COMMENTARY: I Fired Loretta Bailey

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On Aug. 5, 2010, I fired Loretta Bailey from the job she held as a receptionist at the Cannon County Sheriff's Department.

In doing so, I was joined by 2,122 other Cannon Countians who elected Darrell Young as sheriff. That's over 50 percent of the people who voted in the election.

At the time I did not know Bailey, and still don't, but that doesn't really matter.

I did know Darrell Young, I believed he was the best candidate for the position, and I voted to put him into office.

Usually when people vote to elect someone for an office over the incumbent, they are seeking a change. They are empowering the new officeholder to take the steps he or she thinks are necessary to make the office better and more efficient.

It has long been common practice for personnel in an elected office to change when a new administration assumes control. It happens at the federal, state and county levels after every election cycle.

According to Tennessee law, my boss can fire me at any time, for whatever reason. I'm sure there are people who would be happy if he did. I am thankful he has not as yet taken advantage of the choice, but the option is there, fair or not, and if he does I have to deal with the consequences.

Therefore, I must wonder and be concerned about what makes the Loretta Bailey situation so special? She claims she was fired because of her political allegiance. If that indeed was the case, so what? Elections are all about politics. I wasn't aware there is a special exception to Tennessee law which says a person who has a particular political allegiance or affiliation can't be fired. Everybody has one.

The fact that the legal system is involved in the election process in this fashion is troubling. For Cannon County it's also costly, in that taxpayers are on the hook for $25,000 to settle a suit most people view as frivolous, and as more than a few of our county commissioners put it Friday night, "blackmail."

The settlement calls for Bailey to receive $45,000. About a third of that amount will go to her attorneys. I imagine she received unemployment compensation after she was fired. That's fair; anything additional is not.

It's also not fair to have a system where a small group of jurors in another county could penalize the entire population of Cannon County for a decision they made inside a voting booth.
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February 05, 2012 at 10:46am
well said Mr. Halpern. I wonder many of these things myself. I know that my husband as an employeee in the state of Tennessee can be fire for anything that his boss sees fit to..even as miniscule as scratching his nose and we have no legal recourse based on the fact that Tennessee is what is called a "no-fault" state. I also couldn't help but wonder just why someone would wish to stay in the employ of the new Sheriff..I also felt that when one political office leaves, umm, so does the accompanying staff. I don't recall seeing Mondale remain under Ronald Reagan or Quayle remain under Clinton. It is the way that things go..Ms. Bailey needs to accept that and I would think that this situation would have been a "given possibility" of the job-- somewhat of an occupational hazard is you will. But at least now I am aware of the only job in Tennessee that doesn't operate under the laws of the rest of the state...Ms. Bailey just took the county and taxpayers for a long ride..get ready, others will see the lead and follow suit.
February 05, 2012 at 12:49pm
Very thoughtful and well written article.
February 05, 2012 at 4:13pm
So since Tennessee is a "right to work" state and an employer has the right to fire me just because they don't like me then does that give them the right to fire me because I am white for example?

Should I be allowed to be fired because I am a Republican or voted for Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary in 2007 for example and had one of his signs in my yard?

Should they be allowed to fire me because I weigh 275lbs and they don't want that kind of "look" from one of their employees?

Should they be able to fire me because of a medical condition such as diabetes because it cost more to give me medical care than it does other employees?

Should they be able to fire me because I am disabled and they change administrations and now suddenly the new group doesn't want disabled people working for them?

Should they be able to fire me because I am a veteran and I fought for my country in a war that was against people who are of the same faith as them?

I can't stand the thought of frivolous lawsuits or spending taxpayer money on something that certainly could have been avoided.

However, at what point do we say it is ok to fire someone for the questions I asked above?

Does living in a state that is a "right to work" state exempt me from having civil rights?

I am asking these questions in the hopes of honest answer and not to argue.
February 05, 2012 at 4:40pm
Halpern points out a sad truism about jury trails. In this case a small groups of jurors who may not have seen the rationale behind the "to the victors belong the spoils" reality of the political game.

February 05, 2012 at 7:15pm
"I am asking these questions in the hopes of honest answer and not to argue."

Federal laws generally trump state laws. There are different answers to each of the questions you posed. Consult federal job discrimination laws.

