CLINTON—He had reserved comment until a judge signed an order resolving a staffing dispute, but then Anderson County Sheriff Paul White accused Mayor Terry Frank of using a lawsuit agreement to try to settle perceived political scores—and he came to the defense of the two county officials that Frank attacked Friday.
“Sheriff White regrets that Mayor Frank has used the settlement of the salary suit, which (she) could have used as an event to set a more civil tone in Anderson County politics, as an opportunity to attempt to settle perceived political scores with Law Director Jay Yeager and Anderson County Commissioner Myron Iwanski,” the sheriff said in a Monday afternoon press release, after the lawsuit order had been signed by Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dale Workman. “Sheriff White cannot express how much he believes that Director Yeager and Commissioner Iwanski are decent and selfless public servants and that the people of Anderson County are lucky to have such competent and dedicated individuals working for the efficient operation of their government.
“Notwithstanding the recent rancor, as a lifelong resident of Anderson County, and as a 33-year employee of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff White is hopeful that Mayor Frank will be able to put whatever differences she may perceive between her, Director Yeager, Commissioner Iwanski, and the entire commission behind her, so they may all continue to dedicate themselves to the service of the people of Anderson County.”
On Friday, Frank and White said the agreement settling the salary suit allows the sheriff to hire 15 full-time permanent deputies and additional temporary deputies when the sheriff deems appropriate as he prepares to open a 212-bed jail expansion. But the hiring must stay within the spending limit approved by the Anderson County Commission in June, and the temporary employees cannot work more than six months.
Frank and White announced the agreement in a one-page press release distributed Friday. The case had been scheduled to be heard in Knox County Circuit Court this Monday morning.
Frank characterized the agreement as a victory for her position, and she said the sheriff had been misled into filing suit over the two-page salary agreement, alleging he had fallen prey to the “political machinations” of Yeager and Iwanski.
In a seven-page statement Monday afternoon, White disputed that allegation, and he rebutted Frank’s statements that Yeager had provided “conflicting legal advice.”
“Director Yeager did not advise Sheriff White with respect to filing the salary suit,” the sheriff said. “Instead, Director Yeager tried very hard to resolve the matter before and after the lawsuit was filed.”
White said he has continued to rely upon the County Commission’s expressed desire to allow him to hire up to 36 new deputies as jailers to operated the soon-to-be-completed expansion of the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton.
“Unfortunately, state law does not make completely clear whether the County Commission or the county mayor has the final word to authorize the hiring of new deputies, and Mayor Frank insisted to the Circuit Court that she could unilaterally block new hiring despite the commission’s express directive and the mayor’s approval of the commission’s budget,” the sheriff said in his statement. “No court has ever decided the issue, and this dispute was at the heart of the court case.”
Frank said the salary agreement she and White signed Thursday matches the $6.6 million appropriation approved by the County Commission in June and does not contain the $7.7 million figure included in an earlier version of the salary agreement, answering her initial concerns over the extra million dollars and annual salaries.
In addition, the sheriff agreed to 198 employees instead of 218 to reflect full funding for 15 additional jailers—and not 36, Frank said.
White said the order signed by Workman on Monday allows him to hire all 36 jailers the commission authorized, as long he stays within the budget limit set in June.
“In addition, a contemporaneously executed settlement agreement between Sheriff White and Mayor Frank provides the sheriff the authority to maintain the staffing levels Judge Workman has ordered in the event of any future staffing disputes between the sheriff and the mayor,” White said. “As a result, the people of Anderson County will not have to fear a shutdown of the new jail should Mayor Frank continue to assert her unilateral authority to control Sheriff White’s staffing next fiscal year.”
Read the sheriff’s statement here: Sheriff’s Statement on Salary Agreement.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Note: This story was last updated at 5:50 p.m.