2 firings, 2 outcomes for Red Bank officers

2 firings, 2 outcomes for Red Bank officers

February 20th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Two Red Bank police officers were fired in 2010, but one now receives about $1,100 a month in unemployment benefits from the city and the other gets nothing.

The state approved former Chief Larry Sneed's application for benefits and refused one from former Cpl. Rebecca Chauncey.

When Chauncey filed for benefits with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey attached documents alleging misconduct by Chauncey.

He included nothing of the sort with Sneed's application.

Dorsey wrote letters about the firings to the labor department, which decides whether an applicant should receive unemployment benefits.

"In Larry's case, he left Red Bank for entirely different reasons than Chauncey did," Dorsey said Wednesday, declining to elaborate.

Dorsey's letters likely influenced how the labor department awarded benefits, agency spokesman Jeff Hentschel said Wednesday.

One city commissioner said she doesn't know why Dorsey gave different treatment to the ex-employees.

"It needs to be fair to both," Commissioner Floy Pierce said. "I don't agree with anything Dorsey's doing."

Dorsey blamed the state labor department for the situation.

"They asked us questions and we gave them the facts," Dorsey said. "They gave the determination."

Chauncey case

Chauncey was fired in December after a Nov. 16 incident in which several officers searched three residences.

When she applied for benefits Dec. 22, Dorsey wrote to the labor department that he based her termination on a private investigator's report about the incident.

The report by the Tellico Resolution Group said Chauncey allowed a bail bondsman to force his way into an elderly couple's home without a warrant, consent or life or death circumstances, one of which is required by law for all searches.

Chauncey faulted police leadership for never teaching her about the proper chain of command as it relates to bondsmen. But the Department of Labor declined to grant Chauncey benefits, saying she was in "violation of the law" for her role in the Nov. 16 incident. The decision was based on the internal affairs investigation, which Dorsey commissioned for $1,370, according to city records.

To date, Chauncey has not been charged with a crime in connection with the searches. She has a clean criminal record in Hamilton County.

"There's a certain degree of assumption of fact," Hentschel said. "They [benefits examiners] don't go into a great amount of investigation beyond what's presented to them ... to figure out if there's more to what's been presented."

Evidence and sworn statements only come into play at the appeal level, he said.

Chauncey has named Dorsey as part of a $1.5 million lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court.

She declined to comment when contacted Wednesday.

Sneed case

Dorsey fired Sneed early in July, and Sneed applied for unemployment benefits July 7.

Dorsey attached no disciplinary measures to the application and he did not challenge Sneed's right to receive compensation, records show.

Sneed said in his application that he was fired for "allegedly not being fair with some of his employees."

The Department of Labor granted benefits to Sneed, saying Dorsey failed to provide enough evidence that Sneed committed "workplace misconduct."

Such evidence would've been enough for the department not to give Sneed the benefits, Hentschel said.

Dorsey gave the Chattanooga Times Free Press two dropped harassment complaints against Sneed from female employees, but he did not include the dropped complaints or any other documents that could be construed as "misconduct" in his letter about Sneed's application.

Sneed also filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the city. He declined to comment for this story and his attorney, Lee Davis, did not return a phone message.