By Sam Stockard - Murfreesboro Post
A federal judge's decision to postpone Sheriff Robert Arnold's trial until February 2017 is throwing a kink into the Rutherford County Commission's decision regarding his request for 19 new deputy positions.
Commissioners did not want to acquiesce to Arnold and approve $1.3 million in funding during June budget talks, hoping they could wait until after an initial trial date in August to let loose of the funds.
But less than a month after approving a budget without 19 new deputies, Rutherford County commissioners face the prospect of granting the sheriff's personnel request, while he's still in office, though they may seek some caveats.
The commission's Budget & Finance Committee turned down the addition of seven patrol and 12 detention deputies after the Public Safety Committee approved it, largely because commissioners said they didn't trust the indicted sheriff to spend the money correctly.
"It's a risky proposition to trust him to fill those positions," says County Commissioner Rhonda Allen.
A representative of Smyrna, Allen says Arnold has "proven time and again he doesn't always make the best decisions."
With that in mind, she says it's "not an easy decision for her when she considers whether to vote in favor of funding those positions when the full commission meets Aug. 9 at the County Courthouse.
County Commissioner Robert Stevens, a Smyrna attorney, says the public supports funding for the deputy positions.
"The question is who will do the hiring and firing of such persons," Stevens says, noting he wants to ask Arnold to recuse himself from making the personnel decisions and put it in another top supervisor's hands.
Stevens says he doesn't want Arnold to be accused of hiring family or friends as part of this funding package.
Once commissioners approve the funding, though, they have no real control over how it's spent by a constitutional officer.
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