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E911 dispatcher claims wrongful termination; harrassment in suit against county

Chris Buchanan

Vindication in the form of a letter from the district attorney wasn’t enough to get a former 911 dispatcher her job back recently and the resulting lawsuit has expanded now that her husband has been fired from the sheriff’s office as well for joining his wife in the original suit.

Now both have filed grievances in federal court for wrongful termination nearly a year after her dismissal.

Brittany Ammons, who was fired from her position as a 911 dispatcher last year said that the allegations that led to her firing by 911 director Linda Murrell and the resulting investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were meant as punishment and were completely uncalled for.

Months later on July 5 of this year, Ammons was vindicated when the former interim district attorney, George E. Barnhill, reviewed the facts of the investigation along with two other assistant district attorneys and in a letter to the Kingsland office of the GBI said there was not enough evidence for a case against Ammons to warrant legal action.

The letter goes on to say that “no actual information as legally defined as ‘criminal history information’ was retrieved or released” and that “it was an address, which is readily available public knowledge by several other means.”

Barnhill also said that there did not appear to be any criminal intent in the item that resulted in the firing though he admitted that it could be against an internal rule of the department.

The whole incident, according to Ammons, stemmed from an earlier incident that resulted in a 10 day suspension by Murrell and Ammons’s attorneys say was a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act in itself.

In a letter to Ammons, Murrell said that her suspension was due to abuse of leave, insubordination and falsification of time sheets or expense reimbursement records or willfully giving false statements to supervisors, officials or the public – all a result of Murrell finding out that the date of a major operation that her husband was having was not the date Ammons had initially told her.  The resulting schedule changes resulted in unnecessary overtime that cost the county money and placed hardship on fellow operators according to Murrell.

But Ammons said she requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her husband after what was suppose to be his June 5 surgery was rescheduled by his doctor.  But when that date changed to June 8, so too, did the days which she needed off.

When Ammons launched an appeal as she was told she could do in the rest of the letter from Murrell, Ammons was denied further leave, changed to a new shift that conflicted with her ability to care for her husband – who had complications with his surgery – and children and was soon hit with the GBI investigation for a possible security breach that led to her subsequent firing from the department before the district attorney’s office had looked into the allegations.

According to a letter from attorneys Rita C. Spalding and Joseph J. Segui, Ammons lost wages of over $15,000 as well as liquidated damages, lost future pay, damage for intentional infliction of emotional distress, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs and other damages that altogether are reported to be over $100,000.

The letter said that Ammons was forced to cash in her $6,000 retirement and lost medical insurance for themselves and their two children that led to $20,000 in medical bills.

But upon the filing of an anti-litem notice with the county commission, Ammons soon found that her husband, a relatively new hire at the sheriff’s office, was fired as well – and according to her legal council, illegally so.

In an official letter from Sheriff Jack Whisenant to the Brantley County Board of Commissioners, Whisenant said that his reasons for firing Officer Daniel Ammons was because of the filing of an ante litem notice and the officer being within a 90 day probationary period.

In a letter to Whisenant, Segui said that the county’s own human resources policies – policy 700.300 specifically – requires that a department head or elected official clearly show that there has been unsatisfactory work performance – something that was not included in the official letter of termination.

Segui called the firing of Daniel Ammons “clearly retaliatory in nature” in a letter to Whisenant.

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