East Ridge City Recorder Janet Middleton attends a city council meeting in this file photo.Staff File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press
East Ridge's city recorder was arrested Tuesday following an investigation into a domestic spat with her husband -- who is the city's supervisor over traffic control, city officials say.
Janet Middleton was charged with domestic assault and criminal trespassing after East Ridge police said she showed up at the apartment of her husband's female friend in the early hours of Feb. 2, yelling and trying to force herself into the residence.
City Manager Tim Gobble said he suspended Middleton on Thursday after the incident, and that she will remain on suspension with pay until he learns more the circumstances surrounding her arrest.
"Generally we do not comment on personnel matters," said Gobble. "But as this involves law enforcement I can say the investigation into this matter is still open and we will make our decision about her employment when we have more information."
According to a warrant issued by East Ridge City Court, witnesses said Janet Middleton arrived at the apartment around 5 a.m., pounding on the door and yelling.
Bill Middleton told police that as he went outside to tell Janet Middleton to leave, she tried to go into the apartment, then hit him on the arm and chest multiple times.
In the report, Janet Middleton denied striking Bill Middleton, saying that he put a hand on her shoulder and she was attempting to swipe it away.
Attempts to reach both Janet and Bill Middleton by phone Tuesday evening were unsuccessful.
The next day, Gobble suspended Janet Middleton and the case was assigned to a detective.
She was booked at the East Ridge Police Department on Tuesday afternoon and released immediately on a $500 bond.
Director of Public Safety Eddie Phillips said Janet Middleton was not arrested at the scene because it was not immediately clear who was the "primary aggressor."
"If they had had obvious injuries, an arrest would have been made on the scene, but if there's no marks and there's no immediate way to determine who the primary aggressor is, then we separate the parties and given warning not to have contact with each other and open an investigation afterward," Phillips said.
Tennessee law states that if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime involving domestic abuse, "the preferred response of the officer is arrest."
To make the decision, the officer must weigh factors like witness accounts, the parties' history of domestic abuse, the relative severity of inflicted injuries and the likelihood of future injury to each person, the law states.
According to documents in Janet Middleton's personnel file, she was reprimanded in September after she was involved in a verbal altercation with the same woman at City Hall.
Phillips said the department would not call in an outside agency to investigate the city employees since the two employees are not involved with law enforcement.
Janet Middleton has worked at the city since 1995, while Bill Middleton has worked at the city for over 30 years, according to their personnel files.