published Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Hamilton County deputy chief demoted to captain in harassment case

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A Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office deputy chief of corrections was demoted to captain because he made numerous offensive comments to officers, according to a 446-page internal affairs report released Tuesday.

Ron Parson will be demoted to captain on or before May 1. In his assignment, he will oversee court officers and civil process, Sheriff Jim Hammond wrote April 9 in the report.

“The investigation has disclosed sustainable events where Deputy Chief Parson has made offensive comments to corrections officers that are perceived as being degrading, disrespectful, and have created a hostile and intimidating work environment with fear of reprisal,” the report states.

Parson makes $71,455 a year, one of the highest salaries in the department. His pay will be cut, but sheriff’s office officials did not specify what his new salary will be.

Hammond could not be reached for comment.

Parson said Tuesday night he was unable to comment.

The investigation was kicked off after Parson made harassing comments about Cpl. George Jackson’s weight.

“Parson said he felt sorry for the chairs having to hold us up,” Jackson wrote in his complaint dated Dec. 17.

Other corrections officers interviewed also complained about Parson’s comments toward them.

Corrections Officer Daniel Harden said when he told Parson he had to stay home with his three small children rather than participate in a law enforcement charity event, Shop-with-a-Cop, Parson told him it didn’t matter because he was a bad father anyway.

By the time the investigation wrapped up, there were 10 incidents investigated with 22 sheriff’s office employees interviewed. Three employees were investigated. Two were disciplined.

Parson was investigated in seven of the complaints. Out of those, six were sustained.

In at least one of the incidents, Parson was untruthful with investigators, according to the report.

Parson was assigned to oversee the jail in June 2011. His transfer from patrol came just a week after the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on internal affairs records showing that Parson had Corrections Deputy Ryan Epperson complete a paper for him when he was attending the Southeastern Command and Leadership Academy through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Parson was never disciplined and continued to supervise Epperson.

In the latest internal affairs investigation, Epperson again was linked to Parson.

Four corrections officers interviewed alleged the pair have a personal relationship.

“Although this cannot be corroborated, this allegation is important to the investigation, as it has the propensity to affect the order and operation of the Corrections Division, particularly second shift, where Corrections Officer Epperson is currently assigned,” the report states.

Epperson received a letter of reprimand after disclosing information about an internal affairs investigation to other employees. He said he overheard Parson talking about the case, according to the report.

Since Parson was hired in 2006 by former Sheriff Billy Long, who now is serving a federal prison sentence, Parson has received $16,210 in raises.

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