School board dilemma: Rhea panel ponders options in dealing with jailed colleague

School board dilemma: Rhea panel ponders options in dealing with jailed colleague

December 9th, 2012 by Kimberly McMillian in Local Regional News

Sgt. Jake Miller walks the corridor inside the Rhea County Jail in Dayton, Tenn.

Photo by Photo by Kimberly McMillian

DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County school board member Patrick Fisher, still in jail after his second recent arrest on drug and weapons charges, may face an ouster petition if he doesn't resign.

Mike Taylor, district attorney for the 12th Judicial District, said Friday he has communicated with Fisher, school board Chairman B.J. McCoy and Rhea County Attorney Carol Ann Barron about Fisher's intentions.

He said he could file a civil ouster lawsuit on grounds such as malfeasance, official misconduct or moral turpitude. Should he win, Fisher would be removed for the rest of his term, which is up in 2014.

Several school board members said last week that, while they are concerned about Fisher's being found on school property armed and intoxicated, they don't have the authority to kick him off the board.

"We can't really do anything," 9th District representative Bill Davault said. He and others called for neutrality while the charges are pending.

"[Fisher] is presumed innocent until he's found guilty in the courts," Davault said.

Board members should "stay unbiased and neutral on legal issues," said McCoy, who represents District 2.

Carroll Henderson of the 6th district said he was sad to hear of the arrest.

"The community has the right to hold us to high standards and be respected," Henderson said.

Other board members declined comment or could not be reached.

Fisher has been in the Rhea County Jail since he was arrested Monday. He is charged with driving under the influence, violation of implied consent, possession of Schedule II and Schedule IV drugs and possession of weapon while under influence of a controlled substance, according to the arrest report. His arraignment is set for Jan. 25.

The arrest report said Deputy Davin Payne saw Fisher, who works for RBA Construction and has been on the school board for two years, apparently passed out in his car at the county education building.

Fisher was presumed to have gone to the board of education to get his paycheck, officials said.

Tennessee laws forbid firearms on school property. Rhea County Schools has guidelines for school employees on drug and alcohol usage and potential screenings, but those don't apply to the elected board members.

According to the arrest report, Fisher appeared lethargic and his speech was slurred. When asked to perform an sobriety test, he told Payne he had a bad back and that he'd taken Oxycontin and Xanax earlier in the day.

Fisher drove off and Payne followed, eventually stopping Fisher in Evensville. Payne found a 9 mm automatic Smith & Wesson and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver inside the vehicle.

Fisher had been arrested in August on similar charges in Spring City, Tenn., records show.