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Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson
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Bradley County, Tenn., commissioners on Monday heard new accusations of dishonesty, mismanagement and retaliation against Sheriff Eric Watson.

Commissioner Dan Rawls read aloud a letter written by veteran deputy Adam Beard in the commission meeting. Beard sat in the audience, out of uniform.

"I want to start off by saying that I supported the elected sheriff of Bradley County, but I'm concerned that a person in his position of power can lie and deceive so many and all the while claim to be a Christian," the letter began.

It detailed what Beard said was harassment and retaliation levied after Watson thought the deputy no longer was supporting him politically. Beard said he was harassed because his wife commented on a negative Facebook post about the sheriff, that he has been the victim of retaliatory transfers, and that attempts were made to write him up and cut his pay on false grounds: that he wore shorts and flip-flops to the office and that he falsified a time sheet.

Bradley County Sheriff's Office statement

"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.

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.

B.C.S.O. 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."

Thanks,

Director James E. Bradford, Jr.

Communications Division
Bradley County Sheriff Office
2290 Blythe Ave.
Cleveland, TN 37311
Office #: (423) 728-7320
Cell #: (423) 260-1546
WEBSITE: www.bradleysheriff.com

He said the department's cameras would have disproved both allegations, but no one checked them.

"It's funny how when things don't play into the elected sheriff's narrative you can't find video evidence of anything, but when it does it's produced in minutes," Beard wrote.

That referred to a February allegation that the sheriff's wife tried to run him down, leaving tire tracks in the lawn outside his office. When Rawls asked for video, the sheriff's office said the cameras weren't working. In addition, separate lawsuits filed against the sheriff's office in the injury and death of two jail inmates both claim surveillance videos were lost or destroyed.

"I speak on behalf of 90 percent of the sheriff's deputies that are honest and 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 officials [sic] dishonesty and mistreatment of the employees of BCSO," Beard wrote.

When Rawls finished reading the four-page letter, Beard stood up and added an apology to Rawls, on behalf of the sheriff's office, for embarrassment suffered when Watson implied in the Cleveland newspaper in March that Rawls had been involved in a homicide in Florida. Rawls refuted the allegation and demanded an apology from Watson and the Cleveland Daily Banner.

"This letter contains unsubstantiated facts, which attempts to create a public spectacle of events that never occurred," Watson said via an emailed statement. "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."

Beard never followed protocol in appealing the disciplinary measures taken against him, Watson said, resulting in his distributing a letter "to broadcast personal criticisms." He added he was most troubled that the letter appeared to question the integrity of Beard's supervisors, "with some of them having over 20 years of experience with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

Beard's was the second letter brought to commissioners accusing Watson of mismanagement. A November letter, also distributed by Rawls, accused the sheriff of trying to hide jail under-staffing from state inspectors and of misusing money. Several commissioners said they were skeptical of the allegations because that letter wasn't signed.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been looking into a variety of allegations against Watson since July. A TBI spokeswoman said Friday the probe is "active and ongoing."

Coincidentally, representatives of Tennessee's Local Government Insurance Pool told commissioners Monday they would either have to pay 10.4 percent more for premiums or double their law enforcement deductible to $10,000. Becky Brock, with the insurance pool, said the county's claims have been far outrunning premiums for property, casualty and worker's compensation. She said the sheriff's office was responsible for 41 percent of the overage.

Rawls made no statement at Monday's meeting, and commissioners asked no questions.

Asked afterward what he thinks will happen because he went public, Beard said, "I'm pretty sure I'll probably be terminated, but it's a risk I'm willing to take."

Rawls said that's not a good idea. Retaliatory firing is against the law.

"I advise extreme caution against taking any action that could be deemed retaliatory," Rawls said by telephone Monday afternoon.

"Anyone who can't take justified criticism, they're in the wrong position. Ninety percent of the employees of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office don't deserve to be treated how they're being treated and exposed to this kind of incompetence and mismanagement, and retribution if anyone speaks out."

