Paul Lee addresses panel

Pro wrestler and Ringgold businessman Paul Lee addresses city officials during a public hearing on Sept. 16, 2015, before the panel ultimately disqualified him as a mayoral candidate. Seated, from left: Elections Superintendent Nicki Lundeen, City Attorney Jim Bisson, and City Manager Dan Wright. (Catoosa News file photo/Adam Cook)

One-time mayoral hopeful Paul Lee has filed a $15,000 lawsuit against the city of Ringgold and its elections superintendent following his short-lived run for mayor during the 2015 election.

It's been just over two years since Lee, a professional wrestler and Ringgold businessman, made community headlines: first, that he was stepping out of the wrestling ring to run for mayor, and then when he was ruled to be an unqualified candidate.

Like other candidates, Lee went to Ringgold City Hall and paid his qualifying fee in the summer of 2015 before kicking off his campaign. Shortly thereafter, fellow candidate Nick Millwood challenged his qualifications, charging that Lee primarily lived outside city limits.

At the time and since, Lee has maintained that he owns two homes — one in the county and the other in the Bluff View subdivision in the city.

After all was said and done, Lee was disqualified from the race, and Millwood went on to become mayor by ultimately defeating fellow candidates Tony Hullender and Jerry Payne.

Lee filed his $15,000 civil lawsuit Sept. 1 in Catoosa County Magistrate Court against the city and Elections Superintendent Nicki Lundeen over "lost time," "stress related to the matter," "emotional expense," "non-refunded qualifying fees," and "violation of his Constitutional Rights."

"I done everything the city asked as I qualified to run for mayor in the fall of 2015," Lee said. "I made it clear to the city that I owned two residences; a smaller one in the city, and one in the county. After three days of going back and forth, the city of Ringgold found me to be ineligible to run for office. They took my money to run and announced me in the paper, only to have it taken from me weeks later when then vice-mayor Nick Millwood got threatened by me running and started a witch hunt to end my campaign."

Lee claims that if he wasn't eligible to run, his qualifying fee should have been refunded to him.

"The city went along with his (Millwood's) complaint and then disqualified me, but never offered me back any of my money paid, or what I spent for advertising material," Lee said. "I said then that I would sue if the city would not refund me my money lost. Since then, I have never heard from them regarding this matter, so before my statue of limitations ran out I had no choice but to sue them."

Lee says the whole ordeal really isn't as much about the money as it is the principle of the matter.

"These city officials are hired with our tax money and should be more professional and keep people in mind when they make decisions without thinking about the consequences of their decisions," Lee said.

Mayor Millwood declined to officially comment on the lawsuit, but did say that he and the city's attorney are aware of it.

"We're going to offer no comment on it right now," Millwood said.

Per the city charter, officials aren't at liberty to discuss potential or ongoing litigation.

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.