Attorneys issue statements in employee dismissal

Attorneys for the City of Oneonta and recently dismissed employee Geneva Wall provided statements to The Blount Countian outlining their positions and plans. Wall’s attorney, John Saxon, spoke with the paper noting,“Geneva Wall was a respected, dedicated city employee with considerable responsibility. What has happened to her was outrageous.”

He continued, “She had the courage to blow the whistle on wrongdoing at city hall to the State Ethics Commission. Her reward was a pink slip. State ethics law protects her against retaliation. We will be appealing and filing suit if necessary.”

City attorney Alex Smith issued the following statement on behalf of the city:“The former bookkeeper for the city of Oneonta, Geneva Wall, has been terminated for multiple violations of the city’s personnel policy.

“Over the last several months, Mrs. Wall failed to pay a federal tax deposit resulting in penalties and interest being assessed against the city. She never informed the mayor of her failure to make this payment and in an effort to cover her mistake, paid the penalty and interest without notice to the mayor and without the mayor’s authority. In addition, she failed to timely pay a bond payment due on the City School Bonds (she was counseled in September of 2014 for failing to timely pay the same payment).

“The city of Oneonta feels that it is its responsibility to ensure that public funds and resources are protected and oversee the operation of city government such that the citizens of Oneonta receive quality services from their municipal government. The city takes great pride in providing superior service to its citizens.”

Saxon holds that Wall answered the city’s specific charges in the executive session hearing. He also contends that Wall has been treated differently than other employees in similar situations. The parties disagree over Wall’s employee status and whether or not she has standing before the Merit Board of Blount County.

Saxon anticipates appealing to the board alleging the position is a merit one. By state statute, dismissals may go to merit boards where provided, with further appeal to circuit court available.