Trailer park landlord seeks re-election as mayor while hounding Gaddys from home

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“I’ve never had any occasion to get upset with Dwain Land at all,” says trailer park renter Renee Luper, an invalid in Dunlap, Tenn. (Photo David Tulis)

“I’ve never had any occasion to get upset with Dwain Land at all,” says trailer park renter Renee Luper, an invalid in Dunlap, Tenn. With her is son, Michael. (Photo David Tulis)

A row of rusty mailboxes line Land Drive next to a Dunlap, Tenn., trailer park owned by Mayor Dwain Land. (Photo David Tulis)

A row of rusty mailboxes line Land Drive next to a Dunlap, Tenn., trailer park owned by Mayor Dwain Land, one serving budget-conscious town residents. (Photo David Tulis)

Dunlap trailer park tenant Bobby Raber speaks well of the town mayor, who is his landlord. “Dwain worked with us big time as far as helping my wife and I.” (Photo David Tulis)

Dunlap trailer park tenant Bobby Raber speaks well of the town mayor, who is his landlord. “Dwain worked with us big time as far as helping my wife and I.” (Photo David Tulis)

Dunlap, Tenn., mayor Dwain Land is hospitable to his tenants, but wants to “inspect” or demolish a home being refurbished by an elderly couple not far from city hall. (Photo David Tulis)

Dunlap, Tenn., mayor Dwain Land is hospitable to his tenants, but wants to “inspect” — or demolish —a house being refurbished by an elderly couple who reside near city hall. (Photo David Tulis)

A cat peeks out from an open window of a trailer home in Dunlap, Tenn., one owned by a mayor who is threatening to level an elderly couple’s house if they don’t allow a search absent a warrant of probable cause. (Photo David Tulis)

A cat peeks out from an open window of a trailer home in Dunlap, Tenn., one owned by a mayor who is threatening to demolish an elderly couple’s house if they don’t allow a search absent a sworn affidavit and warrant of probable cause. (Photo David Tulis)

Dunlap city government occupies this former bank building on the main drag through the Southeast Tennessee town, one that is civilly prosecuting an elderly couple over improvements to a house. (Photo David Tulis)

Dunlap city government occupies this former bank building on the main drag through the Southeast Tennessee town, one that is civilly prosecuting an elderly couple over improvements to a house. (Photo David Tulis)

The mayor of a small Tennessee town faces a fight for his seat Saturday after having spent nearly two years hounding an elderly couple and demanding the right to search their house absent probable cause.

The case against Thomas and Carol Gaddy has received virtually no local media coverage and many people do not know about the conflict for what he calls an “inspection.” The civil prosecution of the elderly couple, who is restoring a 19th century house, has cost the city taxpayers at least F$20,000.

By David Tulis / Tennesseestar.com

Because the Gaddys would not voluntarily consent to a search, a chancery court jurist without city charter jurisdiction ordered them jailed for contempt. To avoid Judge Thomas Graham’s order, the Gaddys — he 71, she 69 — fled and are in hiding.

“There’s a lot of people that are upset about the Gaddys,” says mayoral candidate Jennifer Lockhart Greer, who seeks to unseat Mayor Dwain Land in an election Saturday. “People are concerned that they are an elderly couple. People are concerned that possibly they could be next — it could be their home next.”

Critics of the Gaddy case grumble that the couple’s renovated house is in much better condition than the ratty-looking mobile homes Mr. Land owns and rents as cheap housing alternative serving the poorer sort of Dunlap resident. Mr. Land would not respond to a text message requesting an interview. But town residents said he rents out easily more than 100 trailers.

Happy tenants

One tenant said he voted early in city elections, implying it was for the incumbent. Mr. Land faces two challengers in Saturday’s balloting: Rhonda Summers, 48, a single mother of two who works at Valley Plumbing, and Jennifer Lockhart Greer, 42, a divorced mother of one son and a government schoolteacher.

No tenant approached by a reporter refuses either to chat or invite him inside; none have anything evil to say about Mr. Land, or ask to go off the record to make a complaint.

“I’ve been here for four years,” says Bobby Raber, 55, a machinist on disability who lives in the trailer with wife and grandson. “Anything I need fixed they come and fix right off the bat. I don’t have no problems. He’s real reasonable with me on the rent. *** He’s really treated me decent. He’s a real good person. He believes in God, so he believes in helping others, too. I respect the man. I really do. Dwain worked with us big time as far as helping my wife and I. He’s really helped us big time.”

Another tenant, Renee Luper, lives for F$400 a month at the Chickasaw Lane trailer park. She’s confined to a wheelchair, and lives with her husband, Wayne, a son, Michael, and a grandson.

