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Front Page - Friday, August 3, 2018

State Rep. Sherrell sued for buying disputed equipment




Sherrell

A White County farm owner has filed a civil complaint against state Rep. Paul Sherrell, who serves on the House Criminal Justice Committee, contending the legislator wrongfully bought more than $82,000 worth of his farm equipment for $20,000 from someone not authorized to sell.

Filed July 16 by Charlie and Dianne Allen in White County Chancery Court in Sparta, the complaint states Sherrell, a former police officer, even removed a gate’s hinges at the farm where the equipment was stored to take the tractors, trailers, hay-bailers, etc., even after he was notified he couldn’t buy the items.

The Allens’ lawsuit says Sherrell’s actions are “fraudulent, intentional, reckless and malicious.”

Sherrell is to appear Aug. 3 before Chancellor Ronald Thurman at Putnam County Justice Center in Cookeville to answer the complaint by the Allens, who live in (Panama City) Bay County, Florida, court documents show.

Just completing his first two-year term in the Legislature, the Sparta Republican is running against Jerry Lowery in the Republican primary. Sherrell was served a summons, court records show.

Sherrell, who now works in real estate, defeated Democrat Kevin Dunlap in 2016 to capture the 43rd District House seat, which serves White, Grundy and part of Warren counties. He also is a member of the House Health committee and subcommittee.

Sherrell acknowledged buying the equipment but declined to comment on specifics, saying he would wait to see what happens in court.

“We done what was right, according to the law and according to the sheriff in our location, and so we done what was right, so that’s all I know to tell you,” he says.

Sherrell also says the allegations against him could be political and that he knows who was behind them.

“But it’s OK. It’s alright. We done what was right, and God knows what we done was right, so that’s the main thing,” Sherrell says.

The complaint filed by Charlie and Dianne Allen states Sherrell claims to have bought the farm equipment but that neither of them sold him the property. The Allens are represented by attorney Michael Savage of Livingston.

They want the court to issue an order requiring Sherrell to return the property, pay them $15,000 in damages and compensate them for damages he has caused to the farm equipment. They also seek punitive damages of $10,000, and as an alternative, to be awarded the value of the property, plus interest from the time Sherrell took the property, the lawsuit states.

The case stems from a family dispute between brothers, Charlie and Wyatt Allen, says Robert Haney, their first-cousin. The Allens’ father sold his farm and the equipment to Charlie Allen in 2003. The family has two farms separated by a road.

When the elder Allen died four years ago, the brothers got into an argument over the property, and Charlie Allen refused to sell or give any of the farm to Wyatt Allen, saying it wouldn’t be a “smart business decision,” says Haney, who helps manage the farm and was working the land with Wyatt until the disagreement started.

Upset that his older brother wouldn’t let him have a piece of the property, Wyatt Allen hired someone to log the property so he could make some money last November and get out of the family farm, Haney adds.

A logger showed up and cut 43 oak veneer logs last November, Haney says, and within three days, Charlie Allen drove to White County from Florida, where he works as an electrical engineer, and took out an eviction notice against his younger brother requiring him to vacate the property in 10 days.

During that time, the younger brother lined up the sale of the farm equipment with Sherrell and sold the items, along with two of his own trucks, for only $20,000, Haney says. That amount isn’t listed in the legal filing.

“I advised Paul Sherrell that belongs to Charlie Allen, not Wyatt. (Sherrell) said Wyatt says it’s his, and he’s giving me a bill of sale. He paid him and went to hauling farm equipment,” Haney says. “Half the farm equipment was on the adjacent farm that the brother didn’t even live on.”

Sherrell, the filing states, took the hinges off a gate so he could haul away the equipment.

Haney says he and the older brother called the White County Sheriff’s Department and filed a report, but Sheriff Oddie Shoupe called it a civil matter involving family and declined to pursue any criminal charges.

Sherrell’s position as a state representative and former Sparta police officer also was a factor in the sheriff’s department’s decision not to file charges, Haney says.

“Since the equipment came off the farm, we have fought to get this equipment back,” Haney says.

Haney claims they negotiated with Sherrell through their attorney, but the legislator keeps telling them it’s going to cost them a certain amount of money to get it back, even though Charlie Allen has tax records dating from 2003 showing the equipment belongs to him.

“But the sheriff’s department don’t see it that way. It’s been a mess,” Haney says.

Neither Shoupe nor District Attorney Bryant Dunaway respond to phone calls concerning the case.