CUMMING, Ga. – The 11 Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies laid off in February have taken their effort to be reinstated to the Forsyth County Superior Court.
The deputies’ attorney Lance LoRusso filed a “writ of mandamus” April 19 asking the court to order the county to hear the deputies’ appeal.
LoRusso claims the layoffs were politically motivated, improperly processed and discriminatory as to the age of the deputies because all but two were above the age of 40.
On Feb. 20, Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper laid off 11 veteran officers in an effort to restructure the agency, eliminate what he called “middle management” and make the office more “efficient.”
Piper had campaigned on this promise and said the move could save the sheriff’s office $1 million a year.
LoRusso’s petition states the deputies were “terminated without notice or cause” and that their right to “due process” was denied when the county’s Civil Service Board concluded last month it did not have the authority to hear their appeal.
LoRusso says the board reached that conclusion based, at least in part, on a letter from Pat Carson, the county’s personnel director, which states: “The policy is clear that a layoff … is exempt from a right of appeal.”
The board’s attorney, Richard Neville, said Carson has the authority to determine what is a proper appeal.
But in his petition to Superior Court, LoRusso said Carson unilaterally refused to allow the board to hear the deputies’ appeals and refused to forward the appeals to the board as required.
He also accuses Carson of “improper actions,” that caused the board “to improperly conclude it did not have jurisdiction over petitioners’ challenge.”
On March 18, following the board’s refusal to hear the appeal, LoRusso sent a request for reconsideration letter to Carson saying the deputies were not given advance notice of the layoffs, thereby converting them to terminations and that the settlement agreement the deputies were offered violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
On April 1, County Attorney Ken Jarrard wrote a letter denying the appeal for reconsideration.
“There is no provision in the Forsyth County personnel policies mandating advance notice of layoffs,” Jarrard wrote, adding, “None of the agreements were executed and therefore none became operational or effective.”
LoRusso’s petition to Superior Court asks that county officials be ordered to appear to show cause why the petition for mandamus should not be granted, to provide the deputies due process in the form of a post-termination hearing and that attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the petition for mandamus be granted.
“What is the harm in giving them a hearing if they followed the policy properly,” LoRusso asked during a phone interview on Friday.