COMMENTARY: I Fired Loretta Bailey

KEVIN HALPERN, Courier Co-Editor

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.