Merit board delays ruling on fired Oneonta employee

In a special called meeting to consider an appeal of Geneva Wall’s dismissal by the city of Oneonta, Blount County Merit System Board members decided to delay action awaiting further word from Wall or her attorney. Oneonta contends that Wall does not have standing to appeal to the board. City attorney Alex Smith filed documents so arguing with the board.

In discussion at the 9 a.m. meeting on Jan. 7, member Brett King suggested the board solicit a response to the city’s position from Wall or her attorney. Member Gary McGill endorsed King’s suggestion as “fair.” Members decided to permit 14 days for a response and scheduled another meeting for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 8:15 a.m. in its regular meeting room, adjacent to the county commission hearing room for further consideration.

Oneonta Mayor Ross Norris had informed Wall of her dismissal on Dec. 7, 2015. Following normal procedures, city officials scheduled a Dec. 10 due process hearing on that action, which was confirmed with an effective dismissal date of Dec. 11. Wall appealed that decision to the entire council which upheld the dismissal in a special called meeting on Dec. 17.

The question at hand is whether or not Wall is a merit (classified) or salaried (unclassified) employee. If the board accepts Wall’s position, it could rule on the validity of her dismissal. Regardless of the board’s ruling, Wall or the city may appeal any decision to circuit court.

In addition to King and McGill, Robert Sanford, Tim Frye (secretary), and Bill Newman (chair) comprise the board. According to the state enacting legislation, one member is named by Blount County Lodge No. 28 of the Fraternal Order of Police, one by all other county employees, one by the county commission, one by the county municipalities, and one jointly by the four other sources.