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Termination appeal rejects CFD firing; next stop – the Mayor’s desk

 

Appeal panel rejects termination. CFD Engineer Steve Sherlock’s 18.5 year career tentatively continues.

City Attorney Harvey, appellant attorney Napolitano and the appeal panel- Geno Grubbs, Sharon Hust and Richard SwiftIn what became a marathon of persistence, a termination appeal hearing was conducted at the Clarksville Human Resource Department’s meeting room. The hearing was for Clarksville Fire Dept. Engineer Steve Sherlock in his quest to continue his service with the city’s fire department.

The hearing panel consisted of City Councilman Geno Grubbs, Sharon Hurst [CPD employee], and City Councilman Richard Swift. The hearing was conducted under a rotating police presence.

Attorney Peter Napolitano argues a point as Steve Sherlock observesFor over seven hours, the career of CFD engineer Steve Sherlock’s future with the fire department was up for review. During the tedious ordeal, testimony was given that reflected on past city government policies and practices which affected the ability and practice of city employees doing business with the city.

The debate went back to the early days of Mayor Piper’s first administration and the transition to Don Trotter’s return to the mayor’s office. There was tense debate and objections between the attorneys representing both sides. Political intrigue was even made mention as a motivation for the termination action and pursuit.

Steve Sherlock, CFD Engineer protesting termination Engineer Steve Sherlock was appealing his termination from the Fire Department over a charge of violating the city’s Ethics Policy by doing business with the city in a window tinting project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant on January 24, this year. Sherlock was represented by Attorney Peter Napolitano and City Attorney Tim Harvey made the city’s case. Chief Roberts was the termination recommendation authority.

The two attorneys were dedicated to their arguments and sought to convince the review panel to rule in their favor. Harvey insisted the panel should only review whether the mandated protocols were followed and thus sustain the termination action. Napolitano argued that the case was more complicated because the charge itself was fallacious and without foundation. He cited points from the city’s own ethics policy, state law and national labor practice laws which directly contradict the actions being attempted against Mr. Sherlock. Thus the stage was set for a day of argument and revelations.

CFD Chief Michael Roberts testifiesFire Department Chief Michael Roberts initiated a ethics policy violation investigation after he was informed of the apparent policy violation by the city’s finance office. The crux of the charge is that on January 24, this year, a window tinting project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant project was performed by Sherlock’s company, S&S Auto Glass.

Upon presentation of an invoice for payment, it was determined that although S&S Auto was a certified city vendor, the company was owned by a city employee, that being Steve Sherlock, and thus was ineligible. The invoice was rejected because of this conflict and the project’s billing remains unpaid to date.

City Attorney Tim Harvey speaks as CFD Chief Roberts and Deputy Chief Stanley look on.Testimony revealed that S & S Auto did not solicit nor perform the window tinting work. That was done by 113 Custom Glass, a separate company owned by Darren Lamont “Boxhead” Smith. Smith and Sherlock have a reciprocal referral relationship between the two businesses. There is no monetary exchange but they do refer work to each other as a courtesy based on friendship. Sherlock referred an initial inquiry from the waster water treatment facility for the tint work to 113 Custom, whose employees actually performed the work. Upon presentation of an invoice for this work, a series of missteps resulted in a perceived ethics policy violation.

However as testimony progressed it became evident that administrative missteps, along with a misguided attempt to assist a business associate, were the true culprits. It was also revealed that a high ranking fire department official has quite possibly violated this same ethics policy by doing business with the city whereby he received financial gain.

Vigorous challenges and arguments between the attorneys kept the proceedings lively and insightful to the casual observer. Eleven witnesses were called in all, coming from the fire department, city finance and purchasing office, waste water treatment facility, S&S Auto Glass and 113 Custom Glass. Discussion and debate over the city’s various ethics and conflict of interest policies and political rhythms of opposing administrations were all called into play during the testimony phase of the hearing.

Following the closing arguments by the attorneys, the panel declared its opinions and the end result was that the termination was not sustained. The hearing’s results will be formalized and submitted to the Mayor’s Office. Mayor Piper will then review the results and can either accept or reject the panel’s decision or impose some other punitive measures.


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2 Responses to “Termination appeal rejects CFD firing; next stop – the Mayor’s desk”

  1. Terry McMoore Says:
    June 13th, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    What a great article. The story combined with the photos made me feel like I was there in person.

    This is made for T.V. stuff

  2. BobbyC Says:
    June 20th, 2008 at 10:43 pm
    Bill Larson

    I would like to know why there isn’t anything about Mayor Piper not reinstating Steve Sherlock to his job at the fire dept.? I was at the hearing last week and saw it all. There was 2 to 1 vote. Piper shouldn’t be able to have that power

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