published Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

South Pittsburg police officer who arrested city official fired

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — The South Pittsburg police officer who arrested City Administrator Sammy Burrows last Friday night has been fired by the City Commission.

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday to terminate Sgt. Paul West after Ronnie Lancaster's motion to do so was seconded by Commissioner Jimmy Wigfall.

"All of [the city's] employees are employee-at-will," City Attorney Billy Gouger said. "So, they serve at the will of the city or the board. Any employee can be terminated for any reason, as long as it's not an illegal reason, such as on a discriminatory basis."

When asked the reason for the board's action, Lancaster moved to adjourn the meeting and West's career as a South Pittsburg police officer was over.

Mayor Jane Dawkins declined to comment.

"I don't micromanage my board," she said. "They think as individuals and represent their districts that way."

Earlier, the board voted 4-1 to award Burrows a five-year contract with a salary of $48,000 per year, even though the city's charter governs that position.

Gouger said the contract does not override the city's charter, which says the city administrator serves "at the will of the board."

Burrows was charged with obstruction of officer rights, resisting arrest, speeding and reckless driving, according to a report filed by West on Saturday.

Burrows admitted to speeding, but he said on Saturday that he had put himself in "a bad position" and his arrest was due to "a little bit of an internal power struggle.

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