Drew County Grievance Committee meet to discuss recent termination


The Drew County Quorum Court called a special meeting to have the county’s Grievance Committee meet on Tuesday, September 5. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the recent termination of Chief Deputy Jerome Perez, and the grievance that he filed following his termination. In his grievance, Perez has alleged that his firing was due to discrimination.

The public showed up in full force, with more than 60 people in attendance. Drew County Judge Jessie Griffin said that the building had reached capacity per fire code, and prohibited anyone else from entering for safety reasons.

Drew County Attorney Cliff Gibson opened by stating that the Grievance Committee is made up of the entire Quorum Court, all of whom were present with the exception of Joe Williams and Zachary Hill.

Gibson said that he asked Judge Griffin and Frank Appleberry, Chairman of the Grievance Committee, to have this meeting as soon as possible because Perez deserved to have this situation resolved in a timely manner. Gibson clarified for those in attendance that there would be no actual trial at this meeting, rather this meeting was to determine how the county would move forward with the grievance.

Gibson noted that Perez had properly filed his grievance, and done so in a timely manner. Gibson informed all in attendance that there are two ways that this situation can be addressed. The first would be for Perez to request a private hearing where he would go before the Quorum Court in an executive session. Sheriff Tim Nichols would also go into the executive session. The other option would be for Perez to choose a public hearing where anyone is welcome to be present. When given the option, Perez stated that he wanted the hearing to be public.

Gibson said that this hearing will be very formal, much like everyone pictures trials, or what they see on TV. There will be witnesses called for both sides, and all of them will be placed under oath. Gibson said that his role is to represent the county as he is county attorney. He will be examining and cross examining witnesses, and if Perez has an attorney, his counsel will be doing the same.

Gibson added that this is a rather long and tedious process. The hearing could be as short as half a day, but could go for a full day or even longer.

Gibson referenced the committee’s policy and procedure manual and made note that the policy states that if the committee is hearing a grievance case, all members must be present. The policy has a stipulation that will allow the committee to appoint someone to sit in their stead. Gibson recommended taking this route because it will be hard to get all nine members on the same schedule. Gibson added that it is beneficial to appoint a lawyer or someone versed in the law since there will be actual legalities discussed in the hearing. The committee agreed to appoint someone. Jack Talbot, an attorney from Pine Bluff, was recommended by Gibson, as he has an outstanding reputation as an attorney. Talbot would sit in on the trial and give his findings and recommendations to the committee members. From this point, the committee has the ability to accept, refuse, or alter these recommendations and have the final say.

Gibson informed the committee that their role is advisory only, they can make a decision and present it to Sheriff Nichols, but he doesn’t have to follow it if he feels it isn’t what is best for his department. This is due to a past ruling by the Attorney General which states that elected officials have the final say in who is hired or fired in their offices.

Gibson said that the next step will be for Talbot to send Judge Griffin a letter of engagement. They will then schedule a date and the hearing will move forward. Notification will be sent out as information becomes available. Check back with the Advance for updates.