Rutherford County Property Assessor Rob Mitchell introduced an employee handbook Thursday night that gives workers in his office the opportunity to have him removed through a grievance process.
The property assessor is a constitutional officer set up by state government, but the office operates under county guidelines. Mitchell said his office will be the only one in the county with its own handbook.
Mitchell told county commissioners Thursday the handbook, which requires no commission approval, relies on the framework of the existing county personnel handbook but has some changes, primarily one that sets up an appeals process for employees if they file a complaint against the property assessor, who is an elected official.
Two years ago, Mitchell defeated one-term property assessor Bill Boner, who was sued for harassment by two employees he fired.
“The current process may not properly protect the county nor the employee as it directs the employee to a course of action which provides them no relief and may in fact make them a target of retaliation,” Mitchell said in a written statement.
Any employee who files a grievance could go through the state attorney general, the local district attorney or the county attorney rather than pursuing the complaint through the county’s Human Resources office, according to Mitchell.
County Attorney Jim Cope told commissioners he reviewed the property assessor handbook and signed off on it.
In formulating the handbook, Mitchell wanted to avoid “any concerns about a fair review,” Cope told commissioners.
In other action Thursday night, county commissioners:
• Approved a four-year extension of the legal services agreement for Cope’s law firm at a rate of $260,000, plus litigation costs.
• Approved a plan to widen West Jefferson Pike from just east of state Route 840 to a point west of Mona Road.
• Voted to purchase property from the Maples family adjacent to Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School for future expansion at $70,000 per acre plus survey costs, for a total of $391,125. Funds will be taken from a bond issue contingency.