CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — The day after Kate Farmer was unanimously confirmed by the Chattanooga city council, Chattanooga’s city attorney informed council members that Farmer has three lawsuits against her in Wyoming.
Farmer served as the city treasurer and clerk in the town of Guernsey in Platte County, Wyoming. This is causing many to question the city’s hiring process.
“My first initial reaction was like, ‘What?’ Like, ‘What’s going on? How did we miss this?'” Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said.
Farmer is named in three separate lawsuits filed in April. In these lawsuits, Farmer is accused of not making money available for the hiring of two new police officers, hacking into the police chief’s email and distributing confidential information to members of the public and town officials.
“I was shocked to learn of the allegations or the lawsuits, because in the interest of the city, I think there could be several issues that arise from having an employee from such legal weight, and I feel like the council should have been notified,” Councilman Darrin Ledford said.
Farmer received the approval of Mayor Andy Berke’s office before going in front of the council.
The city has since put Farmer on administrative leave and said they “will be using outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.”
FULL STATEMENT FROM THE CITY OF CHATTANOOGA’S CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER MAURA SULLIVAN:
“The City of Chattanooga has placed Kate Farmer on Administrative Leave until further notice and will be using outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation of the three pending civil cases in the Federal Court of Wyoming, in which she is named. Any questions regarding the pending litigation in the Federal Court of Wyoming should be directed toward Attorney John Bowers who is serving as counsel for the Town of Guernsey, Wyo., and all named parties in those three cases.
As prescribed by the Chattanooga City Code, Assistant City Treasurer Sharon Morris will cover Ms. Farmer’s absence at this time.
The administration will have no comment on this matter until the independent investigation is concluded.”
“Oh, from here on out, I’m asking questions. I want to know beforehand. I don’t want to just say, ‘Okay, I’m in agreeance with it,'” Councilwoman Coonrod said. “Because we don’t know if something will come back again and say, ‘Well, wait a minute, did you know this before you approved this individual?'”
“I hope at the end of the day the solution to avoid situations like this is to vet and have an appointee recommendation come through the HR committee,” Councilman Ledford said. “We’ve asked in the past for resumes on other confirmations and I think that we need to strengthen that policy so that we can have some sort of mechanism in place so that we have an opportunity to do our research as we should and not have items just appear on our agenda.”
“I want to rescind my vote because I feel that we should have been more in the know,” Coonrod said.
Each council member can speak with the city attorney individually to find out what the next steps could be in regards to Farmer’s position. The next city council meeting is on Tuesday.