Officials with the Rutherford County Sheriff's office will not be getting more than a dozen new deputies, at least until the controversy surrounding Sheriff Robert Arnold has ended.
The County Commission made that decision Tuesday night.
"The only authority we have over him is through the budget," said Commissioner Rhonda Allen, of District 11. "If we don't trust him with what he has so far, why would we trust him with more?"
Sheriff Robert Arnold would not speak on camera, but in a statement, he called the decision to delay hiring 19 deputies a “deliberate indifference to the safety and security of Rutherford County citizens, Sheriff’s Office deputies and inmates.”
County Commissioners said they've lost trust in Sheriff Arnold, and they added he does not need to be the one hiring anyone.
"We've learned there's a hit list," Commissioner Allen said. "There are people he's looking for reasons to terminate. He's done wrongful terminations in the past. We've had lawsuits from that, so not only could he hire those 19 close friends, he could let more people go, so it could be more than 19."
Sheriff Arnold has been facing criminal charges, along with his uncle and the department's chief of accounting.
They have been charged in a 14 count federal indictment which accused them of illegally profiting from inmates who bought e-cigarettes.
Since all this became public, members of the County Commission have been very open in saying they want Sheriff Arnold to resign, but it does not seem he has any plans to do that.
"The term I keep hearing is they have a mountain of evidence," Commissioner Allen said. "So it just seems like... I know you're innocent until proven guilty, and I completely respect that thinking. The problem is with him being the top law enforcement official in our county. We hold him to a higher standard."
Wednesday, Commissioner Shawn Kaplan made it clear they do not want Sheriff Arnold to hire 19 of his best friends, and they're protecting the county from further bad decisions by delaying the hire of more deputies at the department.
Those hires were specifically for about seven new patrol deputies and 12 detention deputies.
Sheriff Arnold also brought to light the length of training new deputies have to go through and delaying the process does a huge disservice to the county and its citizens.
Commissioners were very clear, they support the sheriff's department 100 percent but do not trust Sheriff Arnold to make the hiring decisions.
Read Sheriff Arnold’s full statement below:
"Four County Commissioners who voted Tuesday to withhold funds from hiring seven new patrol deputies and 12 detention deputies showed deliberate indifference to the safety and security of Rutherford County citizens, Sheriff’s Office deputies and inmates.
My job as Sheriff is to provide for the safety and security of our citizens and our dedicated employees, who place their lives on the line daily.
The actions of the four commissioners hold the citizens and the county employees’ hostage for political purposes, endangering the lives of both the employees who respond to dangerous calls and the citizens who may be the victims of violent crime.
Quit playing politics. Set aside the political agendas and be responsible.
Our patrol division is grossly understaffed right now. Many times, citizens have to wait for deputies to respond to a critical call because they are tied up on other calls.
Our deputies respond to dangerous calls, often without backup, increasing the danger to our deputies.
If we hire new deputies July 1, they must undergo a 16-week training program with a Field Training Officer, plus attend the state training academy for 12 weeks before they can work on their own.
Delaying the hiring of new deputies could affect every citizen who needs a deputy to respond to an emergency call.
And one of the most critical responsibilities of a county commissioner is to protect the safety and security of the inmates at the Adult Detention Center.
Training a new detention deputy takes two weeks in the classroom and a minimum six weeks training with another deputy. Delaying the hiring of new detention deputies raises the liability of an understaffed jail.
Mayor Ernest Burgess recognized the need for new employees. He recommended hiring the new patrol deputies to enhance the security of county residents, who now have one deputy for every 10,851 residents.
The mayor also recommended hiring 12 new detention deputies who will oversee one-half of the inmates now watched only by cameras.
His recommendation was approved by the Public Safety Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee in a 5-1 vote May 17.
Four commissioners recommended withdrawing funds for those 19 positions Tuesday.
I ask the County Commission to please keep politics out of the budget process. Instead, I ask commissioners to keep the safety and security of Rutherford County citizens, employees and inmates the top priority when they vote on the budget Monday."