Candidate Greer suspects ‘abuse of power’ in Gaddy case

“Dwain’s a good person to rent from. If we have any problems they take care of it right away. I’ve never had any occasion to get upset with Dwain Land at all. I really like Dwain.” Last winter, her heater went down, and the Lands had a man come and fix it immediately. When Mrs. Luper lost a leg in a car accident in 2006, Mr. Land stood at her door with a gift of food and paid an electric bill for her “just out of the blue,” she recalls. “He’s a good man.”

“He’s a very good man,” says Carolyn Layman, who occupies a trailer with a male friend. “They’re very good landlords.”

Retired agricultural worker George Melvin Farley is happy to be a tenant of the mayor of Dunlap, Tenn., who is hounding an elderly couple in a bid to “inspect” a well-tended and upgraded house. (Photo David Tulis)

Retired agricultural worker George Melvin Farley is happy to be a tenant of the mayor of Dunlap, Tenn., who is hounding an elderly couple in a bid to “inspect” a well-tended and upgraded house. (Photo David Tulis)

Fifteen low-cost trailer homes fill a trailer park next to the Dunlap Wal-Mart run by Dwain Land, the mayor, and his family. (Photo Google Earth)

Fifteen low-cost trailer homes fill a trailer park next to the Dunlap Wal-Mart run by Dwain Land, the mayor, and his family. (Photo Google Earth)

Mr. Land paid more than $24,000 in property taxes in 2016 to the county on as many as 34 parcels. According to papers provided by deputy trustee Seth Lockhart, two checks totaling F$24,748 covered the 2016 tax claim. The Chickasaw Lane trailer park with 15 units is in the name of the mayor’s mother, Stella Faye, who received the property after it was probated in December 1971. Her son, the mayor, is joined in land ventures with a brother, Keith, and other family members.

Challenged for mayor job

The Gaddy case is front and center for mayoral candidate Greer.

Voters are uncomfortable with Mayor Land, says the former city commission member, because “they can put themselves in those two people’s — in their shoes — and they fear that it could potentially be them next. A lot of people just don’t think it’s right. *** They’re angry. They’re very upset.”

Traditional signals of campaign strength seem to be on the side of Mr. Land. His campaign has afforded at least one billboard and supporters have tapped many large signs along roadways and in residents’ yards. The Dunlap News endorses him for a third term.

But sentiment against the Gaddy prosecution — the case largely ignored by the News — is widespread.

Much criticism is aired guardedly, even by Mr. Land’s rivals. Mrs. Summers refuses to address the Gaddy case as a political matter without first consulting an attorney. Meanwhile, Mrs. Greer, while expressing support for Mr. and Mrs. Gaddy, supplies herself with rhetorical padding that seems to give her a back door — in case she learns all the legalities of the litigation and figures on a course different than her platform’s pro-Gaddy plank.

A full-page newspaper ad in Dunlap, Tenn., argues for the mayoral bid of Jennifer Lockhart Greer, who promises to end the city’s harassment of an elderly couple prompted by incumbent mayor Dwain Land.

A full-page newspaper ad in Dunlap, Tenn., argues for the mayoral bid of Jennifer Lockhart Greer, who promises to end the city’s harassment of an elderly couple by mayor Dwain Land.

Mrs. Greer describes the case as “a hush hush thing,” says she needs to research it, and concludes by saying the litigation should be abandoned. “It’s an abuse of power. I feel like it’s not a court case that should have been followed through with at all. *** I can’t see how [the case] is a valid argument.”

Constitutional rights are important, and those of the Gaddys have been abused.

“The cornerstone of our democracy is based on those constitutional — those private property rights covered under the constitution. And it’s important that government doesn’t overstep those bounds, because every time there’s a court case that sets precedent for the government to do it again and again and again. And that’s something we have to be very careful with as government officials.”

Please read more about Mrs. Greer

 

Abusing Gaddys, Land wrecks his good name; Greer for mayor

City flings legal net to control house; Gaddys fight for constitutional rights

Lawsuit vs. Gaddys costs Dunlap taxpayers $20,000

Gaddys face jail in Dunlap rather than yield constitutionally protected rights

Dunlap’s 2-year seizure case vs. Gaddys in wrong court

Gaddys’ strong claim in house seizure case: City lacks probable cause

Homeowner Gaddy exits jail, cites judicial irregularities

Mayor Land seeks re-election amid oppression of elderly couple

 

 

 

 

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  1. Stephanie May 4, 2017 Reply

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