Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

County requests Sneyd lawsuit be dismissed

Washington County filed a motion May 25 to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd that seeks a 10 percent pay increase in her salary of $73,866, starting from the year 2006.
Representing the county, attorney Erick Herrin points to the following reasons for dismissal:
• Compensation of county court clerks is governed by Title 8 Chapter 24 of the Tennessee Code.
• Sneyd is receiving the compensation established by state code.
• The county legislative body has the authority to provide additional compensation to a clerk of court serving more than one court, and the authority to not provide additional compensation.
Herrin notes that the additional compensation is not an entitlement and Washington County has decided not to increase Sneyd’s salary.
Sneyd has argued she is owed the raise because her counterpart, Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn, received the 10 percent pay hike several years ago for operating in more than one court.
However, undisputed material facts of the motion indicate significant differences in the roles Sneyd is defining as “equal” between herself and Guinn.
Sneyd serves two courts and supervises 10 employees, while Guinn is responsible for five courts and supervises three times as many employees. In addition, Guinn has responsibility for a $2 million budget, compared to Sneyd’s budget of approximately $700,000.
The number of cases filed in the courts also varies widely. Around 1,200 total cases were filed in Chancery and Probate courts where Sneyd works during 2009-10, compared to more than 22,000 cases filed in Circuit, Criminal, General Sessions Civil, General Sessions Criminal, and Juvenile courts under Guinn’s authority.
The personal income Sneyd receives in her role as special commissioner is another issue surrounding the lawsuit.
In a response ordered by Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz during an April 13 telephone hearing, Sneyd admitted she, on occasion, engages in activities associated with her work as special commissioner during her normal working hours as Clerk and Master.
From fiscal years 2006-07 through 2009-10, Sneyd received $142,561 in additional personal income by way of being appointed special commissioner in cases filed in the Chancery or Probate courts of Washington County.
During that same period, Guinn received $12,400 in additional personal income as a clerk’s fee for her court-ordered sale of real estate. Guinn remitted the funds to the county.
“Ms. Sneyd…is managing to generate additional personal income by virtue of her public office in amounts ranging from 36 to 60 percent over and above the statutory salary over which Tennessee law requires Washington County to pay Ms. Sneyd to devote her full time and attention to serve as Washington County’s Clerk and Master,” a memorandum filed in the case states. “Regardless of the legal standard this Court applies, the sharply contrasting factual distinctions between the operations of the Clerk and Master’s office and the Circuit Court Clerk’s office unequivocally support Washington County’s approval of a 10 percent pay supplement to the Circuit Court Clerk, but not the Clerk and Master.”
Art Fowler, who is serving as Sneyd’s lawyer, said he has not had time to read the motion filed on behalf of Washington County.
Though unwilling to offer a formal opinion on Herrin’s request for dismissal, Fowler did say, “I don’t think that he will prevail.”
Kurtz has until Monday, Aug. 1, to file his response to the motion. If the case is not dismissed, a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 9 a.m. in Chancery Court at the George P. Jaynes Justice Center.