From the Tennova Healthcare Cleveland News Desk, here is your news for Wednesday, May 17th, on Mix 104-1 and Talk 101-3 The Buzz.
From the Cleveland Daily Banner…
A deputy from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, who was fired for insubordination by the previous sheriff, appeared before the Bradley County Commission Monday to air his grievances against Sheriff Eric Watson and offer an apology “on behalf of the sheriff’s office” to Commissioner Dan Rawls for things Watson said about the commissioner.
The letter from BCSO Deputy Adam Beard was read by Rawls at the close of Monday’s voting session.
Rawls acknowledged the letter had come to him from the deputy, noting a previous letter he had presented last year to the Commission was anonymous.
Beard claims his troubles with the sheriff began in 2015 when he said he agreed to leave patrol and his field training officer position to move to the warrant team.
Throughout the letter, Beard does not mention Watson by name, only as “elected sheriff.”
His letter states that after a couple of months, Watson “was having different people in his chain of command call me and ask if there was something wrong with me or my wife cause [sic] she commented on a negative Facebook post about the elected sheriff.”
Beard claims that he began to have “things taken away and rumors about me and my wife put on Facebook.”
Beard said Watson “attempted” to have him written up, stating that Beard was coming into work with shorts and flip flops on “even though no one in our office was ever asked if I had come in dressed in that manner.”
Beard claimed he was also accused of falsifying his time sheets, after which he told his captain to “look on the camera and see me come in and leave three hours later.”
The latest complaint by Beard stems from a “counseling session” Beard had with Sgt. Tim Robinson Sr. on May 10.
Beard claimed Robinson was moved to his current position “because of his dishonest actions like kicking in wrong doors and lying about it, forging other people’s time sheets without their consent, and being written up for his dishonesty and poor temperament to our team.”
Beard said the sergeant called him this month “and demanded I go and serve warrants.”
“I stated to the sergeant that we were told by the elected sheriff and Captains Lawson and Thomas, we were the transport team and no longer doing warrants,” Beard wrote. “He stated he is the direct supervisor and I was going to do them. I stated that I also don’t feel comfortable going on any warrants attempts for the fear of kicking in wrong doors and dishonesty.”
According to documents obtained by the Cleveland Daily Banner through a Freedom of Information Act request, a report was filed May 9 by Robinson concerning Beard’s actions in the matter.
“On Friday, May 5, 2017, a text message was received on my county-issued cellular phone from Deputy Adam Beard which stated, ‘I’m going home for the day.’ Upon receiving the message, I attempted to call Deputy Beard on his county-issued cellular phone and wasn’t able to reach him,” Robinson’s report stated. “At no time during the remainder of the day did Deputy Adam Beard return my missed phone call.”
Robinson’s report said Beard was contacted on May 9 instructing him to “help serve criminal process when learning the daily transport requests had been satisfied.”
Robinson said Beard stated, “I was told to do transports and not to serve warrants and that’s what I intend to do.”
After being told the transport unit has the additional responsibilities, Robinson stated that Beard replied, “I’m not going to serve warrants with you because I don’t want to go to Federal Court.”
Robinson found Beard to be “insubordinate toward superiors,” according to BCSO policies including courtesy to rank and position, prompt compliance with lawful order, compliance with direct order of a supervisor, and concerted job actions.
Robinson’s report said the letter or review/counseling “is to serve the purpose of making Deputy Beard aware that his conduct and attitude toward a supervisor needs to be modified.”
“It is of the utmost importance that Deputy Beard adhere to lawful requests made by his supervisor and not view direct orders as ‘optional’ but ‘mandatory,’” the report stated.
“Respectfully,” Robinson wrote, “if Deputy Beard feels compelled to not follow direct orders from his supervisors because of distrust, it’s the best interest of Deputy Beard and I, as well as the operations of the BCSO, for Deputy Beard to request a transfer into another unit or division.”
Beard said he was moved back to patrol and the sheriff “with his campaign manager/financial director” tried to have his pay cut twice “based on lies.”
He said Watson is “a dishonest, malicious person who hides behind the Bible and the badge.”
“I speak on behalf of 90 percent of the deputies that are honest and who work hard every day at the sheriff’s office that are too scared of retaliation to step out and stand up to all of this elected official’s dishonesty and mistreatment of the employees of the BCSO,” Beard wrote, saying “legal action will be taken” if he is not allowed to “do my job in peace without any harassment from the elected sheriff of Bradley County.”
Commissioners did not have any questions for Beard, but he approached the podium and made the following statement:
“I just want to apologize on behalf of the sheriff’s office to Commissioner Dan Rawls,” Beard said. “I know the embarrassment that you took and a lot of us at the sheriff’s office share the same embarrassment that you would be accused by this elected sheriff of being a murderer. I’m sorry.”
Protocol would require a law enforcement officer, seeing wrongdoing by a fellow law enforcement officer, to report that to a neutral authority such as the district attorney. In the case of harassment, the protocol would be to advise the human resources department.
No evidence has been provided that Beard directed his allegations to either venue.
Beard has faced disciplinary action before.
The Banner, through a Freedom of Information Act request, found a letter dated March 9, 2011, from BCSO Lt. Kevin Whitaker concerning “punitive action” against Beard for reckless driving on March 4, 2011.
