Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold wants to file a counterclaim in federal court against sheriff’s candidate Jim Tramel contending the former detective defamed him by making statements and giving out information that damage the sheriff’s reputation.
In a motion filed March 5 in U.S. District Court in Nashville, Assistant County Attorney Josh McCreary sought permission to take legal action against Tramel, claiming he used his position as a detective to obtain confidential and non-public information and provide it to area media outlets in hope they would publish stories “to create a detriment or damage” to the sheriff.
Tramel filed the initial lawsuit against Arnold and Rutherford County in July, contending the sheriff violated his constitutional rights by firing him in June because he said he wanted to run for sheriff. Tramel qualified to run as an independent in the Aug. 7 sheriff’s election, while Arnold faces former Chief Deputy Bob Asbury in the May 6 Republican primary.
The former detective’s attorney, Terry Fann, responded to the counterclaim request by filing a motion that it be denied, mainly because the complaints have nothing to do with the original lawsuit and that they would have to be heard in state court, rather than in federal jurisdiction.
McCreary’s filing states that Tramel provided non-public and confidential information to a Daily News Journal reporter and to a NewsChannel5 reporter, violating standard operating procedures at the sheriff’s office and breaking a “fiduciary duty, duty of good faith and duty of loyalty. …”
The sheriff’s case contends that Tramel gave the NewsChannel5 reporter a copy of an accident report filed by the sheriff as well as information about pending or possible criminal investigations in a pending criminal case “with the intent to harm Sheriff Arnold.”
McCreary’s filing also states that Tramel gave a DNJ reporter a copy of Arnold’s POST file, in addition to information about an accident involving Deputy James Vanderveer, a cousin of Arnold’s.
The filing contends that Tramel was an employee at the sheriff’s office when he disclosed non-public and confidential information. Yet Tramel was fired in June.
Arnold’s request for a counterclaim against Tramel seeks damages, to be set at trial, for breaching his duties and for defaming him “with reckless disregard for the truth of the information or with negligence in failing to ascertain the truth of the information.”
In seeking punitive damages for defamation, the sheriff contends that Tramel acted with malice and knew the statements he made were false and were defamatory because they injured him “in his trade, profession or community standard, or lowered him in the estimate of the community or subjected him to scorn, ridicule, shame, contempt or embarrassment.”
Arnold’s filing also seeks injunctive relief to stop Tramel from continuing to “misuse of insider information.”