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Hall jailers firing upheld by single-member civil board
Attorney hears first case since committee was disbanded by Home Rule
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A jailer’s termination was upheld Friday during the first civil service board hearing before a singular attorney following the seven-member board’s disbandment.

Abena James Brown appealed her firing from the Hall County Jail, claiming it came following an injury on the job last October.

“It wasn’t until I was injured that I started getting suspended (and) reprimanded,” Brown said before Gainesville attorney Madeline Wirt.

Wirt was chosen as the hearing officer following the board’s disbandment in June. Hall County commissioners voted to dismantle it in their belief it was too political.

The “Home Rule” invoked by the commission replaced the board with a hearing officer, who must have at least five years of experience and be in good standing with the state bar.

Brown said she became “injured and had to go to the physical therapist three times a week,” which is when she started asking for time off.

Brown started with Hall County in 2007 and was fired in April of this year. Further testimony revealed that she had difficulties communicating with superiors related to days not at work.

“Nobody told me I needed a doctor’s note, or I would have gotten one ASAP,” Brown said.

County Attorney Bill Blalock and multiple superiors testified to Brown’s reprimands for insubordination and other complaints about her job performance.

When returning in light-duty capacity, Brown worked in the control tower, Capt. Marcus Neville said.

“She was the sole person responsible for the tower, although other work release personnel were in the area,” Neville said. “They had the ability to leave and go check on other items. Being the tower officer at that time, she’s responsible for all the inmates that are behind cell doors.”

Jailers heard a call about a potential fight, and Brown went with other employees. She was subsequently reprimanded.

In his closing argument, Blalock listed the reprimands for Wirt in what he called a chain of events related to insubordination.

“The sheriff’s department cannot and should not have to put up with that kind of conduct,” he said.

Wirt deliberated for an hour after the 90-minute hearing and returned with her decision.

“Based on all the evidence presented at the hearing ... I find the decision to terminate Ms. Brown should be upheld,” she said.