LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN0 – A Lebanon citizen has been ordered to stay 500 feet from all city-owned property and has been temporarily denied access to his elected officials.
The temporary restraining order states that city officials are afraid of bodily injury or death if Derek Dodson is allowed to continue coming to city council meetings.
It is broad, admitted city attorney Andy Wright, adding, “Violence at city council meetings is not unprecedented. It begins with simple legislation. In Clarksville, a man didn’t get the rezoning he wanted and he took his own life.”
Wright continued, “The right to address your elected officials is one of the most protected rights we have, and we don’t restrict that; we are content neutral, but the courts let us restrict the time, manner, and place citizens can address officials as long as not too restrictive.”
The temporary restraining order (TRO) was sworn out by Mayor Philip Craighead against the 58-year-old, filed after a heated city council meeting where Dodson demanded to speak even though public comment was not permissible.
On tape, he’s heard loudly saying, “When do citizens get to speak at this undemocratic corrupted process?”
You can hear the mayor say, “Will someone call the police?”
City attorney Wright said the restraining order was then filed because Dodson’s actions have caused some employees to fear for their safety.
“So it’s not Mr. Dotson’s message, it is Mr. Dodson’s manner and demeanor and the threat he appears to be causing,” he explained.
According to the TRO, Dodson was seen out in the parking lot taking pix of employees and their cars and license plates.
“He was observed driving around city hall parking lot taking pictures, and when he was approached by an employee, he said he was a private investigator. That is a lie,” Wright explained. “Then he later said he was taking pictures of employees and checking for out of county license plates.”
Wright told News 2 it scared the women in billing and finance, and they told their department heads they were scared of him and wanted to be escorted out.
According to the restraining order, “The respondent has engaged in an escalating course of conduct that could viably place a reasonable person in fear of bodily injury or death if allowed to continue.”
Attorney Luke Evans represents Dodson and said to News 2, “There’s absolutely no proof Mr. Dodson has taken any steps toward threatening harm to anyone in these public forums. It appears based on the filing they are engaged in fear mongering.”
Evans continued, “That is evident in the petition, where they cite incidents in other cities in the USA, where bad things have happened and someone has been hurt. Fortunately, that is not the case in this incident. They have no facts that they have alleged that rise to that level, so to put that in a position regarding Mr. Dodson is completely inappropriate.”
This is not the first time Dodson has been forced from city council chambers, and News 2 has learned that Dodson was arrested in sept of last year for evading and resisting arrest.
According to Trousdale County deputies, Dodson led deputies on a car chase through town. They tried to stop him, but he kept driving. He allegedly drove to the Hartsville offices of Tommy Thompson. A deputy reportedly grabbed him, restraining him while he was inside the district attorney’s office.
A hunting knife and mace were found inside his vehicle. According to sources, he left written material inside the office of the DA.
Dodson’s attorney told News 2, “My client is outraged by the steps taken by the city of Lebanon to prohibit him from exercising his constitutional rights; he has the right to access the government and these steps have infringed upon his rights.”
The hearing on the TRO is scheduled for May. The city plans to present evidence that it should be made permanent.
Dodson’s attorneys say they will vigorously fight the legitimacy of the TRO.