Former Employee Sues Sheriff, County For $400,000

Comment   Email   Print
Related Articles

A woman who was relieved of her duties by Cannon County Sheriff Darrell Young on his first day on the job is suing the sheriff and the county.

The women, Loretta Bailey, worked as a receptionist at the department under former Sheriff Billy Nichols.

She is suing the county for $250,000 and Young individually for $150,000.

Bailey was not among the half dozen employees Nichols laid off the last day of his administration (August 31, 2010) for the reason of “change of administration.”

All of those employees received payment for accrued vacation time and also received unemployment compensation. Bailey received $741.60 for accrued vacation time and has been drawing jobless benefits.

Bailey claims in the lawsuit that Sheriff Young allegedly violated her First Amendment and civil rights when he terminated her.

Bailey is asserting Sheriff Young fired her because she supported Nichols in both the 2006 and 2010 elections.

Bailey also alleges that Cannon County has “over an extended period of years, has been deliberately indifferent to political patronage hirings and firings by sheriffs and other state constitutional office holders…”

Several persons who supported Nichols during his 2010 bid for re-election continue to work at the department under Sheriff Young

Bailey is seeking a jury trial. The suit was filed March 28 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. An initial case management conference is scheduled for June 6.

Steven Waldron of Waldron & Fann in Murfreesboro is representing Bailey. Mike Corley will represent Cannon County and Sheriff Young.

Details of the lawsuit are:




1. This is a civil action for damages brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 as a consequence of deprivations under color of law, of Plaintiff’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

2. This Court has proper jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and §1343. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391(b).


3. Plaintiff has been a citizen of Cannon County, Tennessee at all times pertinent to the facts of this cause.

4. Cannon County, Tennessee is a political subdivision of the state of Tennessee. The Cannon County Sheriff’s Department is a department/division of Cannon County, Tennessee.

5. Darrell Young has been a resident of Cannon County, Tennessee at all times pertinent to the facts of this cause.

6. At times pertinent to the facts of this cause, Defendant Darrell Young was acting as an agent of Defendant Cannon County, Tennessee.

7. Defendant Young is being sued individually and in his capacity as Sheriff of Cannon County, Tennessee.


8. Plaintiff was hired by the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department on or about September 8, 20006, by Sheriff Billy H. Nichols and was employed there until September 1, 2010.

9. While employed at the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department, Plaintiff performed clerical, payroll, bookkeeping and receptionist and general office duties.

10. Plaintiff worked there three days per week for the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department until she became a full-time employee in January of 2009.

11. Sheriff Nichols was opposed in the 2006 Sheriff’s election by Defendant Darrell Young.

12. Plaintiff openily campaigned in favor of Sheriff Nichols, including, but not limited to, her placement of a sign in her yard at her residence.

13. Plaintiff was the only resident on her street to have a yard sign in favor of Sheriff Nichols when he ran against Young in 2006.

14. Defendant Young was aware of Plaintiff’s support of Sheriff Nichols in 2006.

15. The most recent sheriff’s election in Cannon County took place on August 5, 2010.

16. In the most recent sheriff’s election, Defendant Young defeated Sheriff Billy H. Nichols, Howard Mike Grosch, Jack Miller and Kenneth D. (Kenny) Wetzel.

17. Plaintiff openly and actively campaigned for Sheriff Billy H. Nichols in the most recent Cannon County sheriff’s election including, but not limited to, her placement of a sign in the yard at her residence, and the windshield of her vehicle.

18. Defendant Young was aware prior to September 1, 2010, of Plaintiff’s having supported Sheriff Nichols in the 2006 election and the 2010 election.

19. Defendant Young was sworn in as Sheriff of Cannon County on the morning of September 1, 2010.

20. Prior to being elected as Sheriff of Cannon County, Defendant Young had held the position of Assistant Chief of Police of Woodbury, Tennessee.

21. Prior to becoming Assistant Chief of Police in the town of Woodbury, Defendant Young had held a position as a Woodbury City police officer since 1992.

22. Woodbury is the County seat for Cannon County, Tennessee.

23. On information and belief, it is submitted that Woodbury’s population is approximately 2,500.00 and the population of Cannon County, Tennessee is approximately 13,500.00

24. Early on the morning of September 1, 2010, before Plaintiff had had the opportunity to begin her work day, she was handed by Defendant Young a termination letter that is attached hereto and marked as Exhibit A to this Complaint.

