Drug testing Sherman’s city employees

By: Daniel Gotera Email
By: Daniel Gotera Email

SHERMAN, Tex. -- The investigation continued Friday after a Sherman firefighter was arrested on drug possession charges Thursday morning. Zachary Cornell was taken into custody after police found him passed out in his car in the 200 block of Sunset Boulevard. After a search of the vehicle, narcotics investigators found less than a gram of methamphetamine and a meth pipe in a bag.

Cornell is being charged with possession of meth under one gram in a drug free zone and was booked into the Grayson County Jail, where he bonded out of Friday afternoon, but the incident brings up the question-- how does the city go about drug testing their employees?

Sherman Fire Chief Jeff Jones says the department has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to employee drug use. The city says their policy has worked to this point so far as well but adds that incidents like this make them wonder if a stricter policy should be put in place.

Disappointment was the sentiment felt throughout the Sherman Fire Department on Thursday as one of their own was being charged with a crime they do not tolerate.

"We consider ourselves at a higher standard for all of our employees," Sherman Fire Chief Jeff Jones says each member of the department holds one another at a high standard. That is why a strict enforcement of the zero tolerance drug policy has been effect since November of 2006.

But this incident was particularly hard to accept.

"Zach was on duty an hour earlier and that raised my concern a little more," Jones said.

Sherman city officials say the city has a no tolerance policy of their own when it comes to drug use and go about checking whether or not employees use drugs three separate ways: pre-employment, post-accident, and at the request of a supervisor if that person notices suspicious conduct.

"It’s one of the things that we have, and if a supervisor and sees one of their employees, because they are the ones that know them best,” Sherman city manager George Olsen says in the past six months, no special drug tests have been ordered because of suspicious behavior, and only four have been conducted by the city in the past five to ten years.

Olsen says random drug screening was in place several years back but is only available now in order to maintain a commercial driver’s licensee. However if other instances pop up, Olsen says there is no reason why that program couldn't be expanded.

"Things happen and I don’t want to say it’s the sign of the times or the society that we live in. We don’t want that to happen here but it does happen we let the system work its process and see where it lands."

As for Cornell, Chief Jones says he will be placed on administrative leave starting Saturday. Investigations as to whether Cornell violated any civil service laws are still pending and his position will be re-evaluated once that investigation is complete.

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