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

Deputy Adam Beard's letter

I want to start off by saying that I supported the elected sheriff of Bradley County, but I'm concerned that a person in his position of power can lie and deceive so many and all the while claim to be a Christian. I'm typing this to give all the people a few examples of what it's like to work under the elected sheriff. In November of 2015, I agreed with the elected sheriff to leave patrol and my FTO (field training officer) position to move to the warrant team, I was able to continue driving my new vehicle and keep my salary the same. After a couple of months of being on the warrant team the elected sheriff was having different people in his chain of command call me and ask if there was something wrong with me or my wife cause she commented on a negative face book post about the elected sheriff. My response has always been "that's my wife's face book not mine she's a Bradley County tax payer and voter". Once the elected sheriff thought I was not supporting him politically I started having things taken away and rumors about me and my wife put on face book. I have consistently tried to do my job,sometimes with no luck because of the dishonest things that the elected sheriff will do like approve the warrant team for level 3 body armor because of the high risk felony/federal warrants, and then to get mad and reject the request putting the safety of the whole team in jeopardy. Then around March of 2016 we changed lieutenant and captain. Then in the same month of March 2016 the elected sheriff in an attempt to have me written up stating that I 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! Never was any of the many camera's in our system ever used to validate that accusation . Then in August of 2016 the elected sheriff in an attempt to call my integrity and honesty in check he had his captain and another deputy to pull my timesheet from Ms. parker who keeps record of the time sheets. The captain then made the statement that I was falsifying government documents which is a criminal charge. The day in question on my timesheet I had court for personal reasons and came in early to do the paperwork for the warrant team so they didn't have to, I told the captain all they have to do is look on the camera and see me come in and leave 3 hours later but of course no one supposedly looked at the camera. It's funny how when things don't play into the elected sheriff's narrative you can't find video evidence of anything, but when it does it's produced in minutes. On November of 2016 we were then moved to C.I.D and told we were doing out of state felony transports. Even though we had more of a work load, under the direction of Captain Lawson and Lt. Mark Miller and the rest of the detectives we excelled with recovery of stolen vehicles, property and arrest. The elected sheriff then started asking questions to several people at the sheriff's office if I was talking to commissioners and/or Sheriff Tim Gobble, then in March of 2017 the team in an attempt to insult us considering we are post certified officers was moved again this time into a fulltime transport/corrections position. We were told that we were no longer doing warrants the warrant team was shut down and moved the warrants to patrol. Even with the elected sheriff's attempt we still with the help of deputies Holloway and Delk pulled everything together and excelled with on time warrant pickups, prisoner runs to federal court, and doctor and mental health visits. Then in April of 2017 the elected sheriff moved a new sergeant that had been moved from multiple patrol shifts because of his dishonest actions like kicking in wrong doors and lying about it, to forging other people`s time sheets without their consent, and being written up several times for his dishonesty and poor temperament to our team. In the first week of the sergeant's duties he and the elected sheriff tried to cause animosity between myself and the federal marshals by calling Captain Thomas and stating that the marshals called and complained about me. I made contact with several of the marshals by phone and asked if I had done anything wrong and they all stated that if anything they bragged on me about how professional I was and always available no matter what the circumstances. One of the marshals stated that he spoke to the new sergeant and bragged on how good of a deputy I am, funny I never heard that compliment from my elected sheriff or sergeant. Then this month May 2017 the sergeant called me and demanded I go and serve warrants I stated to the sergeant that we were told by the elected sheriff, Captains Lawson and Thomas we were the transport team and no longer doing warrants. 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 being brought into federal court because of his history of kicking in wrong doors and dishonesty. I was then moved once more now back to patrol and the elected sheriff along with his campaign manager/financial director tried to have my pay cut on 2 different occasions based on lies. You know our mission statement at the sheriff's office has 3 words that stick out the most they are honest, fair and professional this elected sheriff has neither quality he is a dishonest, malicious person who hides behind the bible and badge. My dad told me a long time ago if a man would lie then he would steal and now looking at the shape of our budget I would say my dad was right on point. I speak on behalf of 90% 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 officials dishonesty and mistreatment of the employees of BCSO. I'm asking you to please stop the harassment because if you look at the definition of hostile work environment is the environment of which the harassing becomes a condition of continued employment or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating hostile or abusive. I am not an attorney but I'm sure an attorney and a judge alike would agree that the actions committed by the elected sheriff are the example of a hostile work environment. So I ask you to please let me do my job in peace without any harassment from the elected sheriff of Bradley County or legal action will be taken. Thank you. - Adam Beard#1991

This story was updated May 15 at 11:55 p.m.

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