Rutherford County officials are considering a lawsuit to remove Sheriff Robert Arnold from office, leaving the decision up to a judge. Arnold was indicted Friday for profiting off the sale of e-cigarettes in his jail and has said he will not step down.
Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess has stopped short of directly asking Sheriff Arnold to resign. But he says he’s worried about the department, which employs 300 deputies and jailers.
“I’m concerned," he says. "I mean, we have a lot of really good, valuable employees down there. And we hope that an atmosphere will continue in some way that will allow them to do their job, which is extremely important.”
Burgess can’t force Arnold to leave his post, but state law does prescribe two scenarios that would remove him from office — a conviction on federal charges, which could take years, or an ouster lawsuit. One of those can be filed by the state’s Attorney General, the county attorney or even a group of citizens.
Burgess says he has talked to his lawyers about whether to take legal action, but they’re holding off for now. Instead, they’re waiting for a hearing next week when a timeline should emerge for Sheriff Arnold’s corruption trial. Burgess hopes it will be expedited.
“I don’t know what’s reasonable," Burgess says. "Two to three months is reasonable. Now I don’t have any idea if that can be done in that time frame. We’ll have to let the judicial system sort of dictate that.”
If the trial is more than a few months away, he says an ouster lawsuit may be his preference.