Rutherford County employees say security too lax at county clerk - WSMV News 4

Rutherford County employees say security too lax at county clerk's building

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Last week, Channel 4 first reported a break-in at the Rutherford County Clerk’s office building.

The Channel 4 I-Team has found that high-ranking city employees have been complaining for months that security was too lax. They want to know why the county mayor hasn’t taken action.

The I-Team's Lindsay Bramson put those questions to the mayor and found out this most recent break-in isn't the first for the county. Each time, taxpayer dollars are used to replace the stolen equipment.

Heather Dawbarn is the register of deeds for the Rutherford County and an advocate for her employees. She said right now, many of her employees don’t feel safe at work.

Dawbarn wonders why the mayor hasn’t addressed their concerns.

“I have nightmares about it,” she said. “To not have total control of fixing the situation is frustrating and very disappointing.”

Sometime last weekend, someone broke into her office in the county clerk building. The thief got away with several thousand dollars worth of equipment, including cameras and computer scanners.

"I just don't think we can continue on the path we have been on," Dawbarn said.

They also hit the property assessor’s office upstairs, stealing several laptops.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Dawbarn said last year someone got in and stole hundreds of dollars out of a locked desk drawer.

“We went through the trouble of adding cameras to the office, had the locks changed and thought we were secure. And I guess we had a false sense of security,” Dawbarn said.

For months, Dawbarn said she and several other county employees asked Mayor Ernest Burgess for better security. Employees said there are so many keys floating around, they’re not sure who has access to the building.

Police said whoever the thief is had a key.

“So it's someone who had not only access to our offices but had access to their offices and access to the main entryway,” Property Assessor Rob Mitchell said.

Those who work in the building said they have been asking the major since last year to beef up security in the building. They said not only is their safety at risk, but also taxpayer money that continues to replace the stolen equipment. They fear until more is done the thefts will continue to happen.

“Several county employees have come to us telling us they've asked you for help on several occasions,” Bramson said to Burgess.

“We've put money in the budget, already been approved, already available to do some approved security measures on these doors and electronic locks as you might say. We’re seriously involved in trying to review this and evaluate it and make improvements,” Burgess said.

The I-Team started asking questions and found out several thousand dollars has been approved to improve security, including more secure locks on several county buildings.

Burgess told the I-Team this was in the works before the latest crime.

“It’s a work in progress and it'll take us a few more months to get that done, but we already have a pretty substantial system in place with respect to cameras,” Burgess said.

Dawbarn said it’s about time.

“I’m very pleased to hear we’re getting our priorities in line,” she said.

Burgess told the I-Team he hopes to have new locks in place in the coming weeks.

Police are still investigating the break-ins and have no suspects.

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