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Franklin Police Department Officer sues town, Police Chief over lack of promotions

Franklin Police Department Officer Randy Dula has worked for the department since August 2017 and during that time, department stats show that he is responsible for 42 percent of the department’s total citations, 27 percent of the department’s total arrests and 65 percent of all drug charges brought by the department. Those states are for charges, not convictions, however, in a law suit filed last month with the Macon County Clerk of Superior Court, Jeffery Warren and Michelle Liquori, Raleigh-based attorneys, alleged that Dula has been treated unfairly by the police department. 

On January 18, the attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dula and claims that during his tenure with the department, Dula has been passed over for several promotions within the department — which allegedly violates the Town of Franklin’s Personnel Policy. 

The lawsuit has been filed by the attorneys representing Dula, however the Raleigh-based law firm has not served Chief Bill Harrell or the town of Franklin with the suit. Because the suit has not been served, the parties are not able to comment on the matter at this time. 

Specifically focusing on the last five years, the law suit alleges that Dula has been one of the most “productive” officers and is responsible for 30 percent of the department’s total workload. 

According to the town’s personnel policy, “when vacancies occur, the Human Resources Officer shall publicize these opportunities for employment, including applicable salary information and employment qualifications.” 

In his suit against the town of Franklin and Franklin Police Chief Bill Harrell, Dula claims a newly established narcotics detective position was not posted or otherwise advertised to the Franklin Police Department as a whole before Sgt. Matthew Pellicer was promoted to the position. 

While Dula’s lawsuit names current police Chief Bill Harrell and the current town of Franklin administration… seeking more than 25,000 in damages, the narcotics position in question was originally discussed and create by former Chief David Adams and former Town Manager Summer Woodard. Chief Harrell was sworn in on June 1 and filled the vacant position by promoting Sgt. Pellicer. Sgt. Pellicer was hired by the police department in March 2001 and has worked there for the last 21 years. Dula has worked for the department since 2017. 

According to the law suit, additional promotional opportunities became available following the narcotics position, all of which were awarded to other members of the department and not Dula — and Dula claims those positions were also not properly advertised. The positions mentioned in the suit include a new lieutenant position, two sergeant positions, a K9 position, a Captain position, and a first sergeant position.

While the lawsuit notes the town of Franklin’s hiring policy, it doesn’t address that the Town of Franklin is also an “at-will” employer. At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. t-will also means that an employer can change the terms of the employment relationship with no notice and no consequences.  For example, an employer can alter wages, terminate benefits, or reduce paid time off. 

The Town of Franklin’s personnel policy also specifically outlines how appointments should be handled during an application process: “Before any commitment is made to an applicant either internal or external, the Appointing Authority shall make recommendations to the Human Resources Officer including the position to be filled, the salary to be paid, and the reasons for selecting the candidate over other candidates. The Human Resources Officer and department head shall recommend approval of appointments and the starting salary for all applicants to the Appointing Authority.

After an investigation of the qualifications of the applicants the department head and Human Resources Officer shall recommend the most qualified candidate to the Town Manager for appointment. The department head and/or Human Resources Officer shall document reasons why the successful candidate was selected, the classification of the position to be filled, and the recommended salary. Appointments of part time employees may be filled by department heads with the approval of the Human Resources Officer.”

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