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Appeal of Forsyth Sheriff's employee’s firing postponed to ‘17

Issues surrounding the termination of a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office employee will extend into the New Year and a new sheriff’s administration.

At a recent meeting of the Forsyth County Civil Service Committee, members discussed the appeal of their decision in August to reverse the decision of the sheriff’s office to fire Amanda Funkhouser, a civilian employee who worked in the Georgia Crime and Information Center, or GCIC, unit.

Hearing Officer Richard Neville said the matter will not be considered until at least January, after Sheriff-elect Ron Freeman takes over, and said Freeman will decide whether or not to pursue the appeal.

“The new sheriff would be substituted as the petitioner in the case,” he said. “Once that’s done, if he wanted to pursue the appeal, he could … If he withdrew the appeal, our decision in the case would stand.”

In September, the board determined that Funkhouser is to be reinstated at her job but serve 120 days without pay and be entitled to back pay.

In October, the sheriff’s office filed a writ of certiorari asking for the case to be considered by the Forsyth County Superior Court and to reverse the decision.

Both Funkhouser and the board denied allegations made in the writ and denied that Sheriff Duane Piper is entitled to relief from the court.

In the decision, the suspension was retroactively applied to June 20, the day of Funkhouser’s termination.

According to the board’s decision, the cause for her termination was the surfacing of video and audio recordings showing her “sleeping while on duty” during an overnight shift that were taken by another employee. A sergeant who met with Funkhouser over the issue reportedly did not believe she was truthful in her responses.

The board found that the recordings showed Funkhouser sleeping, but said they “were very brief in time comprising a total of less than four minutes over a course of approximately five days.”

Despite sleeping, there was no evidence to board members that Funkhouser neglected her duties or had previously been disciplined.

The videos were taken between April 29 and May 25.

The board “was also troubled by evidence of the poor management structure of the GCIC Unit by the sheriff’s office and lack of supervision” and said employees were not given secondary tasks during periods of inactivity.

Another concern was that employees were permitted “to fill their down time watching television, reading or doing crossword puzzles.”

It was also determined there was a long-term “personality conflict” dating back to December between Funkhouser and the coworker who shot the videos.

The board had issues with the meeting between the sergeant and Funkhouser, as no recording of it was made, and a written report was not made until almost two weeks after, leading to a “conflict in testimony about the exact question asked” and Funkhouser’s responses.