2008-11-12 / Local News

Fired Veterans Affairs Office employees' grievance will be heard today

By LARRY HILLIARD Ledger Staff Writer larry@gaffneyledger.com

The two fired Veterans Affairs Office clerks are expected to plead their case today before the county's grievance committee.

The hearing for Kathy Love and Michele Tucker is set for 10:30 a.m. at the county administration building, Cherokee County Clerk Doris Pearson said.

Love and Tucker were fired Sept. 29 by Cherokee County Veterans Affairs Officer Sammy Willard. Their allegations against Willard triggered a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation.

"Your employment with Cherokee County Veterans Office is terminated effectively due to your making unfounded accusations against Cherokee County Veterans Affairs Office," Willard wrote in the one-sentence letter to the clerks.

Love and Tucker have said they have spotless work records during a combined 27 years of service with the county, including a total of eight years with the local VA office.

The committee has 20 days to file its report and forward it to the hiring official. In this instance, that would be Willard, who would have the authority to either accept or reject the committee's findings.

Tucker and Love may support their case with witnesses but they aren't permitted legal representation at the hearing, according to the county grievance policy. The grievance committee is comprised of five county employees. They are emergency preparedness director Rick Peterson, Sheriff Department employee J.P. Manning, magistrate office employee Tallulah Goforth, tax assessor department employee Sarah Reddish and E-911 Director Delisa Coggins.

The county grievance committee was involved in another high-profile county firing in 2005 when it upheld the dismissal of former Cherokee County Tax Assessor Barry Kelley, who claimed he was fired unjustly for reporting the county had not properly charged taxes to certain citizens who claimed tax exemptions for agricultural property.

Kelley filed a wrongful termination suit against the county and agreed to a settlement in June of $9,500.

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