Former Employees Sue Sheriff Alleging Evil Motives
by Nick Beres
RUTHERFORDCOUNTY, Tenn. - A civil lawsuit is seeking thousand of dollars in damages accusing new Rutherford county sheriff Robert Arnold of illegally forcing several employees off the job.
"He came in and in just minutes took my 19-year career way," said Bill Kennedy, who left his job earlier this month.
Kennedy and three other employees are part of the lawsuit. Kennedy said Arnold demoted him, cut his pay and forced him out. He said he left rather than take the demotion. Kennedy's attorney said he had enough.
"Basically our clients told the new sheriff he can take his job and shove it," said attorney Fletcher Long, who along with Carrie Gasaway and Eddie Farmer are representing the former employees.
"They weren't fired because of performance, but because we have a vindictive sheriff," said attorney Farmer.
The lawsuit alleges "each of these plaintiffs suffered adverse employment action resulting from their affiliation with the Democratic party or their political advocacy of the Truman Jones for sheriff campaign." And that "the defendant Arnold was motivated by evil motive or intent."
"If you know you will lose your job by supporting another candidate, that is a 1st Amendment violation," said attorney Gasaway.
Sheriff Arnold declined comment Monday evening. Since he took office earlier this month, 16 employees have left, while 12 took demotions. He has said in the past that the moves are good for the department and the county.
"We did rank restructuring and saved the county somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand dollars," said Arnold earlier this month.
In the past, Arnold has said he makes employment decisions based on merit or performance. He said his focus is on what is best for the country and the department and that there are no personal vendettas based on who someone supported for sheriff.
The former employees are suing for compensatory and punitive financial damages. Others are expected to join the lawsuit soon.
Former sheriff's detective Ron Killings, who was fired by Arnold earlier this month, is not part of the lawsuit.