Can't fire employee who plans to run for office held by boss.
In a closed-door meeting at County Attorney Jim Cope's office on Thursday (6/14/2013), Rutherford County's eight constitutional officers were told that an employee can not be fired, because they plan to run for the political office now held by their boss.
A sheriff's detective claims that he got the ax for that a week earlier, but officials say that was not the reason for termination. Robert Rickman has more...
Says he has plans to run for sheriff.
Former Detective Jim Tramel told WGNS News that he was called into Sheriff Arnold's office on June 6th and asked if he planned on running against him? Tramel told WGNS News that the sheriff said something like, "You'll be taking food off my table" and was fired.
Since this is such a delicate situation, prior to releasing anything about the accusations, WGNS News checked with the district attorney's office and discovered that they were aware of the accusations. Since it is a case in which they may become involved, no one was able to make further comments.
A documented investigation with written statements from each person involved shows the termination was based on other issues. In fact, not even Tramel's written statement makes any mention of problems dealing with his possibly running for the office of sheriff. All of the written statements focused on potentially damaging, unfounded rumors.
The sheriff's investigation focused on allegations that Detective Tramel was spreading sexually related rumors about other staff members.
According to the memorandum from Chief Deputy Randy Garrett, Tramel was terminated because of unfounded comments and sexual allegations that were made against other officers, which "could create an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment."
According to the report, "Although Detective Tramel seems to recall specifics regarding the rumors, he is unable or unwilling to name the individual who told him the rumor of which he repeated in the presence of Captain David Hailey."
Files from the Rutherford County Sheriffs Office show that on June 5, 2013, Major Bill Sharp met with all persons who either were directly or indirectly involved in the allegations. Prior to that meeting, Sharp asked each person to prepare a written statement about the incident.
None of the written responses, not even Tramel's, had anything to do with comments dealing with termination as a result of considering to run for the position of sheriff with the next election. As of this date, no formal complaints have been filed relating to the allegations described in the written statements.
Major Bill Sharp headed the investigation, and recommended that Tramel be transferred to another division within the sheriff's office.
However, after reviewing the information--Chief Deputy Garrett and Deputy Chief Virgil Gammon recommended termination.
In a written memorandum dated June 7, 2013, from Chief Deputy Garrett to Sheriff Arnold, "After review of the file, I find that Detective Tramel violated The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Standard Operating Procedure No. 617 Discrimination and Harassment II B-3. Section II B-3 states: Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favors. Sexual harassment is also any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature or of a sexual focus which could interfere with an individual's work performance of which could create an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment."
In talking with Chief Deputy Garrett, he stressed to WGNS News that Tramel was made aware that he had five days to appeal. In fact, one of the pages in the report (see below) has Tramel's signature stating that he is aware of the appeal process and that it must be filed within five-days.
Garrett told WGNS, "We waited until the day after the appeal period expired, so their could be no question of fairness."
Letter From Sheriff Hand Delivered To Tramel
On Friday, June 14, 2013, Sheriff Robert Arnold had a letter hand delivered to Tramel, stating that the appeal period had passed.
In the letter to Jim Tramel (see below), the sheriff states, "I concur with the termination recommendation. Your employment with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office is terminated immediately."
Note: Out of courtesy, WGNS deleted Tramel's address from the document below.