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Judge: Board must hear fired deputies’ case again

Civil Services Board voted in private to reinstate deputies after inmate escaped

POSTED: August 12, 2014 1:57 p.m.

Former Hall County Deputies Larry Henslee, left, and Jack Dodd confer during the hearing.

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A ruling by the Civil Services Board to reinstate two Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were fired after an inmate escaped must be voted on again.

Judge Andrew Fuller ruled in Superior Court Tuesday that the board, when reversing the termination of former Deputies Jack Dodd and Larry Henslee, violated open meetings laws by holding the vote in executive session.

“The court finds that the essence of open meetings laws allows for the public to see the vote,” Fuller said.

County Attorney Bill Blalock said the board may or may not hear refresher arguments before it makes a public vote.

On July 16, 2013, Dodd and Henslee were transporting inmates from the Hall County Courthouse when inmate James Edward Cantrell hid and escaped in a truck. Dodd and Henslee were later terminated.

After the proceedings in a Nov. 18, 2013, civil board hearing to appeal the termination, the board members voted in executive session.

“The hearing officer announced the board’s vote to reverse the decision,” said sheriff’s office co-
counsel Bill Buechner.

Dodd argued in the civil suit hearing that the executive session vote should be considered a “harmless error,” a legal term for a mistake in procedure that should not affect the outcome.

Citing Georgia code, Fuller said it was clear that the meeting did not satisfy open meeting laws and that the harmless error defense would not stand.

Dodd and Henslee said previously to The Times that deputies transporting inmates would move more than the number allowed by policy. The sheriff’s office claimed that negligence by the deputies caused the escape.


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