A school wrestling program founded by former Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Major Bill Kennedy was back in the courts recently, but is now a closed case.
The problem dealt with real and personal property that was part of the Rutherford Wrestling Club, Inc. at Blackman Middle School, which was the program started by Kennedy and later dismantled by Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.
The equipment in question was taken by the current administration at the Sheriff's Office and the wrestling club insisted it was not theirs to take. One of the many problems revolved around a 2001 grant that was written through the Sheriff's Office and approved by the grantor. In 2005 the wrestling club was granted permission to build a building by the schools for the club to hold their positive growth.
According to the courts, "The Club continued to make use of the building without incident until the fall of 2010. In August 2010, the citizens of Rutherford County elected Robert Arnold as sheriff. On September 2, 2010, the day after assuming office, Sheriff Arnold informed Mr. Kennedy that, if he wished to remain with the Sheriff's Office, he would have to accept a reassignment. Rather than accept the reassignment, Mr. Kennedy resigned from the Sheriff's Office."
In October of 2010, Sheriff Robert Arnold accompanied by Sheriff's deputies and a group of inmates, removed wrestling mats and equipment from the wrestling program building that was used by children in our community.
Following the events of October 29, 2010, the Board of Education presented the Club with a Use of Facilities Form. The form authorized use of the building by the Club as a third party unassociated with Rutherford County. Bill Kennedy refused to sign the form, according to the courts. As a consequence, the Rutherford County Director of Schools denied the Club access to the building.
The original suit was then filed in the Circuit Court for Rutherford County against Sheriff Arnold and Rutherford County (November of 2010). The complaint sought damages under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act ("TGTLA") and asserted various other claims. Following the 2010 hearing the trial court denied the Club's request for a writ of mandamus and temporary and injunctive relief.
The case continued into 2013 as the defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, which was denied by the court just prior to trial. After completion of the Club's proof, the defendants moved for involuntary dismissal, which was also denied.
On September 10, 2013, the trial court entered an order dismissing the Club's claims. The court concluded that the Club was not the owner of the building or the personal property located therein. The court found instead that the wrestling building was owned by the Board of Education and that the contents of the building were owned by the Sheriff's Office. The trial court concluded that the Club's remaining claims were without merit.
Most of the issues raised by the Club on appeal hinge on the trial court's determination that the Club did not have an ownership interest in the real or personal property at issue. The trial court made numerous factual findings relating to ownership of the wrestling building. The trial court found that the only express or written agreement concerning the building's ownership was the minutes of the Board of Education meeting held on March 21, 2005, in which the building was referred to as the "Rutherford County Sheriff's Department Wrestling Club Building."
An October 2014 appeal was later made by the Rutherford County Wrestling Club and the results of that appeal were released on April 30, 2015
In the conclusion of the appeal filed this year (2015), the courts determined that the wrestling organization under Kennedy was merely a booster club and that club had no ownership in the equipment in question. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Today, the club belongings are owned by the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office and the Rutherford County Schools.