark Luttrell to drop a lawsuit against its chairwoman over who controls an opioid lawsuit against Big Pharma,” the Commercial Appeal reported.
“It’s a blatant bully tactic to try to scare commissioners into believing that they don’t have the right to vote and act as a check and balance on the executive branch,” Shelby County Commission Chairwoman Heidi Shafer told The Tennesssee Star in an exclusive interview late Monday.
“I was proud of the commission for standing up to such bullying tactics,” Shafer told The Star.
“The commission voted 8-5 to approve the resolution, which was added on to the agenda an hour into Monday’s meeting. The resolution also directs the administration not to file any lawsuits without prior approval from a majority of the commissioners,” as the Commercial Appeal reported, adding:
Luttrell’s administration sued chairwoman Heidi Shafer and the commission on Nov. 6 for her decision to hire law firm New York-based Napoli Shkolnik, known for winning a huge class-action settlement for sick Ground Zero workers, to sue pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. The administration is preparing a separate lawsuit.
Joining Shafer in voting for the resolution were Commissioners Reginald Milton, Melvin Burgess, Van Turner, Terry Roland, Willie Brooks, Eddie Jones and Justin Ford. Voting no were George Chism, Steve Basar, Walter Bailey Jr., Mark Billingsley and David Reaves.
Luttrell claims that only the county mayor has the authority to hire legal counsel to sue on behalf of the county, but the majority of the Shelby County Commission, and chairwoman Heidi Shafer, disagree.
Mayor Luttrell has turned the issue into a personal battle with Shafer.
While he is suing the other twelve Shelby County Commissioners in their official capacities, and not personally, Luttrell has used his authority as Shelby County mayor to sue Shafer personally.
“Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. has amended a complaint filed last week in Chancery Court that challenges a lawsuit brought by the Shelby County Commission against pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and others allegedly contributing to the opioid epidemic in Shelby County,” the Shelby County Mayor’s office said in a statement released on Monday, adding:
The suit names commissioners in their official capacity, not personally except for Chairwoman Heidi Shafer.
“At issue is one of separation of powers and taking actions inconsistent with the county’s charter and ordinances. The Shelby County Charter provides that the Mayor is the sole contracting authority, which promotes efficiency and avoids confusion,” said Mayor Luttrell.
The amendment is a result of the action taken by the Shelby County Commission at a specially called meeting on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 ratifying the actions taken by Chairwoman Heidi Shafer.
She entered into a contract with the Napoli Shkolnik Law Firm of New York and filed litigation on behalf of Shelby County relating to the opioid crisis.
The judgement seeks a declaration that Article II, Section 2.02 (A) of the Shelby County Charter does not provide the commission or any commissioner the authority to enter into a contract.
Further, the suit seeks to declare the Napoli contract void and unenforceable. It also seeks a declaration that the charter does not provide the commission or any commissioner the authority to retain outside counsel to pursue litigation on behalf of Shelby County.
Chancellor Jim Kyle will hear the matter tomorrow at 1:30.