published Friday, February 15th, 2013

Hamilton County requires workers to report arrests

  • photo
    Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In most businesses, workers must tell their bosses anytime they run afoul of the law, but that wasn't the case for Hamilton County employees before Thursday.

The County Commission unanimously voted Thursday, during a recessed Feb. 6 meeting, to add a section to the county employee handbook requiring employees to report to their supervisors if they are arrested, charged or indicted for crimes other than minor traffic violations.

Mayor Jim Coppinger and Commissioner Fred Skillern called the amendment long overdue.

"This is something that's been overlooked for many years in county government. ... I strongly support it," Skillern said before the vote.

Coppinger said after the meeting the requirement seems like common sense. He said it was simply omitted when the handbook was republished in 2010.

"That's just not something you think to look for," Coppinger said. "As you find issues like this, you try to correct them."

The mayor was made aware of the omission after a former county employee was arrested this month on a charge of stealing computers from the health department. The employee, Rickie Flerl, reportedly had a criminal record, Coppinger said.

"He apparently had an arrest in 2005. I asked, 'Why didn't we know about that?'" Coppinger said.

The rule went into effect Thursday and is not retroactive, he said.

"This is really important, because we have employees who are operating heavy equipment, driving ambulances and things of that nature," Coppinger said.

The commission also amended the county's firing and suspension policies so employees may be fired without a two-week notice, which existed under the old rules.

Coppinger said the change to the firing section brought the county closer to the state employment law.

In other business, John Agan was appointed director of the engineering department, a position made vacant when County Engineer Todd Leamon became administrator of that department.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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