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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  • by Paula Location: Sherman on Feb 10, 2009 at 04:13 AM
    I bet if they tested anyone receiving government assistance such as unemployment, wellfare, social security disability, there would be a lot more money to help the ones who really need it. I bet the # of people who receive help would be cut in half or more. They do not deserve help if they are on drugs.
  • by Mike Location: Sherman on Mar 19, 2008 at 08:21 PM
    It is not going to hurt Cops, Firefighters, or any other city employee to take a drug test. I think they should take one at least once a month. The fellas get paid with our tax dollars and most of them are great, heroes, and respectable but there are a few who do nothing but drag their good name through the mud. One bad apple will spoil the bunch. I would honestly suspect that this type of problem whether its marijuana, alcohol, meth, or pills is more of a problem with our local police. I have seen a few of these guys in questionable places. The police should have a mandatory courtesy class because the last two I received speeding tickets from have showed little class and respect.
  • by me Location: sherman on Mar 19, 2008 at 03:22 PM
    To Fire Friend, Fire Fighters are heros. I just want them to be sober when their running in to save me.
  • by ME Location: SHERMAN on Mar 19, 2008 at 01:25 PM
    I think anyone employeed by a city(being paid with tax payers money ) should be given random drug test. I am not Mr. Cornell's judge but as a citizen of Sherman I may need to call the fire dept one day and I hope its a sober employee that shows up
  • by anonymous Location: oklahoma on Mar 19, 2008 at 11:38 AM
    i believe all city, state and federal employee's ought to be tested regularly
  • by Jimmy Joe Longjohn Location: Mead on Mar 18, 2008 at 01:17 PM
    To Fire Friend: SO your saying its ok to do drugs cause their firemen. Thats not making any sense. I don't want anyone fireman, policeman or anyone coming to my ad while hyped up on dope. Come on!!! Are you serious.
  • by drug-free hero's are hero's Location: durant on Mar 18, 2008 at 06:53 AM
    Using drugs while being a fireman is a disgrace, not hero. His duty as firefighter is commendable yes, but using drugs whiile doing so endangers not onl;y him, but the people he is paid for to protect.
  • by fire friend Location: texoma on Mar 17, 2008 at 03:06 PM
    Firefighters are still and always will be our hero's. They are the one running to the areas that everyone else is running from. They see more death in one month than most people will ever see in a lifetime. Try walking in their shoes for a shift. Your views will change!
  • by Big Bertha Location: Healdton on Mar 17, 2008 at 01:47 PM
    I agree with Mork from Ork for once. I think everyone should be drug tested on a month basic. I mean children to old folks. also I think they should drug test anyone receiving government assistance such as unemployment, wellfare, social security disability, ect... For the rest of us its a condition of employment so for those living off the system it should be a condition of receiving benifits. Everyone should get drug tested or no-one should be drug tested. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. I can't believe civil employees aren't held to a "higher" standard (pardon the pun). Are school teachers drug tested?
  • by Nurse Location: Texas on Mar 17, 2008 at 11:22 AM
    I am a nurse and I know someone who works in ICU at Wilson N. Jones that is highly addicted to cocaine. She is not from Texas but recently moved here and started working at WNJ. I personally notified her dean at her school before she graduated to let him know what type of person she is and included the NUMEROUS distribution cases that her husband has. They apparently didn't care because she graduated and got a job within a month. I think WNJ needs to drug test their nurses!!!! If I get into an accident and wind up in ICU, I would hate for her to treat me while high on cocaine. Not to mention how bad of a name she gives us nurses!! Scary situation!
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