25. At the time Defendant Young handed Plaintiff the termination notice marked as Exibit B hereto, early in the morning on September 1, 2010, she asked Defendant Young if he wanted her to leave immediately and he replied “yes.” That conservation is all the communication that ever transpired between the parties relative to Plaintiff’s termination on September 1, 2010.

26. Attached hereto as Exhibit B to the Complaint is a Separation Notice signed by Defendant Young that was submitted to the State of Tennessee, Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Division of Employment Security. It states that Plaintiff was discharged with the following explanation: “Due to new administration service is no longer needed.”

27. Even though Plaintiff was 69 years old at the time of her termination, she had planned to continue working for an extended period of time because she enjoyed her work and being a productive employee of the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department.

28. Prior to Plaintiff’s termination, she had never been disciplined in any way by her employer since her date of hire by the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department.

29. Plaintiff’s termination by Defendant Young has constituted the proximate cause of Plaintiff’s lost wages, income, benefits and the loss of opportunity to earn income and benefits.

30. Plaintiff’s termination has also caused her great humiliation, embarrassment, mental suffering and mental anguish.


31. Plaintiff incorporates by reference all previous allegations made herein.

32. Plaintiff hereby assets a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging Defendants violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by terminating her based upon her political affiliation with Sheriff Nichols and her support for his candidacy against Defendant Young.

33. At all times relevant to this litigation while Plaintiff was employed by the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department, she worked in a non-policy making position, and this continued to be true through the time she was terminated by Defendant Young.

34. Plaintiff’s termination by Defendant Young was solely because she had supported Sheriff Nichols and/or because she had not supported Defendant Young’s candidacy.

35. Alternatively, Plaintiff submits that her termination by Defendants was motivated in substantial part by her support of the candidacy of Sheriff Nichols and/or her failure to support Defendant Young.

36. By her support for Sheriff Nichols in his two campaigns against Defendant Young, Plaintiff engaged in conduct that was protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

37. Plaintiff’s support of Sheriff Nichols was known by Defendant Young prior to his termination of Plaintiff.

38. The termination of Plaintiff by Defendants constitutes conduct that is sufficient to deter a person or ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in political activity of the type engaged by the Plaintiff.

39. Plaintiff’s engaging in constitutionally protected conduct was, at a minimum, a “substantial or motivating factor” in Defendant Young’s decision to terminate her.

40. Plaintiff’s having engaged in constitutionally protected political activity, as stated previously herein, constitutes the “but for” cause for her termination.

41. Defendant Young was acting under color of state law at the time her terminated Plaintiff immediately upon taking the office of Cannon County Sheriff early in the morning of September 1, 2010.

42. Plaintiff’s termination by Defendant Young was accomplished pursuant to local government policy or custom, which constitutes the cause in fact of Plaintiff’s constitutional deprivation.

43. On information and belief, Plaintiff submits that Defendant Cannon County, Tennessee, over an extended period of years, has been deliberately indifferent to political patronage hirings and firings by sheriffs and other state constitutional office holders such as the termination of Plaintiff as described herein.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands damages against the Defendants, individually, jointly and severely, for back pay, the value of lost unemployment benefits, humiliation and embarrassment, mental pain and suffering, mental anguish and prejudgment interest in the amount of TWO HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND AND NO/100 DOLLARS ($250,000.00), and she further that she be reinstated to the position she held until she was terminated by Defendant Young with pay and all benefits being reinstated as though she was never terminated. Alternatively, if her employment is not reinstated, Plaintiff seeks an award of ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($175,000.00) for front pay along with an award of attorney’s fees, and litigation expenses in addition to an award of backpay, value of lost benefits and damages for humiliation and embarrassment, pain and suffering, mental anguish and prejudgment interest. Plaintiff also seeks an award of attorney’s fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1986(b) and an award of expert witness fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988(c).


44. Plaintiff incorporates by references all previous allegations made herein.

45. Defendant Young, prior to taking office as Cannon County Sheriff on September 1, 2010, had been a police officer with the Woodbury City Police Department since 1992 and was assistant Chief of Police for many years preceding September 1, 2010.

