Official: Eric Watson resigned from Bradley sheriff's office over inappropriate use of time

Official: Eric Watson resigned from Bradley sheriff's office over inappropriate use of time

October 6th, 2011 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

Eric Watson

Eric Watson

State Rep. Eric Watson resigned from the Bradley County Sheriff's Office after discussions over inappropriate use of his time, authorities said Wednesday.

The sheriff's office expressed concern about Watson's work schedule and how he was balancing duties between the county and the Legislature, sheriff's spokesman Bob Gault said in a news release.

Watson, R-Cleveland, resigned from his position as a captain at the sheriff's office Monday.

"Due to his dual role as a deputy and state representative, we stressed the need to avoid even the appearance of improper conduct or 'double-dipping,'" Gault said.

"We have some deputies who will take part-time assignments from time to time," Gault said. "They fully understand, however, keeping the peace and serving as a deputy sheriff always comes first."

The sheriff's office "with some difficulty" accounted for Watson's time at the county when he was going back and forth from the Legislature last year, Gault said, but "subsequently there were some issues that in the future would be irreconcilable."

He didn't specify what the issues were.

Watson issued a written statement Wednesday before the departmental news release. In it, Watson said he resigned to help his father run the family tire business. His father recently had a "near-fatal accident," Watson said.

"There is a need for me to join my family, to help operate my father's business until his full recovery," Watson said in the statement.

He added that he wasn't going to resign from the Legislature.

Watson didn't return calls or emails Wednesday seeking further comment.

Watson was promoted to lieutenant at the sheriff's office in 2006, the same year he was elected to the state House to represent District 22, which covers Meigs, Polk and part of Bradley counties.

In 2010, Watson was promoted to captain and oversaw the Courts Division.

The statement from the sheriff's office said the previous administration also had some difficulty arranging a proper work schedule when Watson was elected to the Legislature. Watson was advised then that his duty to the sheriff's office must take precedence over other interests, the release stated.

Former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble said that he heard complaints during his tenure -- 2006 to 2010 -- that Watson wasn't working a full 40-hour week at the sheriff's office when the Legislature was in session.

Gobble, who is now the city manager in East Ridge, said the sheriff's office looked into the complaint and found only one incident where Watson's timecard wasn't accurate. When confronted, Watson said it was a mistake, Gobble said.

He said that throughout his term, now-Sheriff Jim Ruth was Watson's direct supervisor and oversaw his hours. During the legislative session Watson was given flexible hours so he could make up time on the weekends, Gobble said.

"[Ruth] assured us that Eric was getting his hours in," Gobble said.

Ruth didn't return calls seeking comment.