TOWNSEND'S CASE AGAINST WATAUGA COUNTY ... Since the sheriff is an elected official, he is in a broad sense an employee of all the people. He's also in a more narrow sense an employee of the county, since he is salaried via the county budget. But he can't be fired by the county administration, and so far as we know, the county does not and probably could not dictate the people he hires and fires.
Maybe some of the legal eagles who read this site can riddle us this: How can county government (elected officials) be held liable for the acts of another elected official, who is therefore in some real sense an equal and hardly an "employee" (at least in the sense that most of us understand that word ... that is, "a person who works for another in return for financial or other compensation")?
Appealing to the county manager to DO something about a bad situation, which Townsend says in her complaint she did, is perfectly understandable. It's probably the first thing I would think of to do also. But I can simultaneously appreciate the position of the county manager. How does an unelected administrative employee discipline an independently elected office-holder?
That's something of a conundrum, though perhaps this sort of liability has been previously litigated and settled. We hope someone out there can enlighten us.
It's also possible -- dare we suggest it? --that plaintiff's attorney is merely throwing everything within reach at this particular wall, looking to see what will stick.
ANOTHER CURIOUS DETAIL: Did anyone else notice in the Townsend complaint (page 2, Sect. III) that "the unlawful practices alleged herein were committed within the State of North Carolina; specifically in Wake and Watauga County...."
Wake? What happened in Wake County? Are we talking road trip here?