Judge extends TRO for county merit board

Steven King, judge of Alabama’s 41st judicial circuit, extended his temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Blount County Merit Board’s hearing the dismissal case of former Oneonta city employee Geneva Wall. King’s extension applies until the board provides a written decision from its Jan. 28 hearing which asserted it had jurisdiction in the case. King would then be in a position to decide on any further action.

Oneonta city attorney Alex Smith had asked King to issue a declaratory judgment for the city, upholding the city’s personnel policy and its contention that Wall is not a merit employee. John Saxon, Wall’s attorney, asked the judge to lift the TRO to clear the way for the board to schedule a hearing on the dismissal.

As each side presented its case, attorneys disagreed over what the merit board had ruled. Smith contended the board had rejected the city’s personnel policy, voiding its right to establish its own job classifications. Saxon held that the board had decided that Wall is a merit employee and had not addressed the issue Smith proposed.

Jeff Sherrer, the county’s attorney and thus the merit board’s counselor, accepted the position that the board had agreed to hear Wall’s case but expressed uncertainty over the question of any ruling related to the validity of the city’s personnel policy. Sherrer had noted that due to his involvement in another court case he had been present only at the beginning of the merit hearing.

King directed Sherrer to obtain a written opinion from the board. No merit board members were present for the hour-and-a-half that arguments were heard March 28 in the courthouse’s large courtroom. Based on the board’s existing by-laws, it should hold its next regular meeting the second Monday in April.