The employees received no reason for their termination by Neal when she informed them on Tuesday, Aug. 31, the day after she was sworn in for another term, that they would no longer be working in her office. The deputy clerks were set to be sworn in that day. The five employees are Susan Gregory, Felicia Hale, Angela Bradley, Michelle Lewis and Rachel Reese.
Reports indicate four of the five had returned to work on Tuesday and were administered their oaths of office.
Tennessee is an “employment at-will” state, which, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, means an employer may hire, fire, suspend or discipline an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all.
Neal’s decision to rescind the order was made on Friday, Sept. 3, according to her statement. “At the time I took this action I felt that it was justified, but after deeper thought and reflection I recognize that it was a decision made in haste and a mistake,” Neal said in the statement.
County Attorney Michael Jennings said he met with Neal regarding her decision to terminate the five employees, but released no details of the discussion. “I can confirm I had discussions with Mrs. Neal,” Jennings said.
When asked if the discussion may have contributed to Neal’s decision to rescind the order, Jennings said he didn’t know what factored into that decision and he would let Neal answer any questions. Jennings also noted that one employee, Lewis, was back at work in Neal’s office on Tuesday.
Neal declined on Tuesday to comment and to answer further questions about the situation, saying, “I made a statement and that’s all I’m going to say.”
In her statement, Neal said, “I trust that my action in rescinding this order will allow us all to go back to work and to perform the duties expected of us from the taxpayers of this county.”
Neal’s decision to rescind the terminations was first reported by The Wilson Post on its website at www.wilsonpost.com on Monday.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at email@example.com.