Former Sheriff's Office Employees Lawsuit Gets Green Light to go to Trial

-- Valdosta, Ga. -- May 17, 2012 --

Sheriff Chris Prine took office on January 1, 2009. Around the same time, three sheriff's office employees were let go. Those employees are saying that they were wrongfully terminated.

The three former employees claim they were fired because they supported Sheriff Prine's opponent, J.D. Yeager, during the 2008 campaign. They filed an initial lawsuit in December of 2009. That lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Hugh Lawson in 2011, but on Tuesday
the ruling was overturned in a court of appeals.

Leanne Bennett is one of those former employees. She says "I was willing to work for the new sheriff, I've been an officer for a long time and I've worked for many different people, so I didn't have a problem going to work for him, but I wasn't given that opportunity."

Bennet says it was because Sheriff Prine's opponent is her brother. Yet the sheriff's lawyer, Rick Strickland, dismisses that claim.

Strickland says "there are folks that have other motivations. Politics, money.. those are the things that drive cases like this."

Eyewitness News reporter Eames Yates spoke to Sheriff Prine. The Sheriff said "there are two sides to every story and we'll wait till the facts come out in court."

A trial date has not yet been set.

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  • by Bobby on May 19, 2012 at 10:46 AM
    Bill, I very familur if how the courts work and of the authority the sheriff had to hire AND fire his people. The appellate courts rulings are over turned everyday by the GA Supreme Court. Please do a little research before you post. Thanks
  • by just sayin Location: the holey south on May 18, 2012 at 05:34 PM
    i mab be wrong but if a person has been there for years and done a good job they can not be fired for nothing. LET ME ASK YOU THIS. IF YOU WEREA BIG DRUG DEALER DEALING IN 100'S OF POUNDS OF POT. WOULD YOU SHOW A SHERIFF'S BROTHER BALES OF POT? WHY WOULD YOU TRUST SOMEONE LIKE THAT?
  • by Bobby on May 18, 2012 at 02:07 PM
    Ed, in Georgia if you work at a sheriff's office you work at the pleasure of the sheriff. This decision by the appellant court will be overturned and sent back down.
  • by TimeForChange on May 18, 2012 at 10:23 AM
    Hmmm, sounds an awful lot like Wakulla, wouldn't you say so Maurice ??
  • by ED Location: Valdosta on May 18, 2012 at 09:16 AM
    @CAM - The Court of Appeals disagrees with you. I have read their decision and there is much more to this than is stated in a news report.
    • reply
      by Bill on May 18, 2012 at 08:32 PM in reply to ED
      @Bobby..Obviously the case has already been overturned in the Court of Appeals and they feel the employees have enough to go to trail.If you aren't aware of how it works, the appeals court has access to any and all depositions and any other paperwork having to do with a case that is put before them. There are three judges on the panel that apparantly agree there is enough contraditions in the Sheriff's case to let a jury decide. There would be no case if these employee has been evaluated on their work performance and not who they supported in an election. This was wrong and should not happen no matter what state you live in.
  • by CAM Location: Afghanistan on May 17, 2012 at 10:38 PM
    If Georgia is like Florida, and I think it is, then the newly elected Sheriff of any county has the right to hire his own personnel, as he/she is duly elected by the people. The Sheriff does not have to give a reason for letting one go. The deputies work at the discretion of the Sheriff. This also applies to any constitutional officer, including the Tax Collector, etc. Enough said.
    • reply
      by Tallyguy2 on May 18, 2012 at 08:24 AM in reply to CAM
      True enough....unless the Sheriff's office is a nationally accredited office, or they have "Carerr Service protection". Enough said....Now!
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