County commissioners approve $150,000 for liability claims

The Coffee County Commission voted Jan. 14 to approve several budget amendments, including $150,000 to cover liability claims.

Those costs are for deductibles paid for county lawsuits. Currently, all the lawsuits are law enforcement related.

Before the commission voted on the amendment, Coffee County Budget and Finance Committee had approved it.

Dwight Miller, chair of budget and finance committee, said “every time (someone) files a lawsuit, it costs the county money.

“We have to respond, even if it gets thrown out right away, and that’s what that fund is – it’s the money it takes to respond to those lawsuits.”

The amount varies each year, depending on the number of lawsuits filed against the county, said Miller.

“We move (the money) over as needed from another fund, and that’s why we need to approve it,” he said. “We are projecting we’ll need that much money to address the issue at this time.”

Coffee County Attorney Robert Huskey said currently there are about 15 active law enforcement related cases against the county.

“This is not uncommon for counties,” he said, adding the number of cases appears to have gone down compared to previous years.

“The county has had more than 15 active cases in the past,” Huskey said. 

In Fiscal Year 2018, the amount the county spent for those liability claims was about $100,000, and in 2019, it was $130,000, according to the county’s budget.

Those costs are separate from lawsuits related to other county departments, such as the one filed by former employee Melinda Keeling. In 2018, Coffee County approved a settlement to pay nearly $1 million to Keeling for wrongful termination.

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