published Friday, December 14th, 2012

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Civil Service Board rescinds deputy's demotion

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Civil Service Board overturned Sheriff Jim Hammond's decision to demote a patrol deputy to a jailer after he was convicted of reckless driving.

Thomas "Mike" Fulmer, 47, who has worked at the sheriff's office for 10 years, was assigned to the jail in June after his driving under the influence charge was downgraded.

However, because Fulmer was not convicted of DUI, board members John K. "Bucky" McCulley, William Pippin and Jack Benson Jr. voted to overturn the demotion. The board, whose members are chosen by the county commission, rules on personnel issues at the sheriff's office. The chairperson is selected by the mayor.

"To me the DUI conviction, it's not there," McCulley said Thursday. "To me, I can't look at that. What he was convicted of was reckless driving. That's just my opinion."

Fulmer never actually reported for work at the jail, using six months of leave and living on savings until his case was heard, said his attorney, Johnny Houston. The board voted to return him to patrol but did not award back pay.

Fulmer was arrested March 2 by Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers after he rolled his Ford F-250 pickup in the 8600 block of Walnut Road, two miles from his Hixson home. He told investigators he drank a few beers at Chili's, according to the arrest report.

Houston argued that Hammond's discipline over drinking incidents was inconsistent.

Hammond said Fulmer's assignment to patrol influenced the sheriff's decision to demote Fulmer.

"I could not in good conscience put an officer out there," the sheriff said.

Patrol deputies have a "higher expectation to the public because they are stopping cars every day on their shift," he said.

Fulmer's alcohol level was 0.14, above the legal limit of 0.08. The DUI charge was downgraded because the trooper failed to observe Fulmer for a required 20 minutes before administering a Breathalyzer test, according to the internal affairs report.

He was sentenced to six months of jail time suspended, ordered to pay a $50 fine and required to perform five days of community service.

Separately, internal affairs investigators found that Fulmer violated the department's code of conduct by failing to conform to laws.

He also had been suspended for one day in a previous alcohol-related incident, according to an internal affairs report.

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