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Eric Watson
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Capt. Gabe Thomas

A corrections officer has accused the Bradley County Sheriff's Office of retaliation over critical comments made by his wife on social media.

In a Dec. 19 letter to the county's human resources department, officer Mack Beasley complained administrators unexpectedly changed his duties, took away his work vehicle and flipped his work schedule as part of an effort to "to get me to resign to try to shut her up."

The complaint specifically accuses Sheriff Eric Watson, Capt. Gabe Thomas, Sr. Lt. Christy Walls, Lt. Joleen Hickman and Sgt. Susan Kennedy for creating a hostile work environment.

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"I do not feel safe as an employee knowing that at any time they will continue to harass me by making abrupt changes to my working schedule or environment just because they can," Beasley said in the complaint.

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Things began to change for Beasley, who supervised inmate litter pickup details, in mid-November.

The complaint alleges Thomas, who oversees the corrections division, told Beasley in a Nov. 9 meeting he would continue litter pickup, but would report for roll call with jail staff effective Nov. 14.

When Beasley reported to work that day, he was told he would work jail shifts and only go out with litter crews based on the number of jailers on hand and whether any state inspectors were on premises, the complaint states.

In August, a Tennessee Corrections Institute inspection cited the Bradley County Jail for understaffing, inmate overcrowding, mold growth and maintenance problems.

Beasley questioned the decision since a Tennessee Department of Transportation litter grant funded his position.

The Bradley County Commission awarded the county's TDOT litter grant, long given to the county road department, to the sheriff's office in 2015.

TDOT litter grant administrators could not be reached for comment.

On Nov. 16, Beasley's superiors told him to turn over the truck issued to him for litter pickup. Thomas told him he was ordered to return the truck because he had upset a county commissioner with some Facebook comments, according to the complaint.

Beasley said he did not make any online comments. However, his wife had posted comments the day before concerning a Times Free Press story about an unsigned letter accusing the sheriff of mismanagement and mishandling funds.

That letter accused the sheriff of transferring staff to the jail to "doctor up" the books before a scheduled date to submit a plan of correction to TCI. The jail stood to lose its certification if its staffing and maintenance issues were not fixed.

Beasley's wife posted to Facebook again Dec. 13, after the Times Free Press published a story regarding a Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission complaint against Watson. A prior story alleged the sheriff had sold cars without a dealer's license.

On Dec. 16, Beasley was ordered to take the night shift.

"When I asked why they danced around the truth and stated it was because night shift was shorthanded," Beasley said in the complaint, adding he had seniority and knew of another officer who had hinted to Hickman he wanted the late shift.

Beasley could not be reached for comment Friday.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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