Updated Thu, Sep 12, 2013 8:27 am
An administrative law judge is recommending that the State Personnel Board of Review order a suspension rather than termination for a former Athens County Sheriff’s Office deputy.
Shannon Sheridan was fired in June 2012 on accusations of insubordination and sexual harassment, according to previous reporting by The Messenger. Sheridan appealed his termination to the board a week later.
Sheriff Patrick Kelly claimed Sheridan, who had been employed with the office since 2004, allegedly failed to meet levels of professionalism after repeated reprimands. According to the sheriff, Sheridan made sexually harassing comments to a female cadet during academy classes and other inappropriate remarks were made to another female cadet.
The former deputy is also charged with being insubordinate toward Capt. Bryan Cooper when he would not leave the captain’s office. An accusation that he also did not properly process and log evidence was also levied against Sheridan.
But the administrative law judge, Christopher Young, assigned to give a recommendation in the case, said the instant order of removal issued to Sheridan, effective June 26, 2012, should be “modified to reflect a suspension of 60 days ... and for (Sheridan) to attend a sensitivity class, subject to any and all monetary setoffs,” according to the court document.
Firing Sheridan was improper based on the allegations in the removal order, Young wrote and the evidence did not support most of the claims the sheriff’s office had made against Sheridan.
“While (Sheridan’s) behavior was certainly inappropriate, it did not amount to the level necessary to completely remove him from his position as a deputy sheriff ... “ according to the document.
In fact, Young found that the only charge that was fully proved was the claim that Sheridan “engaged in a loud, discourteous, and argumentative conversation” with an a law enforcement agent in front of the sheriff’s office on June 4, 2012.
While the actions of Sheridan violated the sheriff’s office regulations and policies for failure to exhibit “good behavior,” they did not constitute sexual harassment, insubordination or improper evidence handling, the judge found.
On the claim made by the sheriff’s office that Sheridan made false and misleading statements to Cooper and Lt. Aaron Maynard during an “investigatory interview,” Young said the allegation was unfounded based on an interview process that was “flawed at best.”
“Looking at the testimony itself, many of the questions asked of Mr. Sheridan in the interview were coercive in the way they were asked, baiting (Sheridan) to utter a confused or inaccurate response,” Young wrote. “Based on the totality of the situation, it is difficult to determine that the investigative interview was truly impartial and fair for Mr. Sheridan.”
The judge’s recommendation is not the final order of the review board, and a timeline on determination by the board is not clear. However, the sheriff has 10 calendar days upon receipt of the report to object.
Kelly said if the decision is made to follow the recommendation of the judge, he plans to appeal the decision.
“He will not be coming back here for a long time,” Kelly said.
Sheridan declined to comment on the case.
“If I commented it would go against the sheriff’s office policy,” Sheridan told The Messenger Wednesday.
Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Volcheck, declined to comment on a matter of pending litigation.