By Walter F. Roche Jr.
An advocacy group for open government has moved to intervene in a pending suit challenging the legality of actions taken by Greene County officials on a controversial industrial development project.
In a filing with the Greene County Chancery Court, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is charging that the assertions of Greene County officials about the interpretation of the state Open Meeting Law are "clearly wrong."
The action comes in a suit filed by area residents opposed to the placement of a 12 mile long double barreled pipeline from the Nolichucky River to the site of a new US Nitrogen manufacturing facility.
The Nashville based non-profit is challenging the claim by lawyers for the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County that the state Open Meeting Law does not give citizens the right to hear the proceedings of a public body.
Calling that assertion "in error and contrary to the spirit and intent of the legislation," the coalition is asking the court not to base a decision in the case on that claim.
The filing states that the coalition is not taking a position on the underlying issues in the lawsuit.
The suit is one of several challenging the legality of various aspects of the $220 million US Nitrogen project.
The audibility of public proceedings became an issue after a local resident was arrested during a development board meeting when he complained that board members couldn't be heard. The charges were later dropped.
The new facility is slated to become operational later this year and will produce ammonium nitrate.