Merit Board Upholds Shirk Termination

Commissioner Gardin

Commissioner Miller

Commissioner Franke
After two days of testimony, the Loudon County Merit Board upheld Sheriff Tim Guider's termination of Captain Bill Shirk. County attorney, Robert Bowman, who represented sheriff Guider, in his summery to the board claimed the case to be a simple matter, Shirk violated policy and the sheriff fired him. Bill Shirk's attorney, David Wiggler's, summery was not so simple, but tried to no avail to convince the board that this was far more complicated that Bowman presented. In the end the board sided with the sheriff making Shirk's firing official. Under the merit board laws, Mr. Shirk has the right to appeal the decision of the board to Chancery Court.

After the meeting, Captain Shirk stated that questions concerning further legal action should be directed to his attorney. Mr. Shirk did say that he would like to thank all those who have supported him and his family during this trying time.

There are certain things that the average citizen doesn't think much about or chooses not to. We put our garbage at the street and it goes away. We flush our commodes and it goes away. The end result of these actions is not very pleasant. It's kind of like that with a jail. The bad guys go there and we don't really want details.

The Merit Board Hearing requested by Captain Bill Shirk to protest his firing has force some to look at the inner workings at the jail and what seems to be there isn't very pleasant. It would be obvious to a blind man in a dark room what exactly is going on with Shirk's termination. What facts are undisputed based on sworn testimony at the hearing?

Shirk worked for the sheriff's department. All was well for many years. Things went sour shortly after Chief Deputy, Tony Aikens, was indicted. Shirk was fired. Shirk was unfired. Shirk was demoted. Shirk was fired again.

In 2005 Mr. Shirk was fired for actions that according to Sheriff Guider, endangered employees and inmates. On the day of the Merit Board hearing for that termination, the sheriff suddenly reinstated Mr. Shirk because he felt Shirk wouldn't get a fair hearing before the then newly appointed board. As a member of that newly appointed board at the time, I took offense to Guider's statement. The board at that time was more than prepared to hear the request. The true facts of the time are that there was an election coming in just a few months and the bad publicity that would be generated by Shirk's firing could hurt Guider in the election. Not to mention that Mr. Shirk openly supported Guider's opponent in the election. Everybody knew after the election that Shirk's days were numbered.

Shirk was fired this time for removing documents from the jail. The documents in question were supply requisition forms and jail inspection forms, both of which Mr. Shirk was responsible for maintaining. Shirk started taking the documents home with him after he discovered someone had broken into his file cabinet. Testimony at the hearing revealed that the break in of the file cabinet was done by Captain Tony Arden with the help of another deputy. Testimony at the hearing also revealed that many other sheriff employees had taken various documents from the facility with out punishment. There was testimony of deputies losing jail keys, and other unprofessional behavior going unpunished or very little punishment.

In a regular court of law Shirk's attorney's attempt to show that his termination was nothing more than political pay back might have gotten a far different result. However the regulations of the merit board narrowly limits what actions they could take. They could have reversed the sheriff's decision to fire Captain Shirk, but to what outcome? It would just be something else next time.

As the old saying goes, all politics is local. It's obvious that Bill Shirk was fired because he refused to follow the political rule book. He is not the first to suffer that fate nor will he be the last. It's just the reality of small town politics. article