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Posted: March 20, 2013 10:49 a.m.

Social Circle answers legal complaint

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Social Circle has responded to accusations made by former director of public safety Tom Fox.

Fox filed a lawsuit against the city claiming he was fired for being a whistleblower, and the city has listed 14 defenses against Fox’s accusations, one being Fox failed to do his job.

Fox worked as director of public safety for Social Circle from 2010 until the position was eliminated in July 2012 after city officials decided to split the position into two — a fire chief and police chief.

He filed a lawsuit against the city alleging he was fired from his position for being a whistleblower, and listed several other claims.

Fox filed the suit at the Superior Court of Walton County Jan. 28. In it, he claimed he discovered “certain Social Circle firefighters were falsely, and unlawfully, attesting to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Counsel that they had attended certain firefighting training sessions.”

The complaint also stated Fox took the information to then-Mayor James Burgess and City Manager Doug White Sept. 20 and 23, 2011. Three days later, the suit claims Fox was given an unscheduled performance appraisal by White which was “uncharacteristically negative,” and that Fox was also given a six-page memo detailing his performance deficiencies, which the suit calls “completely without merit.”

He was also, according to the suit, threatened with termination if he refused to accept an employment amendment that allowed the city to terminate his contract at their discretion at any time.

However, the city of Social Circle has denied any wrongdoing in the case, and filed a civil action suit March 18 at the Superior Court of Walton County, responding to the accusations made by Fox.

In the suit, the city claimed Fox did not do his job of leading the police and fire departments, stating he “failed to effectively accomplish such, instead delegating leadership thereof to Lt. Ford and Lt. Morgan.”

Fox alleged in his suit that he and the city entered into an employment contract that would be automatically renewed Dec. 31, 2011, and for continual one-year periods thereafter, unless Fox or the city notified the other of its intent not to renew by September 30.

Fox’s suit further stated he initially declined to accept the amendment to his contract, but eventually agreed to do so “because he needed to keep his job to support his family.”

However, the city claims that though there was a planned employment contract, the agreement had an “unenforceable renewal and severance position that unlawfully attempted to bind future councils.”

As for Fox’s claim that certain Social Circle firefighters were falsely, and unlawfully, attesting to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Counsel, the city denied the claim, stating that in February 2011, two employees with the department of public safety discovered and reported apparent discrepancies in one individual Social Circle firefighter’s training records.

The city also claimed that at some point in September 2011 after discussions began about separating the police functions into separate departments, Fox began “pursuing the training record issue which had originated in February 2011.”

The city denied the allegations that the training records were falsified.

In addition, the city admitted in its suit that on Sept. 26, 2011, city manager Doug White did provide Fox with a letter; however, the city denied Fox was given an unscheduled performance appraisal by White or given a six-page memo detailing his performance deficiencies.

The city’s civil action lawsuit continues with several other responses to Fox’s claims, including that Fox “knew the public safety director position would end effective Sept. 15, 2010;” and that Fox “did not pursue the training record falsification allegation until after discussion of separation of the fire and police departments began, and approximately six months after the allegation was disclosed by the two firefighters.”

The suit also claims the city was not in violation of the Whistleblower Act, as alleged by Fox.

The case has been turned over to the Athens branch of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent Jesse Maddox said in an email Tuesday “the case is still considered open and active. A meeting with the DA is forthcoming.”

To read the full civil action case filed by the city of Social Circle and Tom Fox, visit CovNews.com.

Reporter Amber Pittman contributed to this story.

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