Knox criminal court clerk apologizes to commission

Knox criminal court clerk apologizes to commission; attorney questions her motives for firing clerk

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Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey spoke to the County Commission Monday saying she wanted to separate fact from fiction.

McCroskey's office was recently accused of problems that include claims that incorrect data had been entered into the court computer system, leading to warrants issued by mistake and people being wrongly arrested.

McCroskey told commissioners her office handled around 70,000 cases last year, and only one percent were affected by the problems.

"We strive for professionalism in all courts, but mistakes unfortunately happen," said McCroskey.

She told the commissioners she reviewed the emails from an assistant district attorney describing problems in the clerk's office. McCroskey gave the commissioners a written response to the allegations of mistakes leading to false arrests.

"Based on the allegations made, I find no fault with the Sheriff's Department. I found one mistake that the clerk's office made in failing to issue a release on a person," said McCroskey.

Sheriff J.J. Jones previously went on record to say his office was not at fault for any of the issues.

According to a personnel file, Criminal Court Clerk Sara Pendley was terminated in September for failing to perform her job duties. The file states Pendley's mistakes led to two false arrests.

6 News asked McCroskey why she only addressed the email accusations and didn't inform the commissioners of personnel files alleging that clerk mistakes led to wrongful arrests. McCroskey said she only addressed the emails and had no additional comment.

Pendley has hired attorney Richard Collins to take possible legal action. In a statement, Collins says Pendley is not responsible for the mismanagement of the clerk's office or false arrests.

"My firm was recently retained to represent Sara in connection with her September 27, 2013 discharge from the Knox County Criminal Clerk's Office.

"Sara worked for Knox County for over thirteen years. She was a dedicated employee, who had recently been promoted to serve as the Courtroom Clerk for Division I (Judge Sword). Sara had every expectation of enjoying a long career with the County but was abruptly fired by Joy McCroskey, the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk.

"While our investigation is on-going, we can say that Ms. McCroskey gave no details behind the termination decision, save for the vague assertion that some of Sara's courtroom "minutes" were inaccurate.

"To be clear, we categorically deny any suggestion that my client was responsible for the mismanagement of the clerk's office generally or the recent controversies over false arrests and other misconduct.

"Judge Sword observed Sara's work performance firsthand and, to our knowledge, never complained about Sara's performance of her official duties. Frankly, almost daily the circumstances surrounding Sara's termination grow more and more suspicious.

"Not only was she a good employee, internal policies regarding progressive discipline were ignored. Given the timing of events, one cannot escape the conclusion that Ms. McCroskey was motivated by the negative publicity her office was facing and continues to confront."

6 News called Joy McCroskey for a response to Collins' statement. McCroskey has not yet responded.

Judge Sword released his own statement to 6 News on Monday.

"The court is very concerned with the prompt and accurate processing of the court's orders through the clerk's office and all other agencies involved in the criminal justice system. I will do everything in my power to assist these agencies in the performance of their duties, including the development of more efficient systems designed to reduce potential errors. It would be improper at this time for me to comment upon particular cases, past or present."

 

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