Commissioners put hold on hiring deputies, jailers due to lack of trust in sheriff

Sheriff Robert Arnold (Photo: WKRN)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – A lack of trust in the sheriff has led county commissions to put a hold on hiring needed deputies and jailers.

The Rutherford County budget committee voted 4-3 Tuesday night not to give Sheriff Robert Arnold $1.5 million to hire the new employees while he’s facing criminal charges.

The sheriff is firing back, claiming it’s nothing but politics.

“We just don’t trust him; we just don’t know what he will do next,” said County Commissioner Rhonda Allen. “He’s refused to take any responsibility or accountability for any of this; he just denies there is even a problem. We just have to send a clear message.”

Commissioner Allen has been quite vocal about the leadership of Sheriff Arnold.

“The bottom line is we have constituents come to us and say we don’t trust him,” Allen said. “We don’t trust the sheriff with what he has now, why would we trust with him more.”

Tuesday night at the end of the Rutherford County Budget and Finance Committee meeting there was a last-minute amendment to the budget by Commissioner Shawn Kaplin.

“That would remove all those 19 position, vehicles, training, and equipment,” Allen said.

Since the office of sheriff is an elected position, Arnold answers to the people, not the commissioners.

“As difficult of a discussion as that was, we genuinely struggled with it,” Allen said. “We truly believe the positions are needed, but the only authority as a commission we have is over budget and finance.”

The sheriff released a statement by email saying, “The actions of the four commissioners hold the citizens and the county employees’ hostage for political purposes, endangering the lives of both the employees who respond to dangerous calls and the citizens who may be the victims of violent crime.”

He continued, “Quit playing politics. Set aside the political agendas and be responsible. Our patrol division is grossly understaffed right now. Many times, citizens have to wait for deputies to respond to a critical call because they are tied up on other calls.”

Arnold, his Chief Deputy of Administration Joe Russell and his uncle John Vanderveer were all arrested on the multi count indictment for their citing fraud and corruption and other charges for their involvement in jail cigs.

They face an August 2 trial date in federal court.

Commissioners have already called for the sheriff to resign, but he says he doesn’t plan on doing that.

“I think he should have thought of some of these things before in the recent past,” Commissioners Doug Shafer said.

Shafer voted against the amendment, but for the budget.

The 19 position will cost the county $1.5 to $1.6 million.

Shafer feels someone else should be running the sheriff’s office.

“So we feel that someone else to make that decision on that amount of money we will be more beneficial,” Shafer said.

Allen said the vote was made with the understanding that this would be from month-to-month.

The money that will be used to hire those new positions will be placed in an unassigned fund balance to be used at a later time, whether there is new leadership or if the sheriff is exonerated, according to Allen.

The full commission will vote whether to approve the budget without the 19 positions at its meeting June 27.

The budget committee could vote to move the money out of the assigned fund to hire the new employees at its Aug. 4 meeting; two days after Arnold, Russell and Vanderveer are scheduled for trial.

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