46. Prior to his termination of Plaintiff on September 1, 2010, Defendant Young either knew or should have known that Plaintiff’s political activities for his political opponent were protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

47. The United States Supreme Court Opinion in Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, 497 U.S. 62, 110 S.Ct. 2729 (1990), which established that adverse employment actions based in whole or in substantial part on political affiliation or support are impermissible infringements on public employees’ First Amendment rights, and further that conditioning hiring or employment retention decisions on political belief and association violates the First Amendment rights of current and prospective employees.

48. Defendant Young's rermination of Plaintiff was done by him willfully and with intent to violate Plantiff's civil rights.

49. Defendant Young’s termination of Plaintiff was done with reckless and/or callous indifference to Plaintiff’s federally protected constitutional rights.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands punitive damages against Defendant Young, individually, in the amount of ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND AND NO/100 DOLLARS ($150,000.00), plus prejudgment interest, and that said sum(s) shall be in addition to other damages awarded. Additionally, Plaintiff seeks an award of attorney’s fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988(b) and an award of expert witness fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988(c).


Pursuant to Rule 38(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury in this action for all issues so triable.

Respectfully submitted,
Attorney for Plaintiff
202 W. Main St.
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
(615) 890-7365.


Bailey Termination Letter

Bailey Separation Notice

Read more from:
Comment   Email   Print
Members Opinions:
April 04, 2011 at 6:22pm
How does a receptionist's loss of employment ever come close to 400K? Another frivolous lawsuit at the taxpayer's expense.
April 04, 2011 at 7:31pm
I thought in the State of Tennessee a bussiness or someone employees you could let you go at any time with no explantions.Just another expense for the taxpayers.
April 04, 2011 at 7:47pm
The lawsuit was filed in federal court. Violation of Constitutional and civil rights are alleged.

This information comes from a Tennessee Dept. of Labor web page:


Are there any legal restrictions against firing, suspending or disciplining employees?

Tennessee is known as an "EMPLOYMENT-AT-WILL" state. Generally, this means that an employer may legally hire, fire, suspend or discipline any employee at any time and for any reason - good or bad - or for no reason at all. However, an employer may not discriminate against any employee on the basis of the employee's race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, or disability.

Also, under the Tennessee "WHISTLE BLOWER'S LAW", the employer may not take any reprisal against an employee who advises the employer that the business is in violation of a law and the employee either discloses, threatens to disclose, or testifies about the violation of law, or the employee objects to or refuses to participate in an employment act in violation of law. This law may be found at Tennessee Revised Statutes Title 50-1-304.

There are other exceptions to Tennessee's "EMPLOYMENT-AT-WILL" doctrine. Tennessee employees may not be disciplined or discharged at-will for:

• Being called to military service Title 8-33-101 thru 8-33-109
• Voting in elections Title 2-1-106
• Exercising right of association Title 50-1-201 thru 50-1-204
• Wage garnishment Title 26-2-101 thru 26-2-410
• Filing workers' compensation claim Title 50-6-101 thru 50-6-705
• Being called to jury duty Title 22-4-108

(Employer must also pay the employee wages during the jury service less what the court pays.)

Employees who are fired may still apply for unemployment insurance benefits. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance Division will determine eligibility. Further information may be found under the Unemployment Insurance section of this web site.
April 04, 2011 at 8:20pm
The one thing a person can get for being terminated is unemployment. She's already getting that. From looking at the termination notice and discharge papers the Sheriff did everything right. The Sheriff kept a lot of people that were loyal to Sheriff Nichols so it was not political there. I would say the attorney for Ms. Baily wants a jury trial is because it wouldn't get passed the judge. I am sure he is hoping for the jury's emotional verdict.
Bob Stoetzel
April 04, 2011 at 8:26pm
REALLY?? wow!! All the other employees were let go the same way she was. You dont see all of them asking us to pay them 400k!! Seems a little crazy to me.. I don't see the problem with letting her go personally. The sheriff's Department needed a change.. New employees & New administration.. I think the change is going very well! Keep it up CCSD you are doing a great job! Dont let this lady get you down!!
April 04, 2011 at 9:06pm
I say this woman is a trouble maker.That is my opinion.She lived away from here for years. I am a Darrell Young fan.
April 04, 2011 at 10:00pm
Haha. I am sorry don't you love living in a county that is sue happy? =)

On a more serious note there are always two sides of a story. We have only seen one side and Mr. Young may surprise us.

