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Jellico Utility upholds manager’s decision to terminate employee

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By Natasha LaFayette

natasha@lafolletterpress.com

 

On Tuesday night a personnel hearing was held at the request of Chris Salyers at the Jellico Electric and Water Board meeting.

Salyers requested the hearing last month, saying he wanted to make the board aware of the details of his termination from the electric department.

Board Attorney Terry Basista arranged for the specifics of the hearing, including a separate recording of statements being made as well as a video of the proceedings.

Salyers was not present, rather a spokesperson from his attorney David Dunaway’s office Douglas Young, spoke on Salyers’ behalf.

With the absence of Salyers, little could be debated about the details of his termination from the electric department. Instead, Basista posed pointed questions to the utilities general manager Mike Bethurem.

Bethurem related the circumstances leading up to Salyers’ termination, including statements made from his previous supervisor who was allegedly physically assaulted by Salyers.

“In accordance with policy your employment with Jellico Electric and Water Utility is being terminated immediately for physically assaulting your supervisor,” stated Bethurem in a memo outlining Salyers’ dismissal.

The memo stated an altercation led Salyers to strike his supervisor with his fist on March 15. Statements from the supervisor, Stuart Proffitt, and Salyers indicate an altercation then ensued. 

However, both allege different verbal assaults and make accusations about one another’s intentions in the altercation.

Salyers claims Proffitt appeared to be preparing to strike, when he acted first. But Proffitt maintains he never had any intention of fighting.

Two days after the altercation, Salyers was terminated. The altercation was captured on video, according to Bethurem.

Though the board read these statements, they agreed to uphold the utilitie’s policy in allowing the manager to terminate employees. Board member JoAnne Watts said the board should support the manager’s decision, making her statement in the form of a motion. The board approved to uphold Bethurem’s reason for termination.

While the board upheld the termination, Salyers still has a multi-million dollar suit pending in circuit court.