Should an employer be forced to retain an employee he or she does not want under all circumstances? Since the answer to that question is already no, where does one stop making exceptions to the rule?
February 05, 2012 at 7:19pm
Tennessee is a "Employment-At-Will state," however, that does not gives a employer the right to fired a employee for any reason. Under Tennessee and federal laws there are certain reasons an employer cannot fired a person, some of these reasons are race, age, religion, color, and exercising one right of association. Additionally, Walter Mondale and Dan Quayle was vice presidents which is a elected position,in which they had to be reelected to keep their positions. And what exactly are the "spoils" of winning a election? To do whatever the "victor" see fit to do, without any repercussions. I do not the "official" reason why Loretta Bailey was fired however I would like to know especially if the county is going to spending $25,000 to settle the case.
February 05, 2012 at 7:40pm
Loretta Bailey filed a lawsuit because she believes her constitutional rights have been violated. She believes that she was fired because she actively campaigned for Billy Nichols by having a sign in her yard and stickers on the back window of her vehicle. If that was the case, then there would have been a dozen more Sheriff Dept employees who worked under Billy Nichols out of a job when Sheriff Young took over. Several employees including many deputies visibly campaigned for Nichols and are still employed for the Sheriff's Dept. Sheriff Young has the right to hire of fire anyone he chooses to ensure a healthy work environment for his employees. He has the right to have trustworthy, hardworking individuals employed under him whether they came in when he took over or still there from the prior administration.
February 05, 2012 at 11:23pm
Corey, I have spoken with the Department of Labor in Nashville and they have told me in the past that Tennessee is what they call a "no-fault" state and they can fire for any reason they feel like it without regard. I blantantly asked, "so they can fire me for picking my nose if they choose to" and they said, "yes, great example, yes they can" there you go in answer to your questions and this info was obtain last year.
February 06, 2012 at 4:26am
"And what exactly are the "spoils" of winning a election?"

Traditionally, in this county and elsewhere, one of the "spoils" has been to allow the officer holder to hire and fire personnel as they deemed appropriate and necessary.

"...if the county is going to spending $25,000 to settle the case."

Yes, the county commission voted to do so Friday night.

"I do not the "official" reason why Loretta Bailey was fired ..."

I will check to make sure, but I imagine the "official reason" Sheriff Young gave for dismissing Bailey is one much like the one Sheriff Nichols gave when he laid off five people during his last day on the job: "Laid off. Change of Administration."

February 06, 2012 at 6:03am
Corey: If, when Harold Patrick retired as Clerk and Master, Judge Corlew had named another person by the name of Bryson to the position, and that Bryson decided he wanted a different assistant than the one Patrick had, and dismissed Patrick's assistant on his first day on the job for the reason "Change Of Administration" would you believe that to be a legitimate and lawful act on the part of the new administrator?
February 06, 2012 at 8:08am
Judge Corlew has the authority to change the assistant the last time I checked. At the end of the day he is the man who has the power of that office and is solely responsible for the people who work there. I would suggest you call him and ask him if you want clarification.

Again, I asked the questions above not to argue Kevin which is exactly what you are trying to do. I just wanted to know more about the process of firing someone for any reason. It is called a discussion for a reason. You are trying to make it personal.

DebbiJen you make a good point to what I was trying to convey. If an employer has a right to fire you for "picking your nose" then that same employer can abuse that right by deciding that they don't want you working for them because you eat doughnuts for breakfast every morning and you weigh 275lbs. The same would go true for campaigning for someone who is running against you in an election.

At the end of the day there is nothing anyone can do about any of it. I don't necessarily agree with paying the lawsuit, but I understand why the county commissioners agreed to do so. It could save a lot of money down the road.
February 06, 2012 at 8:08am
To follow up on the question posed in a prior post, the "Separation Notice" for Loretta Bailey, signed by Sheriff Young, states as the "Reason for Separation": "Due to new administration services no longer needed."
February 06, 2012 at 8:14am
It's not personal Corey, it's pertinent. I don't decide who works in what office or who is married to whom. If the Clerk and Master situation is not one you want to address, let's move to the Registrar of Deeds Office. If the current Registar decided she wanted to change her assistant, does and should she have the legal right to do so?
February 06, 2012 at 11:19am
Again Kevin I will advise you to contact the offices you have questions about to the appropriate people in charge.

As I am not a lawyer, I cannot answer a legal question concerning any office or employer's rights to fire someone in any town, state or federal level.

That was the sole reason behind my questions above. I wasn't agreeing or disagreeing with anything. It was supposed to generate discussion and for whatever reason you chose to make it personal.