On an off topic note: The 14th amendment was enacted after the court case Dred Scott v Sandford. Learn something in AP USH everyday.
April 04, 2011 at 10:42pm
I don't know about the Cannon County Sheriff Dept but I work for a local Sheriff Dept an if the sheriff looses the election I would have to fill out a new application just like I did when I first started. Its up to the new sheriff to keep you or let you go. In this line of work your only guaranteed a job for 4 yrs if you don't break the rules to get fired before then. People amaze me with how far they take things. Its like if a factory gets bought out an the new owner wants to get rid of people they let them go. You don't hear of those people suing. Working in Tennessee your employer doesn't have to give you a reason. Its call "At will employment". Even thru a jury I don't see this going anywhere but in favor of Cannon County.
April 05, 2011 at 4:58am
This issue brings up something I have wondered about for weeks, since I learned former Sheriff Nichols had laid off several employees on the last day of his term for the reason "change of administration."

Do people who received a paycheck from Cannon County Government work for the county, or for the person who heads the particular department they work in?

I'm a little miffed because it cost the county a lot of money in vacation and unemployment compensation because those people decided they didn't want to wait around to see their fate, so they got Sheriff Nichols to let them go.

I don't know if they would have been retained by Sheriff Young or let go. However, it was also pointed out to me Sheriff Young could have offered them their jobs back.

County Executive Mike Gannon tells me it has been common practice for personnel within county departments to change following elections.

I doubt that many new elected officials retain people who supported an opponent of theirs in the election, but the federal seems to indicate they have to.

Then again, I don't know if Sheriff Young let Bailey go because she supported Nichols.

All candidates go into the political office they assume with goals and objectives. That includes keeping personnel they think will do a good job, and dismissing those who they think aren't doing the job the way they want it done. The new office holder may also have someone else in mind for the job.

That is what I would want if I were elected to county office, the right to choose who works and who doesn't work for me. If a county employee working in the office I was taking over actively worked for one of my opponents and/or against me, I would have sufficient reason to wonder whether they will work for or against me if they continue in that department.

A lot of trust and responsibility rests with elected officials. In all cases they oversee taxpayer's money, in some cases they oversee lives. They are due the benefit of the doubt and should be given sufficient leeway in employment decisions.

Until this lawsuit crossed was presented to me Monday, I had never heard of Loretta Bailey, or knew that she once worked for the sheriff's department. Her named never crossed by radar during the 2010 election.

Nevertheless, she claims she was actively campaigning for Sheriff Nichols and alleges that is the reason she was fired.

If she was able to actively campaign for Sheriff Nichols, it would seem that neither the county nor Sheriff Young violated her First Amendment rights. She is not claiming a violation prior to the date of the election.

Also, she was not denied the right to express herself politically or to cast her vote, both of which she did prior to, or on, election day.
April 05, 2011 at 9:32am
I am sure that the people that Billy let go the last day of office asked to be terminated prior to Darrell taking office. Reasons could be quitting vs being fired, better termination conditions and refusal to work for Darrell.

Does or did Darrell have a right to fire folks including this woman? Without a doubt! And, I don’t have a problem with him firing anybody. In fact, I got my vote for Darrell justified when he fired Wilder and Vance both of who should not be in law enforcement—

The problem with the termination of this woman is this: (Pay attention Bob you’ll hear this again regarding constables) Arbitrary and capricious acts by elected official are not condoned by our courts. Obviously the woman wanted to work or she would have escaped with the other supporters of Billy prior to Darrell taking office. Then on the first day of office, Darrell arbitrary and capriciously canned her. No reason was give for his actions other than her services are no longer needed. So, the jury can fill in the blanks with help from her attorney. If her attorney can make a case that “that reason” was “political retaliation” for supporting Billy, and that retaliation violated her 1st Amendment right to free speech --- Bingo ---

