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Forsyth sheriffs office settles with fired employee

Issues surrounding the firing of a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office employee have been settled.

On Thursday, Forsyth County commissioners approved a settlement as part of their meeting’s consent agenda with Amanda Funkhouser, a civilian employee who worked in the Georgia Crime and Information Center, or GCIC.

Items on the consent agendas are typically approved at the commission’s previous work session, meaning there was no discussion at Thursday’s meeting — the matter had been discussed at the earlier meeting by Aaron Meyer, an attorney at the office of County Attorney Ken Jarrard, who was not present.

“This resolves an employment matter that has been ongoing with the sheriff’s office and only involves the county to the extent it is involved in the wavering,” Meyer said.

Ken Jarrard said in an email the commission’s approval was the last needed and “completely settles the case.” Funkhouser, the county’s civil service board and the sheriff’s office, who Jarrard was representing in the matter but is not their usual counsel, also approved the measure.

Per a copy of the settlement, Funkhouser will release all claims against the county and receive $12,828.13 in back-pay from June 20, 2016 to Jan. 20, 2017 — except 120 hours for suspension. Funkhouser will also be reinstated and “immediately resign in good standing” with the office and be deemed “eligible for rehire.”

The settlement also states the sheriff’s office will dismiss a petition for writ of certiorari, and all county parties will accede to previous ruling by the civil service board.

In September, the board determined that Funkhouser was to be reinstated at her job but serve 120 hours without pay and be entitled to back-pay.

In October, the sheriff’s office filed the writ of certiorari asking for the case to be considered by the Forsyth County Superior Court and to reverse the decision.

Both Funkhouser and the board denied allegations made in the writ and denied that then-Sheriff Duane Piper is entitled to relief from the court.

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

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.

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, 2016.

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 of it was made, 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.