I will pose this question to you:

Let's say for example someone comes in to a town and buys a business that has someone working for them that works at a computer job and nothing else.

Perhaps this person smokes like a freight train, perhaps they are overweight and their personal hygiene is suspect at times. Would the new owner have a legal right to fire that person just for those reasons? That is a question that is pertinent as well.

That was my entire point up top. At what point are a person's civil rights exempt or null and void because Tennessee is a "right to work" state?

I am not for or against anything in the case of Loretta Bailey because I wasn't there, I don't know the details and I was not privileged to Sherriff Young's decision making process on why he made the choice not to retain her.

If anything, I have spoken my displeasure to the idea of paying taxpayer dollars to settle a lawsuit. I would go out on a limb and say I think Sherriff Young also is displeased with that idea as well.
February 06, 2012 at 11:33am
"Perhaps this person smokes like a freight train, perhaps they are overweight and their personal hygiene is suspect at times. Would the new owner have a legal right to fire that person just for those reasons? That is a question that is pertinent as well."

To the best of my knowledge, under Tennessee law, the new owner has a right to fire that person.
February 06, 2012 at 11:52am
So if the answer is yes they have a right to fire that person then again, I ask the question:

At what point are a person's civil rights exempt or null and void because Tennessee is a "right to work" state?

I am asking for feedback to these questions:

At what point is the line crossed?

What are the boundaries? What is to stop someone from abusing that power?

I thought this was what you intended these blogs to do. I just want to know what other people think, I am not trying to agree or disagree with anything.
February 06, 2012 at 12:21pm
since the county gave Mrs. Bailey money, doesnt that set a presitence? Can't anyone else come along and do the exact same thing?
I personally did not like this decision, I just feel we will be experiencing the same before long.I lost my job (company moved to another state) I lost my insurance, I think it was unfair to pay someone in such a bad manner with my taxes which I pay.
February 06, 2012 at 12:26pm
I too want to know what people think. I presented two situations to you, ones which could occur right here in this county as did the Loretta Bailey situation, and asked what you thought. Did not receive an answer either time.

"At what point is the line crossed? What are the boundaries? What is to stop someone from abusing that power?"

Hard to answer that because I have not yet seen what I consider to be an actual situation where I thouight a line has been crossed, a boundary has been exceeded or someone abusing power.

Perhaps I might understand more if someone who deals with these issues explains to me why it was OK for Sheriff Nichols to fire five people for "Change Of Administration" on his last day on the job and supposely not OK for Sheriff Young to let one go on his first day because "Due to new administration services no longer needed."

February 06, 2012 at 12:41pm
From now on everytime there is an administration change of a county elected positon and any employees of the previous adminstration are dismissed, for any reason, they will have a lawyer and i quess we will pay. Get county job now, great new severance bonas package.

At least in the private sector, the constance increasing inability to employ who i want with MY MONEY is one of the main reasons why china has all of our industry! Employees with bad habits and self inflicted poor health issues do cost the employer more money.

Any person in a position of athourity, like a sheriff, will not be sucessful if he is not surrounded with people he can work with. It is his duty to us, to put together the best team possible to ensure our protection.

I cant help but believe there is more to this story or it is totally insain!
February 06, 2012 at 3:16pm
Kevin you asked a question you knew was personal to me and one you already knew the answer to. I wasn't asking any of my questions except to generate a discussion.

However, you did get an answer from me both times.

A. Judge Corlew has the authority to change the assistant the last time I checked.

B. As I am not a lawyer, I cannot answer a legal question concerning any office or employer's rights to fire someone in any town, state or federal level.

Should there be a protocol for a change of administration after an election that deals with hiring or not retaining county employees of a prior administration. The answer to that is YES.

In fact I was told by a County Commissioner on Saturday that they were in the process of looking into that very idea when I inquired about this lawsuit.

Hopefully that would address future concerns, changes or issues when new administrations are elected.

February 06, 2012 at 3:30pm
So you have no problem expressing your opinions on every matter of county business under the sun, except for those which are personal to you? Seems to me you would be best qualified to address matters which affect you directly.

I'd bet the County Commissioner you spoke to Saturday was the same one I suggested establishing a protocol to Friday night. One may or may not help the situation, but it is unlikely a county protocol would supercede that which is state law.
February 06, 2012 at 3:44pm
"Should there be a protocol for a change of administration after an election that deals with hiring or not retaining county employees of a prior administration. The answer to that is YES."