She is 69 years old and will look like a victim, she will make a case that she needs to work and was deprived of contributing toward state retirement and her attorney only needs to establish a PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE that she was fired for political reasons- Preponderance is the level of proof required to prevail in most civil cases which is less than criminal cases. The judge or jury must be persuaded that the facts are more probably one way (the plaintiff's way) than another (the defendant's).
April 05, 2011 at 9:35am
one thing to watch for is the county's will try to settle out of court first. There is a deductible and it used to be $5,000.00; the county would have to pay that. I have seen where the insurance people would get involved and settle up to the minimum and leave the county holding the bag.
I do know something that should be done though and that is the Sheriff needs to make sure that his people use up there vacation time durig the year. It was reciculus to pay those other employees that kind of money. I was against it. Being in the pper positions of the department meant that they should have known that there was a chance to be let go, they should have made arrangements then.
April 05, 2011 at 11:15am
I would like to no is Ms. Baileys unemployment about to run out. Why did she wait so long to do this. I no there are 2 sides to every story, but it seams to me that if this upset her this bad WHY did she wait. I hope that this is thrown out of court. Sorry Darrell I personally think this a bunch of ....
April 05, 2011 at 12:06pm
jimgibbs, so it is OK for people to ask to be terminated because of "change of administration" on the one hand, but on the other hand it is not OK to terminate someone because of "change of administration?" I don't understand the difference.
April 05, 2011 at 12:49pm
Maybe her firing was deserved. There is another dispatcher working that may deserve the same thing. After calling to report two very suspicious man with a large dog at the Bradyville Post Office, which was closed for lunch, I was spoken to very rudely and hatefully. If that is how concerned citizens are treated, maybe another housecleaning is in order. No wonder people don't want to get involved.
April 05, 2011 at 2:35pm
Firstly Kevin -- I didn't say that the new administrator shouldn’t fire anybody – In fact I was happy Darrell did fire -- Wilder and Walker – What I said, was that without stating a reason the courts are open to interpret why they were fired and the courts don’t look kindly upon arbitrary and capricious acts by elected officials.

I think that by allowing or asking an out-going sheriff to fire you smacks of fraud --- Think about it -- Why would Billy fire anybody the last day of office? -- That is probably a good question to ask the County which has to pay into unemployment insurance for fired employees who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for it if they quit.

Just one other note: In many jurisdictions having a civil service system, all sheriff employees under a certain rank (usually captains and below) and civilian employees cannot be terminated by a newly elected sheriff – unless of course, there is a cause established for the termination.
April 05, 2011 at 4:06pm
jimgibbs, to the best of my knowledge, Walker and Wilder were two of those who were given "change of administration" notice by Sheriff Nichols.
April 05, 2011 at 5:40pm
If you called the jail to report something, you are talking to a receptionist, not a dispatcher.
April 05, 2011 at 6:22pm
I didn't know that --- I just thought that Darrell kept his campaign promise and fired them -- Oh well, I still got the value from my vote – They are gone and Billy would not have let them go unless they asked to be released ---- I know he would have kept them if re-elected.
April 06, 2011 at 5:57am
jim, the aspect of this situation which I have difficulty understanding is that this suit targets Cannon County and the sheriff for a practice which appears to be, and has been, common. I doubt that Haslam retained Bredesen's staff, Black has somebody who worked for Gordon answering her phones, and when someone contacts me from Mark Pody's office, it's not the same person it was when Stratton Bone held the seat. They all fall under "change of administration."
April 06, 2011 at 6:44am
I understand what you are saying and I agree, especially regarding people sharing in policy making duties. That is why civil service protects below the rank of – say captain – they are not policy makers – they are employees – workers that need reasonable job protection. However, if they undermine the incoming sheriff, they should be terminated for that reason. If their qualifications are less than what the new sheriff is looking for, terminate them – for that reason – But, no reason for a termination looks bad and can bite you.

Interesting that you mention Stratton. His assistant, Robbie Farmer and I became good friends. I was not surprised to see her go with Stratton. But I discovered (by calling Mark Pody’s office) and getting a change in voice after a couple of days, that most of those legislative assistants -- including Mark Pody’s – are employees of the General Assembly and are assigned. I think over time a legislator can work his/her own person in, but initially they are assigned.

Cleaning up a previous administration is really a complex issue in other places --- maybe not so much in Cannon County and particularly the sheriff’ office where we have experience a bunch of one term sheriffs for the past 16 years all with the habit of cleaning house when they have taken office. I understand because it is not uncommon here that many of the employees are relatives or relatives of friends ---- and yes ---- I do understand what you are saying – and I agree.
April 06, 2011 at 3:35pm
I agree Mason I was for Sherriff Young when he run the first time I have always been for him he is doing a GREAT JOB!!!!!!Keep up the good work!!!!
Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: