published Friday, April 26th, 2013

Niota, Tenn., back in business

The Niota, Tenn., city government is up and running again.

After the city's liability insurance expired April 19, Mayor Lois Preece said Niota reached a 60-day agreement with the Tennessee Municipal League Pool on Monday night. The TML originally declined to renew Niota's insurance because city commissioners refused to cooperate with an investigation into whether they harassed city employees.

During the four-day window without liability insurance, the city shut down several services. The police and fire departments closed. Garbage trucks stopped running. City parks and ballfields shut down.

"We tried to take the proper precautions," Preece said. "If there was an accident and someone sued the city, that would come from taxpayers."

Preece said Commissioners Richard Rutledge and Leesa Corum have not responded to letters from TML seeking information about harassment claims against them. The mayor said Rutledge received a letter on March 19, and Corum on April 5.

On March 6, TML wrote a letter to Niota saying the city could face costly payouts because people have filed several claims.

Preece said the city hopes it can solve those problems in the next two months, when this new agreement is set to expire. Athens Insurance brokered the deal on behalf of Niota.

"They bent over backward," she said of the insurance company.

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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