FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — After the Forsyth County Civil Service Board chose not to consider hearing the case of 11 sheriff’s deputies laid off in February during a restructuring, some have reached out to news outlets to tell their side of the story.
On March 8, the Civil Service Board read and acknowledged a letter to deny the appeal of the 11 deputies seeking their jobs back. Pat Carson, the county’s personnel director, denied the appeal because it was a reduction in force. The Civil Service Board agreed with Carson’s findings.
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 will save the sheriff’s office $1 million a year.
All deputies, through attorney Lance LoRusso, have asked for their positions to be reinstated, but after the Civil Service Board denial, it’s unclear if they will take legal action.
But Maj. Rick Doyle, director of operations for the sheriff’s office, says the office is in the right.
“Our legal research was completed prior to implementation of the restructuring,” Doyle said. “We consider this matter closed and there is nothing to settle.”
In a letter to the Forsyth Herald, Chris Barrett, a former captain at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, who worked in the office for 17 years, said he was shocked at the sheriff’s action and continued silence from Forsyth County commissioners.
“Many of the 11 have risked our lives on many occasions and sacrificed our family relationships for this community,” Barrett wrote. “Combined, we have 197 years serving and protecting this county. Not one of us got into this profession for the money; knowing the dangers we put ourselves into was not the reason we did it…We served a community, not a sheriff.”
Barrett said he was not offered and was denied the option to take a voluntary demotion to fill open positions within the sheriff’s office.
“Piper has chosen to hire rookies instead of allowing the trained and experienced fill the position,” he said.
Barrett and the other 10 former sheriff’s office employees still believe their jobs to be protected under civil service.
Barrett also says the sheriff’s office had money in its budget until the end of the year.
“There is money in that budget to keep all 11 terminated employees,” Barrett said. “Crime has not gone down, and there is no shortage of work.”
Barrett has called Piper’s decision political and could cost the county a lot more in settlements and defense funds.
“I can only speak for myself when I say I believe it is the last resort to take legal action, but I have to keep a roof over my family’s head,” Barrett said. “I would much rather work for what I receive.”