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Ex-sheriffs deputy fights to regain job
Fired for not disclosing contact with suspect
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Forsyth County News

CUMMING — The Forsyth County Civil Service Board is weighing the case of a former local sheriff’s deputy who was fired earlier this summer during investigation of a fraudulent legal practices case.

The three-member panel, which met all day Thursday and Friday on the matter, has 30 days to make a decision on whether to reverse Paul Whitfield’s termination. The case will be discussed in a future closed meeting, with the ruling announced at a called public session.

In appealing the decision, Whitfield’s attorney maintained Sheriff Duane Piper’s reasons for firing his client were weak.

Steven Lydell argued that the lawman of more than 30 years should be reinstated as the procedures weren’t followed properly and that Whitfield was denied his right to proper due process.

Mike Garrison, an internal affairs investigator for the sheriff’s office, said Piper fired Whitfield after an internal affairs investigation found the deputy had been untruthful and uncooperative.

That probe came as a result of a case involving Kimberly McAfee Pruitt.

In May, Pruitt was arrested on four charges related to fraudulent legal practices, and a few days later for a felony theft by taking.

Pruitt, who was employed by an attorney, allegedly offered to provide services to the attorney’s clients and took money from them without authorization to do so. She then didn’t provide any of the legal services promised, despite accepting more than $20,000 for them.

Garrison said Whitfield’s termination came after an investigation into Pruitt and other deputies who were possibly leaking information about people who had been arrested to her so she could in turn contact them.

As a result of that investigation, Joel Rick Clark resigned from the sheriff’s office. Garrison said Clark, who had been with the agency for more than 25 years, pointed to Whitfield as someone else who had known Pruitt for a long time.

Garrison said he found no proof that Whitfield had been involved in providing any inappropriate information to Pruitt relating to the charges against her. However, Whitfield was terminated after he reportedly lied about having had contact with Pruitt.

Authorities discovered he had left a voice mail message for Pruitt and had spoken briefly to her after one of her friends called Whitfield and passed the phone to her.

Both the voice mail and call occurred after the investigations into Pruitt’s actions and into Whitfield’s relationship with her had begun.

As a result, Garrison said, Whitfield was obligated to report any contact he had with her to internal affairs investigators. He failed to do so until placed under a polygraph test administered by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent.