Codes Officer Terminated
Leslie Johnson vows to challenge firing in court
Leslie Johnson said she will take legal action against Lenoir City after
being terminated last week as codes enforcement officer.
Though Johnson deferred details on her termination to her attorney, John
Cleveland PC in Sweetwater, Johnson said she was told her contract was
terminated with cause.
"There were no allegations of criminal act, no allegations of financial
mishaps, nothing of that nature. It was deemed to be a violation of city
policy," Johnson said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. "It is most
definitely becoming a legal issue."
Cleveland could not be reached by press time Tuesday.
According to Johnson's contract, which is a public record available at
Lenoir City Hall, a "for cause" termination means the "employee engaged
in misconduct, or has violated a standard of conduct or City policy,
including but not limited to, engaging in criminal conduct, violence on
the job, insubordination, misuse of city property, neglect of duty,
unauthorized absences, corruption, bribery or other documents, violation
of the city's drug and alcohol policies, or death or incapacity which
renders (him) unable to perform the essential functions of his
Johnson, noting her years of work with the city, argued her termination
did not fit the "for cause" definition.
"If it is 'for cause' it has to be proven, and this particular case I am
animatedly challenging the issues that they are determining to be 'for
cause'," Johnson said. "My attorney John Cleveland has been involved
since Wednesday afternoon when I was suspended and sent home."
Johnson said she was sent home Wednesday afternoon with pay for the rest
of the week after a meeting with City Administrator Dale Hurst and
Public Safety Director and Chief of Police Don White.
She was served notification of her termination Friday, Johnson said.
"I was completely blindsided by these actions - completely blindsided,"
Johnson, who lives in the city, said. "I have incorporated myself into
this community - not just a professional commitment, but a personal
Hurst declined to comment on details of Johnson's termination, saying
the matter fell under the category of personnel.
"It's been my practice over the years not to discuss personnel issues
publicly," Hurst said.
Attempts to reach White were unsuccessful.
Johnson's employment contract was set to expire Nov. 27, 2014.
According to Johnson's employment agreement, the contract would
automatically renew for additional four-year terms "unless the city
shall by action of its Council decline to renew this Agreement..."
"For cause" termination entitles Johnson to accumulated sick, vacation
and personal leave, according to the contract. A without cause
termination meaning there "are no circumstances to justify termination
with cause," entitles the employee to one year's salary plus benefits.
Department heads are under contract with the city.
Hurst said David Denton, a retired codes enforcement officer with the
city, will serve in Johnson's role "until such time as the personnel
committee can deal with making a transition."
Johnson, a native of Cleveland, has been employed with the city just shy
of five years.
"This is the first time I have ever been terminated from a position, so
again this has just been very blindsiding, but it will be dealt with in
a professional manner. That's how we'll deal with it," Johnson said.
"As far as I'm personally concerned that is just one door closed, and
there will be more that will open up for me. I have a master's degree. I
have 12-plus years of professional-level experience," she added.
"I have chosen my professional career to stay in a small town. I felt it
was the best way to utilize my abilities to best serve a community, but
as I move forward there are unlimited opportunities that I have before
me, so my future is not in jeopardy," she added.