CLINTON — After revelations this week that former Scott County Sheriff Anthony Lay was suspended by the Tennessee Highway Patrol for five days in May, Lay is battling back with allegations that he is being politically targeted.
Lay, who served as Scott County's sheriff from 2006 to 2010 before resigning near the end of his term to accept a position with the U.S. Marshall Service, told news media Tuesday that his suspension from THP — his current employer — in May was the result of political targeting. He is the Republican nominee for Anderson County sheriff in the upcoming Aug. 7 general election. He is opposing incumbent Democrat Paul White.
"It's been a nightmare working for the Highway Patrol since I ran for this office," Lay told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "I've been a police officer for 20 years, holding prestigious jobs, and I have never been in any trouble whatsoever until I ran for Anderson County sheriff and had to fight my department (the THP)."
Lay was suspended in May for unsatisfactory job performance — including insubordination, neglect of duty, failure to perform the duties of his job, non-compliance with an internal database system, and having an unsecured patrol unit in a populated area.
Among the reasons for those charges were leaving his patrol car unlocked while stopping for lunch at a West Knoxville location, showing up 10 minutes late for a court case, and failing to repair a crack on the car's windshield after being directed to do so by his superior.
The case reportedly originated from Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark, who said Lay had not turned in some requested case file documents while off five months recovering from back surgery.
Clark, Lay noted, is a Democrat.
Clark told the Oak Ridge Today that the suspension was between Lay and the THP, saying he could not comment on it.
Lay told Oak Ridge Today that his THP superiors threatened to fire him when they learned of his plans to run for sheriff in Anderson County. He said he is protected by the federal Hatch Act, which defines permissible political activities of federal employees, but had his campaign delayed by eight to nine months.