Thomson K-9 officer dismissed

A Thomson Police Department K-9 officer who was hired in June was fired Monday.

 

Ruth Hernandez told The Chronicle on Thursday night that she notified the department of her pregnancy on Feb. 13.

"Two weeks after I told them they came and got my car and dog and gave them to another officer who was certified," she said.

She said she had no further contact with Police Chief Joseph D. Nelson until Monday, when she was called to a meeting at city hall.

"The chief said, 'We can't find a position for you, you are terminated,'" Hernandez said. "I signed the paperwork and got up and left. I didn't know what to say."

City attorney Jimmy Plunkett confirmed Hernandez was fired but said she gave city officials a note from a doctor that said she would not be able to resume her job until late November.

"Based on that, we don't have a job for her," Plunkett said. "It's very unfortunate. We've got to protect the citizens of Thomson."

Nelson was out of the office Thursday afternoon and could not be reached.

"Basically they terminated me because I was pregnant," Hernandez said. "I would have been fine with a leave."

City officials would not release Hernandez's personnel file or letter of termination until 10 days from the date the action was taken, Plunkett said. If there is an appeal, that would add another 10 days, he said.

No appeal had been filed by Thursday "to my knowledge," Plunkett said.

If Hernandez appealed, a ruling would be made by City Administrator Don Powers, Mayor Kenneth Usry said. Powers would have the option of deferring to the city council, the mayor said.

Usry said the patrol position had to be filled to protect the people of Thomson. "We need someone who can make arrests," he said. "We have a responsibility to the citizens of Thomson to patrol the streets."

"Our attorneys worked with Georgia Municipal Association attorneys to make sure the department did not violate the law," he said. "It ran due process."

Hernandez is the second Thomson Police officer to be fired this month. Cpl. Josh Caston was fired for violation of department policy and insubordination.

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