Report of code violation in Chattanooga contracts false, attorney says

Report of code violation in Chattanooga contracts false, attorney says

January 21st, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

An attorney for Ray Marler, owner of three businesses that have contracts with Chattanooga, said Thursday that reports that the companies may be involved in city code violations are "false."

"We adamantly deny any such claims," said Mike Richardson, with Thornberry, Morgan and Richardson. "They are totally false."

City Auditor Stan Sewell in a report this week said Citywide Services Director Jimmy Templeton was directly involved in contracts with Marler's companies, which employ three of Templeton's relatives. Such involvement would violate city code.

Sewell said the three are brother, Llewellyn "Lee" Templeton; stepdaughter, Holly Benton; and son-in-law, Shawn Benton.

Sewell said Thursday he stands by his report and that the target is not Marler and his companies.

"I've made no accusations that Mr. Marler has done anything improper," Sewell said. "The problem here is not Ray Marler. It's an internal matter with a city employee."

The City Council is expected to discuss the matter in two weeks during a Public Works Committee meeting. The city attorney's office, which handles personnel matter investigations, has said it is investigating.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said Thursday he had no comment since it is an ongoing investigation.

Sewell wrote a memo to the city's audit committee in November noting the apparent city code violations. He also said there appeared to be bid manipulation in the contracts.

Richardson said the accusations of bid manipulation were unfounded.

"These contracts were all approved by the City Council," Richardson said. "I don't know how you get a contract through the City Council without it being vetted."

Marler is the owner of Environmental Materials LLC, Chattanooga Transfer LLC and City Disposal Services LLC.

Environmental Materials LLC runs a private landfill next to the city's Birchwood landfill. It provides dirt for the city landfill and an employee to operate the landfill's weight scale.

Chattanooga Transfer LLC hauls trash for the city from a transfer station on Wisdom Street to the landfill. City Disposal Services LLC picks up large and small containers of garbage for the city.

Richardson said that the companies employ two relatives, not three. He said Lee Templeton is a nonmanagerial employee and Holly Benton works part time.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfree or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at