Attorney details example of breakdown at Chancery Court

(WMC-TV) - Monday, Shelby County Chancery Court began accepting applications for a new Clerk and Master, even as the FBI investigates why $1.1 million is missing from the court.

Meanwhile, the man who launched the FBI probe is detailing the questionable transaction that opened a can of worms.

Attorney Frank Jackson represented a Cooper-Young couple that was having trouble getting Chancery Court to pay them money they were owed.  Monday, Jackson remembered the case well, saying it came to a head on Valentine's Day.

According to Jackson, it started when a the couple lost their home because they couldn't pay their taxes, and the home was sold at auction for more than they owed.

"The delinquent taxes were, say, $5,000, and the county received approximately $20,000, then that was a difference of some $15,000 that the county calls 'excess proceeds,'" he said.

But a funny thing happened when Jackson asked Chancery Court for the $15,000 owed to his clients.

"(They said it was) transferred to Sunset 33, LLC, and I said, 'That's not a lawyer,'" he said.

So Jackson did some digging.

"I contacted the Office of the Secretary of State in Nashville and determined that Sunset 33, LLC was an active limited liability company in Tennessee that had been formed last year in the late Spring by Brandon Gunn," he said.

Brandon Gunn was a Chancery Court accounting clerk at the time. Jackson met with then-Clerk and Master Dewun Settle February 14th.

"He had taken the position that the money had been paid out in the name of Johnnie and Lily Taylor, my clients," Jackson said.

According to Jackson, the Clerk and Master called him in March.

"Told me the money had been paid back and I could go proceed in court and Chancellor Walter Evans, presiding chancellor, awarded the sum that was due my clients," he said.

But the transaction left Jackson with a bad feeling, especially when another case, with the same scenario, came his way.

"I did inform the FBI that they might want to investigate this," he said.

Both county audits and an ethics investigation corroborate Jackson's account.

Fast forward to today, and three people: Gunn, his supervisor and the Clerk and Master. But no charges have been filed.

In past conversations, Settle told Action News 5 the confusion resulted from limited staffing as a result of budget cuts.

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