Former Ashe Detention Officer Notifies Ashe County Of Potential Litigation (2018-05-30 14:00:40)

An attorney for former Ashe County Detention Officer Beverly “Kim” Miller has notified Ashe County officials of potential litigation regarding alleged false and defamatory statements made by former Ashe County Sheriff Terry Buchanan.

The Ashe Post and Times reports the notice also includes potential litigation against the Ashe County Board of Commissioners alleging violations of her constitutionally protected right to free speech.

According to the letter, written by K.D. Isaacs of Dunnagan, Isaacs, & Friley, LLP, Miller was fired without cause on May 1, 2017, by then-sheriff Buchanan after two years as a detention officer.

At the May 15, 2017, Board of Commissioners meeting, Miller told commissioners that her termination letter from the sheriff’s office stated that her “services were no longer needed.”

The report indicates that Buchanan had told a newspaper that Miller was fired for “insubordination and job performance.” She claims that former Ashe County commissioner, and current Ashe County Director of Maintenance Gary Roark, told her that, had she not spoken at the meeting, that he could have gotten her job back. Miller’s letter alleges video evidence of the verbal exchange.

Miller's attorney alleges the county intended to stifle her constitutionally protected political speech by holding her employment hostage. According to the letter, Miller’s report of separation, required by the North Carolina Sheriff's Standards Division, stated that she had been the subject of an internal investigation within the department within the past 18 months at the time of her termination. When Miller applied to work at the Watauga Detention Center, the background check showed that internal investigation. According to the report, the allegation of the internal investigation was found to be without merit.

Isaacs says evidence shows Buchanan and the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office acted with actual malice when communicating false and defamatory statements to the newspaper and the Sheriff’s Standards Division.

Miller is seeking compensation from the county in either North Carolina or federal court. There is also an opportunity for a settlement out of court.