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Panel not sure it can hear ex-deputy's appeal
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Forsyth County News

Both a former and a current Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy brought their cases to the local civil service board for review on Thursday.

Rodney Pirkle is awaiting the board’s decision on whether it will hear an appeal of his firing, and Sgt. Scott Wilson presented his case on an eight-hour suspension.

Pirkle, who was fired in July, asked the board to review his appeal even though he was not covered by civil service as a first-year probationary employee.

In a 3-0 vote, the board postponed the matter to its September meeting.

The delay allows time to review additional documents Pirkle submitted to the county’s personnel services department explaining why he feels he’s entitled to an appeal, said board attorney Dana Miles.

Pirkle believes he was fired July 11 for his support of sheriff candidate Duane Piper, who is running against incumbent Ted Paxton in the Republican primary. Their contest will be decided in an Aug. 21 runoff election

Despite more than four prior years with the department as a deputy, Pirkle was on standard first-year employee probation after having left for a year and then being rehired on Aug. 9, 2011.

He resigned to spend a year in Afghanistan working as a bomb dog handler and trainer.

According to county policy, “a probationary employee may be subject to personnel action and/or disciplined up to and including termination for any non-discriminatory reason, without the requirement that the county demonstrate just cause for the personnel action.”

Pirkle contends his dismissal was politically motivated, which he believes is a discriminatory reason.

That exception was something Pirkle pointed out in his written explanation, said Pat Carson, Forsyth County personnel services director, after the meeting.

However, since he wasn’t covered under civil service protection, the board needs to determine whether it can hear the case.

“They want to see if it will qualify for a civil service appeal,” Carson said. “Is the option to go to the civil service board a valid one?”

The board also began its review of Wilson’s informal appeal of his eight-hour suspension for “neglect of duty” while working an off-duty security job March 10 at the Coo Coo’s Nest.

A June 12 letter from Lt. Col. D.T. Smith states that Wilson “failed to take appropriate action on the occasion of a crime scene, as well as document the violation of law and an injury to another while working the extra job.”

The new position statement review process, which Wilson is the first to use, allows the board to hold a less time-intensive review for disciplinary actions up to and including eight-hour suspensions, Miles said.

Both Wilson and the sheriff’s office submitted their cases in writing, and the board can ask questions of each before reaching a decision.

Wilson contended in his final reply of the written statement process that he did not violate agency policy.

He also alleges workplace harassment due to his support of Piper, including his recent transfer to the jail and delay in receiving a Medal of Valor.

“I am being singled out because of my political affiliation and punished every chance the sheriff gets,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson was also present at the meeting to field some questions, which focused on what policies apply when he works part time as a private security officer in county uniform.

Each side will also get 10 days to respond in writing, after which the board will deliberate in closed session on the appeal.