Rena Jennings was the last of four deputies to appeal Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards' decision to fire them last November for violating jail policies in connection with their affiliations with the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
Among other things, a sheriff's internal investigation found deputies undermined jail security by recruiting prisoners into their sect, distributing Nuwaubian literature in the jail and urging black inmates to rebel against white jailers.
County Personnel Hearing Officer Denny Galis upheld the decisions to fire Jennings and two other deputies, William York and Anthony Montgomery, but ordered the fourth deputy, Bobby Dixon, to be reinstated. A fifth deputy was allowed to resign in November, in lieu of termination.
In earlier cases, Galis issued detailed decisions explaining why he did or did not agree with the sheriff's actions, but in a brief decision released Tuesday, Galis offered no explanation why he upheld Jennings' termination.
"After considering all the documentary evidence presented both before and after the (appeals) hearing, and the testimony of all the witnesses, I do hereby sustain the discipline imposed by Athens-Clarke County," Galis wrote.
Jennings made her case for reinstatement at an appeals hearing Aug. 21 at the county Department of Human Resources.
In upholding the sheriff's decision to fire York, for example, the personnel hearing officer found the former deputy violated policy when he tried to manipulate a polygraph test and couldn't be contacted while on paid administrative leave. The polygraph test was given as part of the sheriff's internal affairs investigation into Nuwaubian activities at the jail.
Galis wrote that Montgomery deserved to be fired because he flagrantly disregarded policy by writing a letter to the Nuwaubians' imprisoned leader, Dwight "Malachi" York, who is serving a 135-year federal prison sentence for convictions on child molestation, racketeering, money laundering and other charges.
In his only decision to reinstate one of the fired jailers, Galis wrote that sheriff's officials should have disciplined Dixon for violating policies but not fire him. Galis found that Dixon broke policy by not returning telephone calls while on paid administrative leave during the internal investigation and for having "general conversations" with other deputies concerning the probe.
Edwards seemed relieved the appeals process was over.
"We respect Mr. Galis's decision and would like to put this behind us and focus on serving the citizens of Athens-Clarke County," Edwards said in a brief statement Tuesday.
But the matter is far from over.
A former Clarke County chief jailer sued Edwards and the county government in federal court in June, claiming his civil rights were violated.
Brett Hart, who is white, alleges in the lawsuit that the black sheriff fired him because Hart initiated the internal investigation of Nuwaubian activities at the jail.
Hart alleges that Edwards "subscribes" to Nuwaubian beliefs and the sheriff hired Nuwaubians as deputies in return for a large campaign contribution the group made when Edwards first ran for office in 2000.
Edwards will not comment on pending litigation.
In a response filed in U.S. District Court, an attorney representing Edwards and the county government denied each allegation without comment, and cited several defenses to the lawsuit, including the sheriff's office "is not a suable entity."
A federal court clerk on Monday notified all parties to the lawsuit that the case had been referred to arbitration, but the attorney representing Edwards and the county government immediately filed notice that his clients do not want to mediate the dispute.
Hart has said he wants a jury to decide the case.