County, city workers face disciplinary actions

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 8, 2010

A Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy has been terminated and aBrookhaven firefighter remains suspended after a small outburst ofpersonnel shakeups hit city and county government late lastyear.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said investigator BlairDehart was released from the department following his arrest by aMississippi State Trooper for driving under the influence on Dec.18. Dehart was suspended without pay until the New Year whileRushing reviewed his options for discipline.

“He’s no longer employed here … because of what I felt likewas conduct unbecoming an officer,” Rushing said.

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Dehart’s long suspension before termination is indicative ofwhat Rushing said were unclear rules in the department’s policy.The current policy does not specifically address off-duty lawviolations, Rushing said, but a new policy he and county attorneysare preparing for implementation later in the year will clarifythose rules.

Rushing, who has been crafting the new policy book for about sixmonths, said the new rules would instruct deputies to “avoidbehaviors and practices that would cause the public to question theintegrity of the department.”

“We’re here to represent the people, and we should be governedby the same laws as they are,” he said.

Brookhaven aldermen have also handed out a pair of suspensionsfollowing incidents in late 2009.

On Dec. 1, aldermen suspended Brookhaven Fire Department Capt.Randy Sykes for 90 days, although the reason has not beenreleased.

Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner declined to comment on thesuspension, citing personnel matters. BFD Chief Tony Weeks likewiserefused to elaborate.

“All I can say is that everything being done is being doneaccording to city policy,” he said.

Also, aldermen on Tuesday night suspended street departmentworker Michael F. Carey for two weeks after he was involved in hissecond accident while driving city vehicles in less than two years.The two-year period for accidents is established in the city’semployee handbook.

According to the city’s employee handbook, workers may bedisciplined in some form for at least 21 violations, includingdestruction of city property, consecutive absences withoutnotification or working under the influence of alcohol or othersubstances.