Sheriff implements merit system, board

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Employees of the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office have tough jobs, but a recently implemented merit system could make those jobs a little more secure.

Sheriff John Shearon has worked with the Chilton County Commission to form the Merit System Board, which will serve as an avenue for employment termination appeals.

Before implementation of the Board, a sheriff could use his or her sole discretion for hiring and firing. This could be especially troublesome when a new sheriff came into office—and could decide he wanted an entirely new staff.

“This gives you a little more security,” Shearon said. “We have folks that don’t make a whole lot of money, and then you have to worry about your job every four years.”

Employees could still be fired for just cause, but the Merit Board will hear appeals from employees.

“If someone does something and I have to fire them, there will be an appeals process up to the Merit Board to show that it was justifiable,” Shearon said. “It’s just got to be done the right way. Everybody deserves to have somebody looking out for them.”

The Board could serve as part of an appeals process for any sheriff’s office employee—including those serving as law enforcement officers, radio operators, jailer and support personnel—who have completed one year of probationary employment.

The merit system will govern dismissals, suspensions, lay-offs and terminations.

An act of the Alabama Legislature in 2002 provided for the creation of a merit system in Chilton County, but the Board had never been implemented until recently, Shearon said.

The act calls for the Board to be comprised of one member nominated by the Chilton County Commission, one member nominated by the sheriff and a third member agreed upon by both entities.

The sheriff’s nomination was Scotty Wells, a former deputy who also worked for the state; the sheriff’s nomination was Cheryl Robinson, former director of Chilton County 911; and the joint nomination was Awlajahday Agee, the county’s deputy coroner.

The Board will likely have an organizational meeting and thereafter meet only when needed.

Shearon said he has fired two employees since he took office in January 2015.

The sheriff’s office has also set up a hiring board to help the sheriff with new hires.

The hiring board is composed of all division commanders (investigations, jail and patrol) plus the chief deputy and an office staff member.

The process of advertising for positions will remain the same, but the hiring board will sort through applications, conduct interviews and then recommend applicants to the sheriff.

“In the past, it has been common to just give the job to someone you know, but this will help prevent that,” Shearon said. “And instead of looking at 100 people, they’ll send me a handful to choose from. It’s a better way of doing it.”