Beard was given one day’s suspension without pay and was required to take remedial courses for emergency vehicle operations; however, he appealed the decision.
Another letter from Whitaker, dated March 28, 2011, and addressed to Capt. Tom Wasson, described the meeting Whitaker had with Beard concerning his punitive action.
Whitaker wrote that after telling Beard of the final decision, he then informed Beard that “two people had been calling the sheriff’s office “and telling the Chief Deputy Dennis Byrd and Sheriff Jim Ruth that they were disgusted with the actions taken against him in this incident.
Whitaker identified the two people as Charles Dunson and Dewayne Hicks, and asked Beard to tell them to “stop calling and complaining about our decisions since our decisions had nothing to do with either of them.”
“Deputy Beard then stood up and leaned over my desk and told me that he was not going to tell anyone anything and that he was tired of this crap,” Whitaker wrote. “I then told Deputy Beard to sit down and listen to what I had to say. Deputy Beard then told me that he was not going to sit down and he was tired of listening to this crap and that he was tired of feeling like he was always being threatened with his job and that he was tired of people having to walk on egg shells. Deputy Beard then told me that he did not want to hear anything else that I had to say and told me that he was tired of this crap so if we were going to fire him to just go ahead and get it over with.”
Whitaker writes he then informed Beard he was fired for gross insubordination.
Beard filed a lawsuit in January 2013 against Ruth, Whitaker, Wasson and Dep. Daniel Marlowe asking for the sums of $950,000 and $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
“He was fired by his lieutenant and captain for insubordination after he would not accept discipline for his reckless driving in his patrol car,” Ruth told the Cleveland Daily Banner at the time. “Because of his driving, he almost hit an oncoming car head-on, then lost control running off the road. Our people will be held accountable when they violate either our policies and procedures or endanger people’s lives.”
Beard was rehired after the election of Eric Watson because of what County Attorney Crystal Freiberg called “a compromise settlement” to the lawsuit.
Watson, in a statement released to the Daily Banner late Monday, said Beard’s letter “contains unsubstantiated facts, which attempts to create a public spectacle of events that never occurred.”
Watson’s statement is printed here in its entirety:
“This letter contains unsubstantiated facts, which attempts to create a public spectacle of events that never occurred. It appears the purpose of the letter is to intimidate the operations of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, and was produced after a disciplinary counseling meeting with the employee’s supervisor.
“The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office has policies and procedures which govern disciplinary actions to employees, yet gives employees avenues to appeal those disciplinary actions if he/she desires. The methods in which to appeal this employee’s disciplinary action were never followed, which resulted in this employee distributing a letter to broadcast personal criticisms.
“A copy of the employee’s personnel file has been given to the Bradley County Mayor’s Office in order to comply with those who want to submit an ‘open records’ request to validate this employee has a history of insubordination.
“The most troubling element concerning the letter is that it simply questions the integrity of our agency’s supervisors who have attempted to manage this employee, with some of them having over 20 years of experience with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office. On occasion our agency’s supervisors are mandated to enact disciplinary measures to those employees who violate our agency’s policies and procedures, which is simply the fact when dealing with the various circumstances with this employee.
“BCSO is equipped with over 200 employees who are dedicated to the operations of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office to ensure the safety of this community, and those employees who have received disciplinary action represent a small percentage.”
Also from the Banner…
Two men who were allegedly conspirators in tampering with evidence and were major players in the first-degree murder trial of Jody Hughes the last two weeks saw their first light of day outside the county jail last Friday.
Richard Leroy “R.L.” Jerger and Gus Roy Hawkins both bonded out on Friday. Each had their bonds reduced to $1,000 which allowed them to post the amounts.
The duo had been incarcerated at the Bradley County Justice Center since October 2015, following the discovery of the body of Tyler Worth, who was slain by Hughes on Oct. 11, 2015. Hughes was found guilty of the murder during trial proceedings that began on May 1 and concluded on May 10 in Bradley County Criminal Court.
Jerger and Hawkins had been arrested and held on charges of accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and tampering with evidence in connection with the homicide. The charges against Jerger and Hawkins were eventually reduced to just the conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
The new bonds were approved by the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s office, with both Jerger and Hawkins next scheduled court date being June 30 for a status hearing.
The Cleveland Daily Banner Reports…
The private section of Fort Hill Cemetery, owned by Cleveland’s Joe V. Williams, has been slapped with a $6,631 civil penalty by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
The violations and action against the Cleveland cemetery were listed in a recent report from TDCI’s Division of Regulatory Boards, which recorded actions taken in April.
Kevin Walters, communications director for the department, said the reason this case came up in April is that it is a continuation for a complaint and ruling against Williams from more than a year ago.
The civil penalties do not affect the public portion of Fort Hill Cemetery, which is maintained by the Bradley County Commission’s Fort Hill Cemetery Committee. The Fort Hill Veterans Cemetery is located in the public section.
This has been your local and state news. You can get news anytime by visiting our website, mymix1041.com, powered by Pioneer Credit. From the Tennova Healthcare Cleveland News Desk, this is Jeremy Gault reporting.