By Ginny LaRoe
Hamilton County Sheriff John Cupp said Wednesday he fired Andy Derryberry from his position as chief deputy in January 2004 for undermining the department’s integrity, while Mr. Derryberry said he resigned.
Sheriff Cupp claims he fired Mr. Derryberry after he took allegations about alleged misuse of federal money for the South/East Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force to people outside the sheriff’s department without discussing it with Sheriff Cupp.
Mr. Derryberry, who is challenging the 12-year-incumbent sheriff in the county’s May 2 primary, maintains he resigned from the department.
We can play semantics here, but he said, You went and talked to a U.S. attorney about this,’ and he didn’t like that because I was going to address the situation, Mr. Derryberry said.
But the sheriff said he agreed to accept a letter of resignation only after he told Mr. Derryberry he was being terminated. Sheriff Cupp said he did not want to sabotage Mr. Derryberry’s future.
The sheriff said Mr. Derryberry had a pattern of believing unfounded allegations of wrongdoing by department employees.
I would not want you to be associated with a sheriff who is or might be a willing or unwilling participant in a scheme to defraud the Methamphetamine Task Force fund, the sheriff told Mr. Derryberry during a Jan. 5, 2004, recorded conversation.
Sheriff Cupp on Wednesday played the recording for the Times Free Press.
Until recently, both candidates have said publicly that Mr. Derryberry left because of differences in management styles.
Mr. Derryberry said he brought the allegations of misuse of meth task force overtime money to the attention of former U.S. Attorney Harry S. Sandy Mattice instead of to the sheriff because he believed the sheriff had been involved in the alleged misuse of federal money.
When someone brings allegations to me — I’m a 21-year law enforcement professional — I’m not going to turn my back on it, Mr. Derryberry said.
Sheriff Cupp said a 2004 audit by county officials found no misuse of meth funds.
The sheriff told Mr. Derryberry during the recorded conversation that he would tell anyone who asked that the two had differences in management styles.
I do not intend to say anything about loyalty and your attack on my honesty and integrity, Sheriff Cupp told Mr. Derryberry on the recording.
Sheriff Cupp has not hired a chief deputy since Mr. Derryberry left in 2004 but said he would fill the position if he wins re-election.
The winner of the Republican primary will face independent Dave Alverson and either Democrat Hank DeArman or Billy Long in the county’s Aug. 3 general election.
E-mail Ginny LaRoe at firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: To read portions of the Jan. 5, 2004, recorded conversation between Hamilton County Sheriff John Cupp and Andy Derryberry, a former chief deputy, visit www.tfponline.com.