Rutherford Co. Could End Up Paying The Salary For Two Sheriffs At Once

Posted at 4:27 PM, Oct 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 20:35:29-04

Rutherford County citizens filed an ouster suit against Sheriff Robert Arnold. Once it goes before a chancery court judge, that judge could suspend Arnold as sheriff until the case goes to trial. If that happens the county commission would have to appoint an interim sheriff and pay him the sheriff's salary. Sheriff Arnold though would still be paid as well.

The citizen's group filed the lawsuit to remove Arnold from office after he was arrested.

"It could take 18 months through the legal process for that to occur," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.

Therefore, the first step in that process may be for a judge to suspend Arnold, removing his powers as sheriff, but Arnold would still be paid.

"Be careful what you ask for Rutherford County," said Leonardo.

Arnold is currently in federal detention in Kentucky - sent there for violating his pre-trial release while he awaits his day in court on corruption charges.

Arnold said even from his jail cell, he's still in charge and talks daily with his chief deputy in Rutherford county.

District Attorney Jennings Jones said last week that Arnold is pretty much out of the picture on day-to-day operations

"At this point if the sheriff is detained until his trial in February I don't think it will be possible for the sheriff to execute the duties of his office," said Jones.  

With the sheriff locked away in Kentucky, more have thought twice about even suspending him. Doing so would mean the county commission would have to appoint a new temporary sheriff at the same salary of $127,000.

It could be weeks before any action on an ouster suit and in meantime the sheriff's attorney is moving forward on appeal to release is client from jail.

As for removing Arnold from office, the only other way besides an ouster suit or convicting him in the February criminal trial is for him to resign.

He has repeatedly said he will not do that.

In the meantime, civic leaders planned to meet with state lawmakers to discuss laws needed to make it easier to remove elected officials from office when they are accused of a crime.