For more than a year, Hawkins County E-911 Director Gay Murrell had been on notice that she could lose her job.
The hammer came down on Thursday as Murrell was terminated as director during a meeting of the Hawkins County 911 Board of Directors.
Murrell was fired due to breach of contract on a 6-1 vote. Lawrence Wheeler cast the lone vote in favor of keeping Murrell.
Board Chairman Mike Herrell said that Murrell breached her contract when she allowed staff who were not certified to answer 911 calls last year.
Under Association of Public Safety-Communications Officials International standards, a dispatcher can walk a caller through different situations of first aid, but at the time, dispatchers were only allowed to take basic information and dispatch rescue personnel, nothing else beyond that.
An emergency meeting of the E-911 Board was called on Nov. 17 when the lapse of certification had been discovered.
The county paid $10,000 for an APCO trainer to recertify the dispatchers whose certification had expired. All dispatchers are now certified. The action resulted in the resignation of the E-911 training coordinator.
All dispatchers were retrained in November with certification lasting for two years.
Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee fully supports the board’s decision.
“Although I do appoint the E911 board members, I am not a voting member of that board,” Lee said in a release Friday night. “I fully support the board’s decision at last night’s meeting, especially with all that has gone on there in the past and in the present. All of my findings and information have been forwarded to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. I look forward to working together with the Hawkins County E911 and all of the hard working and dedicated dispatchers.”
The APCO representative conducted an audit of the E-911 system after training the dispatchers. The findings have been turned over to the Tennessee State Comptroller of the Treasury and Third District Attorney General Dan Armstrong.
Day-to-day operations of the Hawkins County E-911 system fell to Chucky Johnson, who will supervise administration. Catilyn Smith will supervise operations.
The former director was allowed to remove her belongings from her office on Friday. Murrell had not received a separation notice from the county, nor the official reason for her termination.
Lee had said last year that he would not sign a contract with Hawkins County Central Dispatch while Murrell was serving as director. Financial records from 2015 to 2019 were picked up last week by the Comptroller’s office.
Herrell said that he would try to call a special called meeting this week to start the process to replace Murrell.
Murrell had been employed by Hawkins County E-911 for 27 years, and had served as director for the last 19 years.