Merit board hearing on Mitchell case subject to schedule rearrangements

The merit board hearing for terminated county administrator Ralph Mitchell, initially set for Oct. 12 at 1 p.m., is being rescheduled due to a schedule conflict with that day by a member of the board.

Merit board chairman Bill Newman said another board member has recused himself from the hearing because of his personal friendship with Mitchell.

The remaining four members have communicated to Mitchell’s attorney Greg Reid that they would be available to hold the hearing on Oct. 17 or Oct. 18. Reid said he has a conflict on Oct. 17, but has notified the board he and his client can meet on Oct. 18. As of Tuesday afternoon, Newman said he is trying to clear that date with the county and other interested parties.

Mitchell’s attorney had originally requested a closed hearing on Oct. 12, indicating that he could more effectively represent his client’s interests without the distractions of a partisan public.

The purpose of the hearing is for Mitchell to appeal his employment termination by majority vote of the Blount County Commission on Aug. 21, and upheld in a subsequent hearing on Sept. 6.

Mitchell was accused of violating a number of the provisions of the Personnel and Procedures Manual of Blount County, having to do with both job performance and treatment of others in carrying out his job. The merit board hearing allows him to answer charges, summon witnesses on his own behalf, and generally be heard in his own defense.

The merit board has wide discretionary powers to uphold the termination, reinstate the employee with or without conditions, or take other disciplinary action it may find warranted.