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Former Commission candidate sues Johnson City, police over business eviction

Becky Campbell • Updated Nov 14, 2017 at 9:10 AM

A Johnson City man filed a lawsuit claiming he was evicted from his own business by Johnson City police after his co-owner convinced them to kick him out, and he was so overcome by the situation he tried to kill himself.

Adam Wellington filed the suit last month in Washington County Circuit Court asked the court to award him $10 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The suit names the city of Johnson City, the Johnson City Police Department, Officer Joe Jaynes and Officer Kendra Puckett as the defendants.

In 2009, Wellington made and attempt to step into politics by running for the Johnson City Commission, but was defeated in that contest. There was some controversy surrounding his candidacy because he had changed his name the previous year for “safety concerns,” which were never addressed with the public.

Wellington claimed in the suit that he was being discriminated against because he is openly gay, married to a man and active in the LGBT community in Johnson City.

The filing, submitted pro se by Wellington, details an incident from July 25, 2016, when Puckett and Officer Andrew Gibbs responded to Wellington’s business, Ichiban Suishi & Asian Cuisine, 3101 W. Market St., after his partner, Kong Zhi Ni, called 911.

The two men were involved in a civil dispute, according to Wellington’s suit. When officers interviewed each man, they ultimately told them it was not a criminal matter and they would need to get lawyers to sort it all out.

Nonetheless, the officers asked Ni to leave the property, but he refused and got “agitated” when officers wouldn’t force Wellington to leave.

“In order to keep peace, Mr. Ni was asked to leave the property to allow the business to open for the day. Mr. Ni left the property and the business opened. Mr. Ni was never told he could not return to the business,” Wellington wrote in his filing.

Later the same day, Ni went to the police department and talked to Jaynes, Wellington claims. He said Jaynes directed Puckett to go back to the business and remove Wellington from the property, which she did and placed a no trespass order on him.

According to Wellington, he was told he would be arrested if he returned to the property.

“This removal was recorded by Mr. Ni associates and posted all over Facebook and other social media sites,” Wellington wrote. “Despite the plaintiff’s pleas that he was a 51 percent shareholder in the business, to despite showing a business license, health department license, articles of incorporation filed with the State of Tennessee, utility bills and other legal documents, the plaintiff was removed from his business.”

Coinciding with the civil dispute between Wellington and Ni, Wellington said Jaynes was working on a criminal case and ultimately charged Wellington with passing worthless checks. Wellington said the check debacle happened when the payroll company he used to write payroll checks to employees printed the wrong bank account number on checks. The account had been closed, so there were no funds for employees to obtain for their checks.

The criminal case, Wellington said, was eventually dismissed and “has been ordered expunged by the court.” He said a prosecutor went as far as apologizing to Wellington that he was ever charged.

Wellington said he and his former payroll company have reached an out of court undisclosed agreement over the incident.

Wellington’s suit details how he has suffered since the incident in “severe” ways.

“The plaintiff attempted suicide on multiple occasions,” which caused him to incur medical expenses, pain and suffering after his encounter with police removing him from the business.

Wellington said he also lost his part-time job after his employer ran a routine background check and discovered the felony check charges. He said he suffers from panic attacks when he comes into contact with any law enforcement officer due to the incident.

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