Crawford sheriff fires investigator who challenged him in election

bpurser@macon.comNovember 8, 2012 

Tom Wallace, who made an unsuccessful bid to oust Crawford County Sheriff Lewis Walker, was fired Thursday from his job as investigator with the sheriff’s office.

Wallace, who was on personal leave Tuesday and Wednesday, said Walker told him his run against the sheriff caused dissension in the ranks.

Walker did not comment.

“I know he’s going to seek legal advice, so I’m not going to comment at this time,” Walker said.

Walker, a Democrat, was re-elected Tuesday to a second four-year term with nearly 70 percent of the vote. He’s been with the sheriff’s office for 25 years.

Wallace, a Republican, said Walker gave him the option of resigning and fired him when Wallace declined.

In the termination letter dated Thursday, Walker told Wallace, “The facts given in your recent efforts to displace me as sheriff and your statements concerning your decision to terminate me and others in the event of your success created dissention in the office among employees.

“You have openly spoken out against my internal and external policies, and I now have significant concerns about your ability to follow my leadership and protocols.”

Wallace said he never said he would fire the sheriff or other employees if elected.

He noted that he said in his interview with The Telegraph prior to the election that he would retain Walker if elected because of his years of experience with the sheriff’s office.

Wallace, who turned in his badge and car, said he would have liked to stay on as a sheriff’s investigator because he enjoyed his job, was good at it and went the extra mile.

When Wallace first told the sheriff he was going to run against him, Wallace said Walker made it clear from the get-go that he would fire him after the election.

Wallace said it was worth the risk because he believed in what he was doing and that he would have brought more to the table as sheriff.

Wallace joined the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office in October 2006, graduating from law enforcement mandate school in March 2007, with a gold seal for a grade point average higher than 95. Walker promoted him to investigator in May 2009. He previously worked at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center. He is a retired military veteran.

Wallace said he has contacted an attorney to see what his options may be. But he also said he understands that he was an “at-will” employee of the sheriff’s office.

Jim Elliott, the city attorney for Warner Robins, said barring any unlawful discriminatory practices, if Wallace was an at-will employee, the sheriff was within his legal rights to terminate him.

He said that’s not an uncommon practice in county government, and he’s seen it happen in other races involving county constitutional officers.

Getting fired is part of the risk of running against a constitutional officer who is your boss, Elliott said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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