Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth said a lawsuit filed by a former employee is politically motivated.
Ruth stated earlier this week in a written statement in response to the suit filed by former deputy Dallas Longwith that when “all is said and done you will understand that the real reason for this suit has only to do with politics on their end, not mine.”
Longwith filed suit Jan. 2 in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga asking for $1.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages against the Sheriff’s Office.
Attorney Gerald Tidwell alleged Longwith’s termination was a violation of his civil rights with respect to the First Amendment right to free speech and free association.
Ruth stated in a written response, “I want the citizens of Bradley County to know a few things. I want you to know what I am committed to. When I ran for the office of sheriff, I committed to being open and above board in my dealings with employees and the public. My staff and I have worked to do just that and to take our agency to a higher standard of morality and ethics. As I have stated in my weekly articles, my goal is to build a more professional agency that is honest and transparent in all that we do.
“We have worked to take as much politics as possible out of the hiring, firing and promotions. During my first year as sheriff, those who were best qualified and most experienced rose to the top ranking positions. Most of those were not supporters of mine in either the primary or the general election.
“One thing is for certain in my administration, what I have done has not been self-serving. The decisions I have made have been based on what I know has been best for the citizens of our county and our employees.”
The sheriff said if the lawsuit goes to trial, then the truth will come out.
Longwith claimed his dismissal was politically motivated because he and state Rep. Eric Watson are friends.
According to the lawsuit, Watson is a possible candidate to run against Ruth in 2014. Watson currently represents the 22nd District in the Tennessee House of Representatives where he chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Watson resigned from the sheriff’s department in October 2011.
“Afterward (a trial), I will then be able to better inform the citizens of our county without having first tried the case in the media,” he said. “I think that when all is said and done you will understand that the real reason for this suit has only to do with politics on their end, not mine.”