Monroe County sheriff candidate's police work questioned

Monroe County sheriff candidate's police work questioned

April 8th, 2014 by The Knoxville News Sentinel in Local Regional News

MADISONVILLE, Tenn. - A candidate for Monroe County sheriff has worked for the Vonore Police Department for more than three years, including one year full time, according to the police chief.

Radio dispatch logs and city pay records, however, show he worked few hours and received little pay.

Randy White, who also has been full-time director of emergency medical services for Monroe County since 2010, has been working full time or part time as a Vonore police officer since August 2010, according to Chief Randy Kirkland.

Kirkland said White started working part time in 2010 and transitioned to full time work in 2012. He returned to part time work in March 2013.

The chief said White, who did not respond to interview requests, asked him if he could work for the department to keep his state Peace Officers Standards and Training certification current.

White is running against Steve Parris for sheriff in the May 6 primary. White ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2010.

"Officer White wanted to work as a full-time certified officer for minimum money so he would not lose his certification as he had intentions of running for sheriff again in 2014," Kirkland said.

Monroe County 911 dispatch records for White's call sign - 1209 - for the period between Aug. 21, 2010, and March 31 of this year show activity on seven days during 2010, none during 2011, 32 days during 2012 and none during 2013 or 2014.

Officers typically log on and off with each shift, according to Clara Hitson, 911 director for Monroe County. Records of log-on and log-off activity show White logged on and off 10 times during 2010, none during 2011, 40 times in 2012, and none in 2013 or this year.

According to Kirkland, Vonore officers do not always log on and off because people with police scanners could use that information to discover when the town might be more vulnerable.

Tennessee Code Annotated 8-8-102 lists the requirements for running for sheriff. Among other requirements, White needs three years of full-time law enforcement experience as a POST-certified officer within the past 10 years. An affidavit sworn to and signed by the candidate affirming that he meets the requirements also is necessary.

In February, the POST Commission declined to certify James Massengill, Loudon County candidate for sheriff, because he lacked sufficient law enforcement experience. Massengill, who worked in law enforcement for 35 years, left the Loudon County Sheriff's Office in 2006. He was denied certification because he had only two years of experience in the past 10 years.

White had two years of experience with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office from 2004 to 2006. He needed one more year of full-time experience before the 2014 deadline.

"Officer White worked for almost a full year as a full-time certified officer when he could, and was a huge asset for the Vonore Police Department," Kirkland said.

Kirkland said that on March 4, 2013, he moved White from full time back to part time as his work as the director of the ambulance service was requiring more of his time for training and supervision.

Conflicting records

A public records request for all of White's time sheets from 2010 to 2014 resulted in 24 weeks of records from the period March 24, 2012, to Sept. 21, 2012. The time sheets account for 792 hours, or an average of 32 hours per week. The time sheets, only some of which were signed, show 98 shifts worked at eight hours each in 2012.

Kirkland said not all time cards for White were available because of a change in staff in the town recorder's office. White worked most of 2012 and accounted for enough hours to claim full-time status, he said.

Monroe County 911 dispatch records show fewer hours for White in 2012.

White logged off and on for about 40 shifts in 2012, according to dispatch records. Of those, 32 shifts were of eight hours or less, with some in the three- to five-hour range.

Monroe County Mayor Tim Yates, who hired White as EMS director in 2010, said he knew nothing about White's work for the Vonore Police Department.

"All I know is that he's done a great job working for me," Yates said.

Pay records show White has been paid a total of $890, of which $600 was listed as a supplement, during his three years of part-time duty and one year of full-time duty with Vonore police.

Using the 2012 year figures, White would have been working for about $1 per hour.

Kirkland said it is not unusual to have officers working at low wages. The city requires for insurance purposes that the officers be paid some wage. White was working for about $25 per week, he said.

Mike Bledsoe, Vonore police chief from 2003 to 2007 and current captain at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said the going rate for part-time law enforcement officers in the area is about $10 per hour.

Many law enforcement agencies have auxiliary police officers who are not paid or who might only be paid for working special events. A full- or part-time police officer, however, has to be paid a legal wage, Bledsoe said.

"I'm not sure it's legal to pay a full-time employee less than minimum wage," he said.

Katelyn Abernathy, spokeswoman for the POST Commission in Nashville, said White has been granted certification.

Hugh Willett is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.