Legal Storm Brewing Could Cost Taxpayers Thousands
by Nick Beres
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - A legal storm is brewing and could cost taxpayers in Rutherford County thousands of dollars. It all stems from the controversial re-hiring of sheriff's detective Ron Killings.
Sheriff-elect Robert Arnold has said Killings is not welcome back on the staff. Now, Killings and other sheriff's department employees are bracing for pink slips. Behind the scenes, some have said if they feel they are unfairly fired they will file lawsuits.
"Oh, we always worry about potential lawsuits," said county mayor Ernest Burgess.
He said lawsuits can cost the county tens of thousands of dollars.
Burgess and county attorneys have spent the past couple of days meeting with Sheriff-elect Arnold. The main topics: a smooth transition from the regime of outgoing sheriff Truman Jones and avoiding expensive lawsuits.
"We are spending endless hours with Mr. Arnold and discussing the transition," said Burgess.
Sheriff Jones re-hired his former detective Killings on Wednesday. That was six months after he was found not guilty of reckless homicide in the death of 11-year-old Lakeisha White.
White's aunt Kim Coleman said that during the campaign Arnold told her Killings would not work for him.
"He promised that Killings would not get his job back," said Coleman.
"My administration starts at the stroke of midnight September 1st. I cannot do anything about what the current sheriff does at this point," said Arnold.
Arnold could fire Killings. He said he will look at the entire staff including upper managment and deputies.
Employment attorney Stan Kweller said the staff can sue if they feel they are unfairly fired, but the law is on Arnold's side.
"Tennessee is an Employment-at-Will state," said Kweller. "You can be fired for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all. The same rules apply to the new sheriff in Rutherford County."
Sheriff-elect Arnold said he's made no decisions yet on who will stay or who will go. He said he will carefully and fairly evaluate everyone -- including Killings.