Originally created 02/13/98

Oust landfill chief 021398 - The Augusta Chronicle



It's all well and good that the Richmond County Sheriff's Department fired Deputy David Smith, who also heads the city's landfill. After all, Smith is linked to theft charges and has refused to take a lie-detector test.

Now the question is, why hasn't the city fired Smith from his landfill post?

Failure to cooperate with a criminal investigation -- in which one indicted suspect claims his boss, Smith, asked him to steal gravel -- ought to be grounds for Smith's suspension, if not dismissal. It certainly would be the case if this was a job in the private sector!.

Again, this is not about finding Smith guilty before he has even been formally charged with anything -- or depriving him of his constitutional rights. It's about not cooperating. In most workplaces that's a firing offense.

The U.S. Constitution can keep a person out of jail if he doesn't cooperate, but it doesn't protect his job.

Smith claims he'd like to take a lie-detector test and cooperate with the sheriff, but on advice of counsel he cannot. That's having it both ways.

The last person in the world Augusta-Richmond County taxpayers should want to run the landfill is someone who's suspected of being involved in landfill crimes.

There are apparently technical legal reasons why the city can't dismiss Smith based on his refusal to take a polygraph test in the sheriff's criminal probe. But there is nothing to stop Smith's immediate supervisor, Public Works Director Jack Murphy, from ordering Smith to undergo a city lie-detector exam -- and then moving to fire him if he doesn't cooperate.

Of course, Smith would save a lot of headaches, and put himself in a much more favorable light, if he did the right thing: step aside until (or if) his name is cleared.