Six Metro Council members will not have to testify in the ongoing convention center condemnation cases — at least not yet.
Circuit Court Judge Barbara Haynes quashed the subpoenas of the six — Megan Barry, Emily Evans, Jim Forkum, Jason Holleman, Mike Jameson and Kristine LaLonde — unless Tower Investment’s attorneys can show a compelling reason the legislators must be deposed.
Joe Conner, from the Chattanooga office of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, issued the subpoenas as part of Tower’s defense of a condemnation suit filed by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. Tower owns 5.66 acres of key land planned for the Music City Center, the funding of which was approved by Metro Council on Tuesday.
Conner said he needed to take the testimony to discover if the condition of the property as “blighted” had anything to do with the council members’ decision on the Music City Center. Conner said the word “blight” never came up in the legislative process nor in the numerous public meetings. Under the state’s housing authority law, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority can condemn property if it is blighted as part of a redevelopment process. Tower has long argued its property is not blighted.
“If MDHA misrepresented to the council that this property was actually blighted, we do have a valid defense,” Conner said Monday.
But Brian Jackson, the Miller & Martin attorney representing MDHA, said the Metro Charter gives the council the authority to delegate its powers.
“Can Metro government tell MDHA to go and condemn property? It’s crystal clear they can do that,” Jackson said. “This blight issue is a sideshow.”
The depositions of the six council members were scheduled for Friday, but now it will be the day Haynes determines whether Conner needs the testimony to move forward with his defense. Conner’s depositions of MDHA Executive Director Phil Ryan and Director of Development Joe Cain will continue as scheduled Monday.