Massengill's Fate Waits

The Loudon County Merit Board met Wednesday in response to a requested hearing by Deputy James Massengill. Massengill had requested the hearing some time ago to protest his recent suspension from the force. In October, Sheriff Tim Guider, informed Massengill he was suspended indefinitely, without pay, for allegedly allowing prisoners in his care to go unsupervised. However before the date of the hearing, the sheriff terminated Massengill's employment from the sheriff's department. Massengill then requested a hearing on the termination. The two hearing requests were combined.

Massengill and Guider were both present to give their side of the issues. Massengill admitted he had on several occasions allowed prisoners to go unsupervised and had been given written warnings in the past for the infraction, however he felt that on at least two of the occasions he was simply following directions of his supervisor, former convenience center manager, Rick Watson. Massengill stated that Watson had directed him to leave all but one of the prisoners at the Lenoir City Convenience Center while he went to pick up recycling material in Greenback. Sheriff Guider countered that while Watson was his supervisor for liter pick up routes, the custody and supervision of the prisoners was entirely his responsibility. Guider added, given that he (Massengill) had been reprimanded in the past for the same offense, he should have known that he could for no reason allow prisoners to be out of his control. The sheriff noted that on one occasion Massengill had allowed prisoners to enter a local grocery store while he remained in the truck. "Ultimately those inmates are under my keep" stated Guider, "what they do is a direct reflection on me. You've been talked to and reprimanded and I don't see your actions changing." Massengill again maintained he felt he was just following orders.

As the hearing concluded, Attorney Harvey Sproul advised the board that they would now need to decide to either affirm the sheriff's actions or over turn the termination. Board member, Commissioner Don Miller, noted that he wished Rick Watson had been there to give testimony. Board member, Commissioner Wayne Gardin, stated that he didn't need to hear any more and was ready to vote. Franke stated that he was prepared to vote but if other members wanted to hear more testimony, he was open to that. After more discussion, it was decided to reconvene the hearing at 4:00 pm, Monday, December 4th before the regularly scheduled commission meeting. It was unknown if Watson could be reached to be asked to attend the meeting.