Cumberland County commissioners added an updated personnel policy for employees of the Cumberland County Circuit Court Clerk’s office to the minutes of its May meeting— the latest in an overhaul of the county’s personnel procedures.

County Attorney Philip Burnett said the county’s efforts to shore up its human resources procedures and policies have resulted in positive conversations with representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice in an ongoing case regarding an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“They’re complimentary of what has taken place in the county over the past two years,” Burnett said during the Tuesday meeting of the commission.

The meeting was held via teleconference, with an audio recording posted online immediately following the meeting. 

Burnett said little about the specifics of the case, though it involves former solid waste director Michael Harvel, who was indicted in February 2018 on two counts of assault, one count official misconduct and one count of sexual battery.

Harvel was placed on administrative leave and continued to be paid his salary until he was dismissed the following year. 

In March 2019, the county fired Harvel following the conclusion of an investigation by the EEOC. At that time, County Mayor Allen Foster said, “Determinations have recently been made regarding the employee by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that do not offer findings negating the Grand Jury indictments.” 

The separation notice said the charges involved an employee serving as Harvel’s subordinate at the solid waste department.

Last year, the county hired its first human resources director, Brooke Shaffer. She is tasked with personnel management of more than 400 county employees and updating policy and procedures manuals. 

“You’ll see the circuit court clerk policy — that policy almost doubled in size because of what we’ve learned and what we know now needs to be there to protect the county,” Burnett said. 

But the negotiations will likely come with a price tag, Burnett said. In April, Burnett said the federal agency had offered no indication of how much that cost might be.

“There’s still obviously going to be money there involved and some significant negotiations,” he said Tuesday. 

He anticipates calling for a closed session with the commission in June or July. 

The criminal trial against Harvel, which had been set for June 8, has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jury trials were delayed until at least after July 1.

“That may move out even further,” Burnett said. 

A jury trial requires bringing in a pool of more than 50 people to select jurors. Right now, court proceedings are limited to 10 people, he said. 

Burnett said the prosecutor is ready to try the case, but it could be fall before the trial can be scheduled. 

In other action, the commission approved the following items:

•Budget resolution recognizing $125 in contributions and gifts for food supplies in the county schools food pantry program

•Budget resolution appropriating grant funds to install roof access safety ladders at county schools, with revenue and expenditures of $15,900

•Budget resolution appropriating a $1,252.04 gift to construct an exercise area at the animal shelter

•Budget resolution moving $18,313 from the unassigned fund balance to maintenance and repair services to cover additional expenses in a repair to the jail’s plumbing system

•Budget resolution recognizing purchases budgeted in the 2018-’19 fiscal year but paid in the current fiscal year, as required by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury 

•Appointment of Terry Lowe and Robert Schwartz to the Cumberland County Library Board for a second term to expire June 30, 2023, and appointing Joe Looney to a first term, set to expire June 30, 2023

 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.