City leaders in Graysville, Tenn., are responding with silence to allegations by Police Chief Erik Redden that he and Officer Shawn Shelton were suspended as retaliation related to a release of police documents pertaining to a June car chase, not because of missing money.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating allegations that nearly $4,000 cash evidence went missing under Redden's watch, according to public information officer Kristin Helm. She said Mike Taylor, 12th judicial district attorney general, contacted state authorities earlier this week.
The cash reportedly was seized in a July 29 drug bust, according to police records.
Redden said Friday afternoon that he was questioned Tuesday by Graysville City Recorder Michelle Horton about nearly $4,000 the department recovered in the bust. Horton also fulfills many city manager duties.
Redden became police chief last summer when his predecessor resigned unexpectedly.
He said Horton told him the city had received a complaint that Officer Shawn Shelton, who made a traffic stop that resulted in the drug bust, did not process the money correctly and or make it available for claim by its owner.
Redden said Horton questioned him about the money and he denied any knowledge of it. He said Horton refused to let him see any documentation of the alleged complaint.
Horton was on vacation Friday and unavailble for comment. Graysville Mayor Ted Doss said Carol Ann Barron, the city's attorney, advised he and all other commissioners stay silent on the issue.
Redden says there's some back story here. He said Horton was unhappy when someone gave police documents to the Times Free Press after a June 21 incident in which Rhea County sheriff's deputies allegedly beat a Dade County, Ga., escapee who led police on a chase.
Graysville officers had Walter Gann subdued and were arresting him when sheriff's deputies arrived and started beating him, Gann wrote in a statement.
Redden believes some Graysville city and county sheriff's officials want to punish whoever gave the documents to media. Whether they believe that person is Shelton, he doesn't know.
"I knew where it was going," Redden said Friday about Horton's inquiries Tuesday. "I didn't think it would go this far."
Shelton was suspended around 10 a.m. Wednesday after Horton met individually with city commissioners the night before to discuss the complaint, Redden said.
He said that he told Horton that morning that the money had been logged as evidence in the police department. He said Horton retrieved the money that day.
About noon, Redden was called to city hall and placed on indefinite suspension as well.
He said Horton told him it was because he lied about knowing where the money was. But he believes it was because he refused to fire Shelton and because he would not tell who gave police documents to the media two months ago.
"This is obvious retaliation," he said Friday.
Chief John Argo with the Rhea County Sheriff's Department said Friday the incident from June has nothing to do with Redden's and Shelton's suspensions.
"I don't think that's what their issues are," he said. "Their issues are way bigger than us."
Argo said the sheriff's office has not dwelt on the incident and the behavior of the deputies in the June arrest.
"They did, basically, what they did, and we've overcome that," he said.
Contact Alex Green at email@example.com or 423-757-6731.