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PRESSING ISSUES: Caryville mayor creating hostile work environment

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 It’s been interesting around the Caryville town hall in the past few weeks. Very interesting. 

Since Mayor Chris Stanley took office in November, he’s declined to give raises to two police officers because he said the previous mayor —Robert Stooksbury — didn’t have the authority to promise them a pay increase.  

The officers — Mike Caudill and Gary Johnson — were supposed to receive a raise after their 90-day probationary period, but that didn’t happen under Stanley’s directive. 

Starting officers in Caryville earn just $10 an hour — a paltry compensation for risking your life every day. The lack of a raise prompted Officer Caudill to seek employment elsewhere. He left the department for an opportunity with the Jacksboro Police Department. Caudill was kind enough to turn in his two-week notice, but it didn’t matter. He claims the mayor told him he was finished and didn’t need to return to work.
It left Caudill—the father of an 8-year-old son—unemployed just two weeks before Christmas. His position in Jacksboro didn’t start until after the holidays. 

Caudill’s absence was a matter of concern for some board members. In February, they unanimously voted to take applications for officers. Even Stanley supported the measure. Eight people — seven men and a woman — applied. 

Each male candidate had obtained Peace Officer Standard Training — a mandatory certificate required by the state of Tennessee for all law enforcement officers. The female candidate, Myranda Grubb, didn’t. However, she held an associate’s degree in criminal justice — a two-year, 60-hour degree program from Roane State Community College. 

According to this year’s course catalog, approximately 20 of the required hours are general education credits. If hired, she would still require police academy training and POST certification — a cost Stanley said the town coffers could absorb despite reports from Chief Johnny Jones saying differently.
Jones claims the costs couldn’t be covered in the police budget — a reasonable remark since Stanley himself enacted a spending freeze when he first took office. 

After some debate, Stanley repeatedly said he just found that “certain applicants” were more educated because of the college degree. 

While he never said Grubb’s name, she remained the only candidate with a degree, a necessary credential to Stanley, who says he wants an educated force. 

During the regular March board meeting, and a subsequent special-called meeting, Stanley says he wanted to reconsider the job requirements for hiring an officer to omit requiring a POST certification. 

He said he didn’t get to review the job description before applications were taken, and that he’s supposed to see them.

That’s not part of the town’s personnel policy. 

According to the policy, department heads have full authority to make recommendations of who to hire.  It then requires board approval.
Town attorney Reid Troutman told the board it’s in its best interest to listen to their department heads on personnel matters.

Chief Jones didn’t recommend Grubb. He recommended Jonathon Bruce, a POST-certified candidate with previous experience working as a corrections officer at the Campbell County Jail. 

Hiring Bruce, it seemed, put the officer education requirement to arrest.
But only temporarily. 

On the same night Jones recommended Bruce, he also recommended Officer Jim Wilson be terminated following a number of citizen complaints and a situation in which Wilson reportedly responded to a scene, but left when he failed to see the validity of the complaints. 

Officers from two other agencies submitted written statements of the alleged night when Wilson cleared a call about a potentially suicidal woman with the windows shot out of her trailer. Each officer wrote Wilson was negligent in his duties as a police officer. A statement from Jones said he’d contacted Troutman and believed it was in the best interest of the department to terminate Wilson because of his inaction and the nature of the complaints against him. 

Wilson’s personnel file holds both a resignation and a recantation of the resignation both dated for March 8. 

Apparently, Jones gave Wilson the face-saving chance to resign and move along. 

But for whatever reason, Wilson rescinded his resignation the same day. 

Alderwoman Vickie Heatherly urged the city to follow the chief’s advice and terminate Wilson.  Other board members sat silently. The motion died. 

So Wilson returned to work with police officers who now know he can’t be depended on to have their back if he doesn’t think the call is important.

Three days later, Jones was demoted from his chief position to patrolman.
His disciplinary form listed no specific infractions or instances.
Mayor Stanley refuses to elaborate further but cites “a bunch of different things” for his executive decision to demote the head of his police force. 

Jones has 36 years of law enforcement experience and has worked with Caryville since 1988. 

Stanley has no law enforcement experience. He can’t even articulate on Jones’s infractions. 

The situation reeks of retaliation — an accusation the mayor denies. Stanley may not be able to solely determine who gets hired, but he can sure make his employees’ lives problematic — and in this instance, create a potentially hostile work environment for his police force. 

Don’t believe us? Step into the town hall in Caryville and ask the employees how they are. Watch them jump when a door opens too quickly or if they think their conversation is being listened to. They are a micro-managed bunch of public servants who’ve lost their livelihood to serve the public will.
This gross abuse of mayoral power must stop. And if it doesn’t, it won’t bode well for Caryville during the next 3.5 years of Stanley’s term.