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Sneyd responds to request for lawsuit dismissal

In a motion filed June 17, Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd argues Washington County is required by state statute to give her the 10 percent pay increase she is seeking with her lawsuit by the very fact the raise was given to another clerk.
According to a brief filed in opposition to the county’s request for a dismissal of the lawsuit, Tennessee Code establishes a mechanism for paying all general officers within the same county classification fairly and equally.
A subsection of the code states that all the officers shall be paid the same salary while another subsection allows the county discretion in paying a clerk of the court who serves more than one court additional compensation over other general officers in the amount of 10 percent of the clerk’s base compensation.
“In order to comply with the constitutional mandate of … the Tennessee Constitution, and to preserve the proper independence of the judiciary, this Court should interpret the application of this compensation statute for court clerks as allowing a county to pay additional compensation to clerks who serve more than one court,” the filing states. “But, when the county elects to pay the additional 10 percent compensation, it is required by law to uniformly pay all clerks who serve more than one court the additional compensation.”
Sneyd was appointed Clerk and Master for Washington County in 2004. The next year, jurisdiction and powers with respect to the probate of wills and the administration of estates were transferred from the Washington County Clerk and General Sessions Court to the Clerk and Master and Chancery Court, and the Probate Court Clerk’s office was established.
Sneyd was appointed Clerk of Probate Court at that time, in addition to serving as Clerk and Master of Chancery Court.
One of the duties of the Clerk and Master is to serve as Special Commissioner upon appointment by the Chancellor. Compensation for the performance of these duties is not provided by the county or its taxpayers, and is not included in the statutory salary Sneyd receives as Clerk and Master.
The brief contends, “Even though the Circuit Court Clerk and the Clerk and Master in Washington County both serve more than one court, the county legislative body since 2006 has discriminated against the Clerk and Master by refusing to pay her the additional compensation it pays the Circuit Court Clerk for the additional duties and time required to serve multiple courts.
“Further, the (county) has attempted to coerce the Clerk and Master into paying to it the Special Commissioner fees earned by her, to which it has no lawful claim, in exchange for the additional compensation…
“I have a lot of expenses and time tied up in these sales. They take up most of my nights and weekends and I feel I earn what I get to keep after expenses and taxes,” Sneyd says in an affidavit accompanying the filing. “I do not feel it is fair for (Washington County) to attempt to take special commissioner fees which I have earned, which I am entitled by law to keep, and to which (Washington County) is not legally entitled to receive. These fees are paid by the litigants for whom I perform services. (Washington County) does not pay me for my time and efforts as special commissioner.
“…When the then-County Mayor George Jaynes was retiring, he agreed that I was entitled to the additional 10 percent compensation for serving as clerk in more than one court. Mr. Jaynes recommended to the Budget Committee for the county commission that I receive the additional compensation. The Budget Committee approved his recommendation, but when the budget was submitted to the… county commission, it was rejected in open meeting because I kept the special commissioner fees I had earned.
“When I did file this lawsuit, the (county’s) Executive Branch and Legislative Branch again initiated action to remove Probate Court from my jurisdiction. (Washington County) should not be permitted to use political sanctions to intimidate, harass or control the Judicial Branch of County Government.”
Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz has until Monday, Aug. 1, to file his response to the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In the event the case is not dismissed, a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 9 a.m. in Chancery Courtroom No. 5 in the George P. Jaynes Justice Center.