The Knox County Commission is expected to review the application in July.
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – Charlie Susano, the Knox County’s clerk, is seeking a $ 1.5 million loan from the county that he can use to cover employee payroll if future earnings decline.
Susano’s office usually relies on legal recoveries in the Civil Section of the General Sessions, also known as the Small Claims Court, to aid his cover business. Susano said he had 15 employees in that office.
However, the March COVID-19 outbreak disrupted the legal system, largely halting efforts by businesses and individuals to collect consumer debt and seek civil legal action.
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In some cases, companies and individuals stopped filing lawsuits and tried again to negotiate unpaid bills outside of the legal system. Court-ordered eviction stops, a response to difficult economic times, also had an impact on operations, said Susano.
The case officer said case registrations had decreased by 60 to 70 percent in the past few months.
As a result, there is not so much money going into the civil court system. Nevertheless, Susano has to run an office. Its operations have been largely unaffected by a recent county vacation.
“When something like that comes up, it’s tough,” he said. “It paralyzes you for now. We firmly believe that the files will go back to where they were.”
Susano also oversees the office duties of the District Court and the Juvenile Court. These operations are not affected by his request for help.
Knox County’s office of Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced on Tuesday that the Knox County’s commission is expected to consider his application in July.
County Commission chairman Hugh Nystrom said Tuesday afternoon he had not seen the request and was unable to comment on it.
If approved, it will be the second unplanned hit on the county reserves this month.
Last week, the County Commission approved a $ 851 million spending plan for the 2020-21 period that includes $ 1,500 in bonuses it added at the last minute for more than 800 Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees .
Jacobs warned in a statement Tuesday that the county is facing uncertain finances amid the pandemic. The mayor said although he feared something like Susano’s plight could arise, Knox County doesn’t have endless resources to spend.
“In early June, I proposed what I believe to be a financially responsible budget that carefully protects not only our services but also our rapidly depleted financial resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in Tuesday’s statement. “Together with my finance director, I have told the Knox County Commission several times that we are entering uncharted territory and that revenues and losses will be difficult to predict in the months ahead and possibly the rest of the year.
He continued, “This situation – an unexpected expense due to the pandemic – is exactly what we warned about at last week’s household hearings. My general concern is that this could be the first of many financial disruptions in Knox County’s. “
Collected millions, kept a fraction
If someone files a civil lawsuit, the office keeps a fraction of the filing fee, Susano said. This money flows into the company.
Susano’s office also pays out just over $ 2 million in litigation taxes each year to help fund Knox County Schools and the Sheriff’s Office, among other things.
“We have a constitutional obligation to serve the courts and we must be able to do so,” he said.
The loan would be used to make up for future monthly shortfalls. Susano said he expected to be able to return the money once filings return to “pre-pandemic levels” …
He said layoffs in court for small claims are not an option.
“All of our people are important,” he said. “They have special tasks that they do every day, be it in accounting or in garnishment or processing or in the courtroom. That’s why we couldn’t take people off. We can’t take people off when the Supreme Court says go back to work . “
He said his district court operations “remain stable”. The functions of the juvenile court, which are also part of its job, are covered by the district.
Economists warn that it could take years for the state to fully recover from the current crisis. Several companies and governments have suffered the sudden jolt of having to cut operations to stop the highly contagious virus from spreading.
While criminal and civil courts continue to operate, cases were closed in March and thousands of cases re-closed in recent months.