FRANKLIN, Tenn.—Franklin, a relatively small city of about 40,000 smack dab in the middle of the state, has a problem with unfair firings by the city resulting in large fines that it can’t seem to wrap its arms around. The latest award is a doozy, reportedly the largest paid to an individual in Tennessee history, made all the worse by the fact that it involves a false accusation that a city employee had pornography on a work computer.
Joe Williams, 46, Franklin's former city solid waste director, always contended that he was innocent of the charges and that the 41 images of adult porn found on a city-owned computer he used were not downloaded by him. Confronted in October 2007, he says his protestations fell on deaf ears, and in January 2008 he was summarily fired by city aldermen.
Devastated, he sued in federal court, although an apology at the beginning would have sufficed.
"When it first started, all it would have taken was 'Oops, hey, we're wrong. Let's tell everybody we're wrong, and let's go back to work,’ ” Williams said. "And I probably would have been good with that."
Unfortunately for the city, stubborn heads prevailed, and now, 18 months later, Williams is on track to collect $2 million from the city because of an accusation about a relatively minor event that never happened in the first place.
During the trial, forensic computer techs testified that the images were probably an "HTML re-direct" from a spam email imprinted the images on the computer's hard drive, according to the Tennessean.
Perhaps this case will finally send a message to the city fathers that something is amiss in Franklin politics, considering “the city and its insurance carrier have already paid nearly $1 million in settlements to four current and past employees since 2007, court records show — including two city firefighters who filed racial discrimination suits.”
Longtime city administrator Jay Johnson and former deputy assistant administrator Randy Wetmore were asked to resign over the incident.