Seems to me a protocol limited to that would only address half the problem. What about the firing of county employees by the prior administration on the elected official's last day on the job?
February 06, 2012 at 4:08pm
I was not expressing an opinion on this article. I was not agreeing or disagreeing with anything you or anyone else wrote about on this article. I was asking questions in the hope it would generate discussion to help me learn what other people thought.

You and only you are the one who tried to make it personal. This lawsuit has not affected me personally in any way except that my tax dollars are being spent to settle it. None of the scenarios you already knew the answer to were ever in question at any time and I answered both of them to the best of my ability.

As far as who you talked to, I don't know because I talked with three different commissioners on Saturday and the County Executive and none of them mentioned you or any idea you may or may not have presented to them on Friday.

As I recall, you have an opinion on every subject, law and matter Cannon County has as well as is obvious by the grandeur of the title of this article "I fired Loretta Bailey".

But, you know what they say about opinions!
February 06, 2012 at 4:35pm
"I was not expressing an opinion on this article."

That's B.S. If you posted you posted an opinion, even if you did couch them as questions. You did so to generate more opinions.

"You and only you are the one who tried to make it personal. This lawsuit has not affected me personally."

That's B.S. as well. This matter does currently affect you personally, because of your family ties to county government. That's a fact, not an attack. If providing the answers make you feel uncomfortable, that is not a situation of my creation. It does make me wonder if you answer questions or give opinions about county government matters differently depending on whether the situation is "personal" to you, or not?

Corey, once again we've debated a situation and when the discussion gets outside your comfort zone, the personal attacks come out. Nowhere will you find in this thread anything I have written where I have attacked you or a member of your family personally. Until now: Get some backbone!

February 06, 2012 at 5:31pm
Kevin you are laughable at times. I have more backbone than you could ever dream of having. In fact, I can quote an email YOU sent me about two weeks ago describing how you knew how much backbone I had concerning the changing of polling places. Do you deny that?

My ties to the courthouse or county government are well known and none of that is secret. I have a wife who works at the courthouse and a mother-in-law as well. Both of which are extremely intelligent, beautiful, funny and friendly and always goes above and beyond the call of duty to help everyone that comes in their office. I also love them both very much and I am thankful GOD has blessed me to have both of them in my life. I am not ashamed of them in any way and am very proud for everyone to know it. You or anyone else can call me at 563-2061 if you want to know more about my family.

Unlike you, I can be totally unbiased to their jobs and not be totally gullible to what others try to convince me is truth simply to utilize the power of the press to make themselves look better during an election year.

I answered everything you asked concerning those scenarios to the best of my ability. I told you who had the power to change the assistant in the Clerk & Master's office and I told you I was not a lawyer and couldn't answer legal questions concerning any office. I started from the beginning trying to generate conversation on where the line was or should be drawn on the right to work vs. civil rights. Nothing more and nothing less.

The only B.S. anyone is spreading here today is you. You should know by now after the many emails, personal conversations and comments on different articles there is nothing you or anyone else can say or do to get me out of my comfort zone or cause me grief primarily because I do not worry or care about what you think of me. I am not in the business of trying to get you to like me because I really don't give a crap if you do.

I have been standing on my own long before you ever heard of Woodbury and I will be long after you are gone.
February 06, 2012 at 5:49pm
Corey, I have no response to that comment.

I will simply relay a few lines from two e-mails I received today, from someone I do not know, concerning you:

"We have known each other a long time."

"I love the way you are able to articulate your responses to him and put him in his place."

"... I try to choose my words carefully with him, but he always chooses the smartass route and the slurs and hate-filled derogatory comments ..."

"... and will not support the bigotry and hatred, of which OF COURSE he claims he does NOT possess ..."

Following is my response to the first one:

"Thank you. I like Corey, respect Corey, and enjoy debating him. We agree more than we disagree on most issues. But yes, he does drive me crazy at times to the point I just wish he would go away. However, I probably have a similar effect on him so it pretty much balances out."
February 06, 2012 at 6:27pm
Kevin I do have a response:

I don't care. It doesn't bother me and people are more than welcome to think whatever they want to about me.

If anyone had any "backbone" as you say then they would have the guts to talk to me directly and not go through you.

If you knew what I had heard about you numerous times by numerous people you would probably go home and cry.

