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Ex-sheriff's workers make civil service plea

County official: Layoffs not applicable

POSTED: March 14, 2013 12:30 a.m.
 

Eleven employees laid off from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office have requested the civil service board hear an appeal and reinstate their jobs.

The supervisory positions were cut in late February as part of an agency restructuring that new Sheriff Duane Piper said will increase efficiency and lower the budget.

The 11 laid off claim their terminations were politically motivated, incorrectly processed and discriminatory based on age.

While Piper denied a direct informal appeal, the group hopes the civil service board will allow a formal hearing and make a ruling.

The board meets today and could discuss the county personnel director’s recommendation that current policy doesn’t allow it to hear the appeal.

In a letter dated Tuesday, director Pat Carson cited civil service policy that “denies the right of appeal when separation is due to a lay-off.”

Attorney Lance LoRusso, who represents the 11 former employees, has argued the procedure was done incorrectly and that the group deserves a hearing at the civil service level.

“The reduction in force policy was not followed and the documents that were presented to the employees violate federal law,” LoRusso said. “Once the case gets to the civil service board, the burden of proof is clearly on the county and, in this case, the sheriff, to prove that the action taken was appropriate under the county and civil service rules and the law.”

His letter, dated March 6, cites civil service board regulations that could constitute a violation in policy, which would allow for the appeal.

Carson disputed each of the arguments in her letter.

“If an allegation of discrimination is all that is needed to elicit of civil service appellate right for a lay-off,” she wrote, “then the county should anticipate that every employee involved in such an action will seek to appeal. … It will not matter if it is true — though I understand in your case you believe it is.”

If the board agrees with the county’s recommendation and denies a civil service hearing, the case could be headed to court.

“We’re just waiting for the process to go forward,” LoRusso said. “I know that they’ve received a lot of phone calls in support from the community, which is very helpful. I mean, these folks have over 200 years of [combined] experience of serving the county.”

Piper’s Feb. 26 letter to the 11 maintains the agency followed policy, stating that civil service rights do not come into play.

“Each of them was laid off pursuant to a valid reduction in force that was coordinated with, and overseen by, the appropriate Forsyth County administrative officials,” Piper wrote.

 

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