The owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville is accusing the city police chief of helping former mill tenants break into the building and steal equipment.
But while Les Coffey, owner of the mill, has applied for warrants to arrest Police Chief Sid Adams and the former tenants, who are employees of Tek-Mak, he also is being accused of stealing from Tek-Mak.
Coffey said he believes Tek-Mak employees were breaking into the mill and stealing equipment under the police’s watch.
“They took what they wanted in broad daylight,” he said.
But Adams said police were called in April 2009 to help the workers haul equipment they owned from the building after Coffey parked a large machine in front of their door. Adams said he believes Coffey was trying to keep Tek-Mak employees out of the mill.
“(Coffey’s) claiming we used the machine to break down to the door,” Adams said. “That’s not the case.”
Once officers found a key to the door, they were able to help the Tek-Mak employees pick up their equipment, then everyone left, Adams said.
The warrants for Adams and three Tek-Mak employees were not filed until July 29, 2010. Coffey said he waited until he had video of the incident.
“We waited until we had enough evidence to get a warrant,” Coffey said.
But Adams said the video only shows officers helping the former employees recover their own equipment.
Coffey also is being investigated for charges of theft. A warrant application for Coffey’s arrest was filed Aug. 5 and claims he was sawing metal off equipment that belonged to Tek-Mak and selling it.
Coffey said the metal was his because the tenants were evicted from his property and owed him in back rent.
A warrant hearing has been set for Sept. 8 for a Walker County magistrate judge to hear Coffey’s and the Tek-Mak employees’ side of the argument.
A Superior Court judge must decide whether to hold a hearing or simply dismiss the warrant against Adams, who said he has received no official notification on a warrant hearing.
Coffey has filed similar warrants against him in the past and they were dismissed, Adams said.
The 27-acre Peerless Mill has been a point of contention between the city and Coffey since 2007.
Coffey hasn’t paid property tax since 2008 on the mill, valued by the city at almost $3 million, city officials say. But Coffey claims the city owes him money for sewage services he provides to Rossville.
When Coffey filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2010, he also sued the city of Rossville and several city employees, including Adams. The suit, which claims city officials tried to bankrupt his business, was transferred to U.S. District court in Rome, Ga.
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Joy Lukachick is a crime reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing down ...