Benton County sheriff files lawsuit against county mayor

BENTON COUNTY, Tenn. — A legal dispute has arisen as Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher files a lawsuit against Benton County Mayor Mark Ward, stemming from a budget dispute.

Benton County Sheriff's Office

According to the lawsuit, Sheriff Christopher’s legal action is a result of the denial of his budget proposal by Mayor Ward. The lawsuit highlights concerns of understaffing, inadequate equipment, and low salaries in both the county jail and sheriff’s department, making it challenging to recruit and retain employees compared to surrounding counties.

“They are woefully understaffed, and people are in danger. The sheriff is requesting additional deputies to ensure public safety, along with more correctional officers and jailers,” said Roy Herron, an attorney representing the sheriff.

In the lawsuit, Sheriff Christopher is seeking the addition of nine correctional officers to meet state requirements following a study conducted on the Benton County jail.

Mayor Ward’s attorney, Amber Shaw, stated that the county commission granted Sheriff Christopher an additional $980,000, but refused to allocate funds for deputy vehicles and Attorney Roy Herron’s previous legal fees.

Herron explained that the lawsuit became necessary to pursue the budget requests.

He noted that the sheriff began advocating for additional officers, raises, and equipment only after filing the lawsuit.

In response to the lawsuit, Mayor Ward issued a statement that appeared strongly worded toward the sheriff and his attorney.

“The emotion contained in his quote is because he does want to protect all of the taxpayers in the county, and that is very, very important to him,” Shaw said.

This marks the fifth time in recent years that a sheriff has sued the county mayor in West Tennessee, including Hardeman, Madison, Henderson, Decatur, and now Benton County.

To read Benton County Mayor Mark Ward’s news release, click here.

To read the lawsuit, click here.

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