Though Billy Long still is Hamilton County’s sheriff, County Commissioner Curtis Adams says he expects a “strong push” for former Sheriff John Cupp to temporarily take over for the sheriff as he faces federal bribery charges.
“That’s a good move for all of us, I think,” Mr. Adams said, saying that he envisions the County Commission backing Mr. Cupp, who he said could be sworn in as an interim sheriff if Sheriff Long were to resign.
Commission Chairman Bill Hullander said Saturday that he did not yet have a replacement in mind, however, and wants to wait for Sheriff Long to make the next move. “We’ll just have to wait and see what he does,” Mr. Hullander said.
Mr. Cupp said Saturday that he would be open to the idea of returning to the department he headed for 12 years. Though he is not interested in taking on the job permanently — despite being “flooded with calls” Saturday from people wanting him to run for re-election — he said he probably would not refuse a temporary appointment.
But first Mr. Long will have to resign, be convicted of a crime or be ousted from office to be removed from his post, which comes with an annual salary of about $104,000, according to county officials.
Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said that either the Hamilton County district attorney or the County Commission could initiate ouster proceedings against Sheriff Long if he does not resign.
If a majority of the commission votes to direct the county attorney to begin such a proceeding and District Attorney Bill Cox begins an ouster proceeding, the county would file its case against Mr. Long in Hamilton County Chancery Court.
“If he resigns or is removed from office, the County Commission would appoint a temporary replacement until a special election is conducted,” Mr. Taylor said.
The attorney said a county election for a new sheriff could be held in August when voters also elect the county assessor.
In the meantime, Chief Deputy Allen Branum has taken the reins at the sheriff’s department.
“He’s still technically the sheriff, but I’ll be running operations in his absence,” said Chief Branum, 53, who left a job as chief of the Soddy-Daisy Police Department when Sheriff Long appointed him as second-in-command in 2006.