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Forsyth County Sheriff's employee wins termination appeal
Not allowed back at work with appeal looming

FORSYTH COUNTY -- The termination of a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office employee was recently overturned, but she has not yet been allowed to return to work.

Forsyth County’s Civil Service Board overturned last week a decision made by the sheriff’s office to terminate Amanda Funkhouser, a civilian employee who worked in the Georgia Crime and Information Center, or GCIC, unit following a hearing on Aug. 11.

According to the board’s decision, the cause for her termination was the surfacing of video and audio recordings showing her “sleeping while on duty” during an overnight shift that were taken by another employee. A sergeant who met with Funkhouser over the issue reportedly did not believe she was truthful in her responses.

“While seemingly straightforward on its face, the board found several aspects of the sheriff’s office’s case troubling,” the decision said.

The board found that the recordings showed Funkhouser sleeping, but said they “were very brief in time comprising a total of less than four minutes over a course of approximately five days.”

Despite sleeping, there was no evidence to board members that Funkhouser neglected her duties or had previously been disciplined.

The videos were taken between April 29 and May 25.

The board “was also troubled by evidence of the poor management structure of the GCIC Unit by the sheriff’s office and lack of supervision” and said employees were not given secondary tasks during periods of inactivity.

Another concern was that employees were permitted “to fill their down time watching television, reading or doing crossword puzzles.”

It was also determined there was a long-term “personality conflict” dating back to December between Funkhouser and the coworker who shot the videos.

The board had issues with the meeting between the sergeant and Funkhouser, as no recording was made of their meeting, and a written report was not made until almost two weeks after, leading to a “conflict in testimony about the exact question asked” and Funkhouser’s responses.

The board determined that Funkhouser is to be reinstated at her job but serve 120 days without pay and is entitled to back pay.

The suspension was retroactively applied to June 20, the day of Funkhouser’s termination.

However, attorney Julia Barbani said Funkhouser was told by a sheriff’s office human resources official that she should not be in contact with the agency.

“According to the board’s ruling, she should have gone back on Sept. 8,” Barbani said. “It is our understanding the sheriff’s office does not want to rehire Ms. Funkhouser and will be appealing this ruling.”

Sheriff Duane Piper confirmed an imminent appeal due to “several points” of the decision.

Barbani said she and Funkhouser are “very disappointed” in the declared intent to appeal.

“We feel like the Civil Service Board deliberated and came to a fair and thoughtful conclusion, and we believe that the Civil Service Boards’ decision was a right one, that this was a situation in which the employee was wrongfully terminated,” she said. “Based on the fact that we believe it’s a fair ruling, we’re incredibly disappointed that this administration plans to appeal in such an obvious case.”