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Abuse claimed in jail lawsuit

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Former employee claims fired for whisteblowing

By Damon Lawrence

A former corrections officer alleges in a lawsuit that inmates were subjected to deplorable conditions and treatment at the Roane County Jail. 
Samantha Morgan was fired on Feb. 22, 2012. She claims it was for not participating and keeping quiet about the alleged rough treatment of inmates.
Morgan’s lawsuit, which was filed in February of this year in Circuit Court, names Roane County as the defendant. Among her accusations is that toilet paper, soap and blankets were withheld from inmates, lice treatment was intentionally sprayed into the eyes of inmates and water was turned off in cellblocks so inmates couldn’t flush toilets or take showers.
Morgan also claims the jail intentionally failed to release inmates after their sentences were complete and that repairs weren’t made to sinks and toilets, which caused unsanitary conditions. 
“As a direct and proximate result of the wrongful termination of Ms. Morgan and the illegal actions of the defendant in retaliating against her for refusing to remain silent about conduct in violation of applicable codes and regulations, she suffered both financially and emotionally,” the lawsuit said.
Morgan is seeking lost wages, reinstatement to her job and compensatory damages.
“When I saw that lawsuit I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Roane County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said. “We can dispute every accusation and that’s what we’ll let the attorneys do.”
Lt. Maretta McNichol sent Phillips a letter dated Feb. 20, 2012 recommending Morgan be fired.
“During her employment she has failed to observe policy and procedures, chain of command and remains insubordinate,” the letter said. “Officer Morgan has been verbally disciplined after receiving complaints from supervisors on issues of medical procedures, laundry procedures and absenteeism. She has received written disciplines and suspensions regarding gossiping and calling out sick.”
The letter also said there was a complaint that Morgan gave the wrong medication to an inmate and let four hours past before she reported it to a nurse. 
“While officer Morgan seems to enjoy working in corrections, she does not understand the importance of following policy or the directions of her supervisors and continues to try and circumvent the system by doing her own thing her own way,” McNichol wrote in the letter.
The letter was in Morgan’s personnel file, which also included a separation notice that said she was discharged for “insubordinate, failing to observe policies and procedures.”
The county’s attorney, Jeffrey R. Thompson of O’Neil, Parker and Williamson, filed an answer to Morgan’s lawsuit earlier this month. He denied Morgan’s allegations about the treatment of inmates and said she’s not entitled to lost wages, reinstatement or compensatory damages.
“Ms. Morgan was employed at-will as a corrections officer at the Roane County Correctional Facility, subject to dismissal with or without cause,” the answer said.
Thompson also asked that the lawsuit be dismissed with the costs taxed to Morgan.