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Ear to the Ground

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Fighting fires

The judgment against Mayor Victor Ashe and former fire chief Bruce Cureton for violating the civil rights of five fire fighters who did not support Ashe's 1995 re-election bid will end up costing city taxpayers far more than $30,000. On Tuesday, deputy mayor Gene Patterson said City Law Director Michael Kelley had just told him the amount of legal fees paid by the city to the law firm of Watson, Hollow and Reeves were "in the neighborhood of $100,000." On Wednesday, Kelley told WNOX radio the fees were $180,000. Sources say the amount exceeded $100,000 some two years ago, before Ashe attorney Robert Watson mounted numerous unsuccessful appeals, including a costly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorneys Diane Messer and Wanda Sobieski, representing plaintiffs Gary Sharp, "Red" McGinnis, Frank Potter, Bill Potter and Kenny Scarbrough, have not yet filed for their fees, but the sum will likely exceed $200,000 for five years' worth of litigation. The city will likely seek to force the plaintiffs to pay their own expenses, which will prompt more legal action. The numbers cited above do not include costs incurred by the city law department.

Victor Victorious?

Like Rumpelstiltskin trying to spin straw into gold, however, Ashe and his battery of lawyers were spinning victory from the failure of the jury to award punitive damages. Ashe said the verdict was a win for his side because he did not have to pay damages out of his own pocket (as he would have been obliged to do had "punies" been awarded).

Plaintiffs' lawyer Wanda Sobieski disagreed.

"Victor's remark is like someone who has been convicted of murder saying 'I won because they didn't give me the death penalty.' "

With Friends Like These...

Meanwhile, radio talker Hallerin Hill advanced Ashe's theory that most of the election night transfers and demotions didn't have that much to do with politics, really, but happened because Ashe was hurt that his friend Frank Potter had reneged on a promise to support Ashe's re-election. (Potter had been called to the mayor's office to be questioned about his loyalty). Hill was evidently unaware of Ashe's testimony regarding the "friendship" under questioning by Sobieski:

"Did the friendship include sharing personal feelings?"

"Have you ever been to his house for dinner?"

"Has he ever been to your house for dinner?"

Unlike Hill, City Councilwoman Carlene Malone doesn't swallow the spurned friendship theory:

"If you are my friend and I get mad at you, I throw a party and invite everybody but you. I don't screw with your livelihood and your career."

Bleak Times...

Din (pronounced Dean) Mayfield is 8 years old and is the son of Danny and Melissa Mayfield. On Tuesday, he heard his City Councilman dad talking on the radio about very scary things. It wasn't that his parents hadn't explained it to him—he already knew that his dad is sick and times could get tough. But on the radio, they were talking about cancer, and what a tough fight is ahead. Later that day, when Melissa picked him up at school, Din was fighting back tears. His little sister, Nia, is only 5, and hasn't taken it all in yet.

Danny and Melissa are working hard to reassure him, and others."Don't count me out yet," says Danny, an ordained minister who has just learned that he has had a recurrence of the osteosarcoma he thought he had conquered when he was 17. This time the tumors are on his lung and near his heart.

"This is the bleakest time of my life. I have the grimmest outlook from the doctors that I can have. But I still believe, and I invite others to believe too, and to take part in this healing, in what God is doing."

Within the next few days, friends of Danny Mayfield will establish a fund to help with his family expenses—Melissa will be taking time off from work to care for Danny. Information to follow.

February 17, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 7
© 2000 Metro Pulse