A veteran detective believes he would still have his job if he had not told Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold he plans to campaign against him next year.
Jim Tramel was terminated for allegedly spreading rumors about female employees and creating a hostile environment, according to the sheriff's office, which is something Tramel denies.
For 15 1/2 years, Tramel said law enforcement was a calling.
"You have to understand I wore the gun and badge proud every single day I did this job," Tramel said.
But the long-time sheriff's detective was fired last Friday for violating the department's discrimination and harassment policy after allegedly spreading rumors about sexual relations between his supervisor and two women who work at the sheriff's office.
"I'm in a daze - a lot of sleepless nights," Tramel said.
Attorney Terry Fann, who is representing Tramel, said he believes his client was fired for political reasons.
"For someone with no disciplinary issues in the past to be fired for making that expression,‘Yes, I think I'm going to run,' and being fired within 30 days, looks like retaliation and intimidation to me," Fann said.
This all began May 13 when Tramel was summoned to Arnold's private office, where he was asked if he planned on running against the sheriff. The next day, Tramel was called back to the office.
"Before he was allowed to enter the sheriff's office, he was questioned about if he had a recording device on him, which gave him a moment of concern for him," Fann said. "One of the commanders actually took his cell phone and held it during the meeting."
Then, on June 6, Tramel received a report of action from Chief Deputy Randy Garrett recommending he be transferred to another division for failure to maintain a "satisfactory and harmonious working relationship" with fellow employees.
Deputy Chief Virgil Gammon didn't agree and recommended termination, and the division commander signed off on it June 13, according to the document. The sheriff accepted the recommendation and Tramel was fired.
"Detective Tramel is convinced that if he had told the Sheriff Arnold, ‘No, I'm not going to run against you,' he would still be employed," Fann said.
Tramel said he hasn't decided whether he will file a lawsuit against the sheriff's office for intimidation and retaliation.
"It is an option. It is a very valid option," Fann said. "It's not acceptable to terminate someone for expressing their political opinion."
But what he does know for sure is he will be running for sheriff in 2014.
"Absolutely," Tramel said.
Sheriff's office spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni said the termination paperwork speaks for itself. The sheriff did not want to comment about the termination because this case could end up in court.
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