In an unusual case, the Hall County Civil Service Board voted unanimously Tuesday morning to uphold the termination of employee David McCord.
Most hearings before the board involve disciplinary appeals brought by terminated or demoted employees.
While McCord’s case was more benign, it did reveal a certain push-and-pull in the relationship between workers and employers in the public sector.
“This is a little different than any case we’ve heard before,” said County Attorney Bill Blalock. “So, it’s the other side of the coin.”
McCord worked for the county for about eight years prior to his termination last November.
His troubles began last summer when he sustained a knee injury on the job.
McCord helped manage inmate work crews at the county recycling center.
Inmates there sort glass, plastics, cardboard and other recyclables.
The knee injury prompted McCord to address a lingering foot ailment, and he received permission to have surgery for both injuries from his supervisors.
As a result, between August and November, McCord missed about 60 days of work.
He was given worker’s compensation, his vacation, and sick time was applied, and he also received short-term disability pay.
McCord then returned to work in mid-November, filling in for a week performing “light duty” in place of a vacationing secretary.
He was later fired when county officials could not find a permanent position for him to fill.
“We can’t just make up light-duty jobs,” said Human Resources Director Bill Moats, adding that department heads have no authority to create new positions.
That power lies exclusively with the Board of Commissioners.
McCord, however, said he was fully capable of returning to work as an officer on inmate work crews.
But county officials disputed this assertion, citing a doctor’s note that restricted McCord from certain activities and duties.
And that’s where the crux of the case was revealed.
“All the things I would be doing in my normal job, I was able to do,” McCord said. “I feel that I was not treated fairly.”
County officials said McCord’s injuries were a liability for him, his co-workers and the public.
Conflicts between inmates on work crews are frequent, county officials said.
McCord is charged with breaking up fights, and also ensuring inmates do not acquire contraband.
“Absolutely, it’s a security issue,” said Johnnie Vickers, the county’s solid waste director. “I felt like I had no choice but to terminate Mr. McCord.”
When he was fired, McCord was also granted unemployment pay.
In December, he took a job as a corrections officer at Lee Arrendale State Prison near Alto in Habersham County.
But McCord said he makes significantly less money in his new position and expressed concern about supporting his young family.
“I plead for mercy and for grace here,” he told the board. “I would love to go back to work.”
After the board ruled against McCord, he said he was disappointed, adding he was given no warning about his impending termination and did everything asked of him to get back on the job.
Moats said officials have a responsibility to taxpayers, and that McCord’s case was simply a matter of doing what’s fiscally appropriate.
“We’re pleased with the verdict,” Moats said. “We felt we were in the right all along.”