But, like me I am sure you don't care either.
February 06, 2012 at 6:40pm
Glad to see I am not alone in my opinion.

Thank you for posting those excerpts!

February 06, 2012 at 7:06pm
"If anyone had any "backbone" as you say then they would have the guts to talk to me directly ..."

Why would they want to do that, when they can clearly see what that gets them: "smartass route and the slurs and hate-filled derogatory comments."
February 06, 2012 at 7:25pm
I think you two should fight right on the square. We will charge 5 bucks a head and the proceeds can go to a good charity.
February 06, 2012 at 8:23pm
Well Kevin, you are in the company of MMW.

Congratulations on that honor. I know that is definitely something to be proud of and an honor so many people are lined up wanting to have. (Was that too derogatory or sarcastic?)

Again, your opinion, MMW's opinion or the supposed comments of some emails by people you say you don't know and aren't willing to provide to the public mean nothing to me.

If you don't like what I write, then don't read it.
February 07, 2012 at 4:52am
"If you don't like what I write, then don't read it."

Best advice I've been given in a long time. You obviously don't need my help demonstrating to people how mentally and emotionally challenged, and self-absorbed, you are. It's been evident to people who know you for a "long time."
February 07, 2012 at 5:53am
Some recent studies have indicated a link between a low IQ and prejudice. It was shown those with a lack of cognitive ability (inability to see something from another's point of view) were prone to be bigoted and biased. This was not true, obviously, in all cases but there was enough connection there to warrant that finding.

Now it would take a strange person to be insensitive to how others see them. I do not know of anyone who would like to feel that as he went around town, in and out of the court house, local stores and restaurants that there were those saying behind his back "There goes or here comes that bigoted, biased, opinionated smartass who thinks he knows it all."

An odd and strange individual to have that indifference.

Perhaps there is a link between a low IQ and such indifference?

February 08, 2012 at 3:30pm
@ Debbiejen loved your article you said everything that need to be said.
February 08, 2012 at 5:38pm
Play nice children or you will have to to time out
February 09, 2012 at 11:38am
I would just have to say to MMW that even though I just recently joined the website, I have been reading your comments as a visitor for some time now. And although I do not know you personally, I would have to say that the last statement you made sounds eerily like a self description of yourself based off previous posts of your that I have read. I have studied many cases of narcissistic people in my career and to be quite honest the comments you make at times are some of the most perplexing and egotistical I have ever heard anyone ever say. A word of advice from someone who has made a career out of working with people would be to step back and look in the mirror occasionally to see your own reflection. You might find there is a reason people view you like they do.
February 09, 2012 at 3:06pm
Dog gone DR, have you been talking to my wife and shrink?

But a word of advice.

Never take at face value what you read posted on a web site.

February 09, 2012 at 6:48pm
MMW as I don't know you, the only value I have of you is what you potray yourself to be on a web site. Your words are the window to your soul in this case because that is all anyone has to see. Are you now saying that I am to have a different opinion of you despite all the previous comments you have made about others? I think that would be hard to do considering you have shown nothing but contempt for others yourself.
February 10, 2012 at 6:39am
Bob Newhart had phone monologues that made him famous so with my apology to him:

"Hi you think you have pin-pointed my real problem?...It starts with my periods, they are too irregular and too frequent and what is with my commas and my quotation marks? .. you have never see such flagrant use before?

But you think the real problem is in the phrasing and the choice of words? Too many misspelled words and incorrect usages?

And they are all directed at the wrong party?

So, Doc you think that I need to talk to Bill or Kenny then?

No, you say there is hope for me?

Vote how? And in the primary and the general election both? You say that is my only hope?
Doc, are you sure that is the ony way?

You are?"

Honey, get Bill or Kenny on the phone please.
And thank Bob for all those laughs.

February 10, 2012 at 7:53am
MMW all I can say about that last post is it sounds and reads like you are off your meds again!

February 11, 2012 at 6:02am
doc, can you e-proscribe? If you can, I think we can make a million.
Eighth page ad in the Courier of course, and promos on WBRY touting your unique ability to do on-line analysis. Just think about the possibilities finding and treating narcissistic people.
All you need is a few lines like "Mary had a little lamb...or The quick brown fox...."

I think with a few more lines you could diagnose erectile dysfunction, whether it will be a boy or a girl and even if someone will experience premature baldness.

Great posibilities doc. I think we could even get some coverage by THE ONION.
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