Sgt. Johnny Moats and Officer Barry Henderson were fired from the sheriff’s department. Both are suing Sheriff Kelly McLendon, Chief Deputy Shayne Garrison, Deputy Sheriff James Little, county attorney Brad McFall, and Polk County over their terminations, claiming their civil liberties were violated and they were not given due process.
Paperwork indicates each only had one performance evaluation put in their files while employed with the sheriff’s department.
The Rockmart Journal/Cedartown Standard obtained the paperwork under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The newspaper also requested any job performance evaluations and disciplinary paperwork for former employees Melissa Martin, Scott Chandler and Mary Short.
Officials informed the newspaper there was no such paperwork in their employee files. The newspaper was also told that the paperwork received on Moats and Henderson was all the department had in their files as well.
Sheriff’s department officials said they can not comment, on advice of their attorneys, because of the ongoing lawsuit.
The only evaluation on Moats, who was hired Sept. 9, 1998, occurred May 20, 1999.
Although the form was created to also be used in an employee’s second and third evaluations, the only section filled out was for a first-time evaluation.
That first evaluation was done by supervisor Martha Bedford and signed off by Mike Sullivan as administrator.
Moats’ evaluation contained only three comments. The first said he “shows self-control, goes by policy and procedures, works well with others, dependable.”
The second comment Bedford made was in the area of improvement stating Moats “needs to find a stopping point in work.”
The third notation was overall comments.
“Johnny is a hard worker,” Bedford wrote, “doesn’t mind any job assign to. Never complains. Had positive attitude toward job and others. Need more officers like Johnny.”
Four disciplinary papers were filed on Moats from July 15, 2010 until Sept. 1.
The first was a notation of a verbal warning handwritten by Chief Deputy Shayne Garrison on July 15.
In the document, Garrison documented a meeting with Moats and Lt. James Little in his office regarding problems with moral.
Garrison wrote that Moats had been initiating problems with employees and discrediting Little.
“During the discussion Sgt. Moats became noticeably agitated and became very insubordinate towards Little,” Garrison wrote, adding that Moats said Little hadn’t earned his position and was a “brownnose.”
Garrison told Moats that disrespect wouldn’t be tolerated and that “any rank or authority that the Sheriff or I chose to bestow on any employee was strictly at our discretion and of no concern to him.”
Paperwork doesn’t indicate Moats was disciplined.
The second instance of administrative action against Moats was on Aug. 4, according to paperwork. Garrison and Little again met with Moats, but to put him on administrative leave with pay.
“This action was due to an internal affairs investigation being started by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office concerning possible policy violations,” Garrison wrote.
However, the paperwork doesn’t specify was the policy violations allegedly were.
Garrison said Moats asked for an explanation but wasn’t satisfied by his answer of “it was due to an ongoing internal affairs investigation.”
Moats gave up his weapon, duty gear, radio, keys and identification card. However, he asked if he could take his patrol car home and remove personal items. Garrison gave him permission and sent Lt. Jerry Shellhouse and Allison Vinson to follow Moats home and return with the car.
After the incident, Cpl. Todd Baker was put in charge of the shift handled by Moats.
Paperwork indicates Garrison also counseled Moats on Aug. 4. Although no time is listed, the counseling took place before his 9:54 a.m. administrative leave meeting because Garrison noted the bottom of the counseling form that Moats had been placed on administrative leave “before this could be handled.”
The reason for counseling was listed as “failure to notify supervisor of leaving early on Aug. 1, 2010.”
Under the individual categories, which use a grading system, Moats was excellent in grooming and uniform, acceptable in firearms, attendance and punctuality. However, Garrison ranked him poor in attitude, writing he had a “poor attitude toward workplace.”
Garrison wrote under the improvement section that Moats should not speak negatively toward the workplace and should follow chain of command.
Moats did not sign the document nor did he mark a section stating he chose not to make a comment. Although the document states an employee can comment on the evaluation, there were no additional comments from Moats attached to the form.
The final document on Moats came on Sept. 1 when Garrison submitted an incident report in his own handwriting.
According to the document, Garrison called Moats, who was on administrative leave, to report to the sheriff’s office at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 2.
Moats wanted to make the meeting later, but was denied by Sheriff Kelly McLendon. According to Garrison, Moats wanted to know the reason for the meeting, stating he didn’t want to come by himself.
Moats then told Garrison he still didn’t know what the internal investigation was about and Garrison told him policy violations, as he told him before when placing him on paid leave, according to the report.
Moats responded by stating that was inaccurate and Garrison had told him he was on leave “because the sheriff said so.”
Garrison stated in the report he reviewed a videotape of the previous meeting and Moats had interrupted him mid-sentence when he was attempting to say “policy violations.”
Henderson’s file contains no disciplinary paperwork. It does contain an evaluation dated Aug. 19, 1997. The evaluation is listed as the third evaluation since he had been hired, but sheriff’s department officials said this is the only paperwork in his file. His hire date is not legible other than it was March 5, in the 1990s.
Supervisor E. Knowles did Henderson’s evaluation, but Henderson, Knowles or an administrator did not sign it.
There are plenty of positive notes on the form, including attentiveness, punctuality and dependability.
“Officer Henderson will do every thing that is asked of him and he will also go ahead and do things that are not asked but needs to be done,” Knowles wrote.
“Officer Henderson gets along with everyone. He works with and gets along with the inmates also in a professional manner.”
Knowles noted that Henderson didn’t have any negative areas since he had been on the first shift and that he only needed more time to learn things.
“Officer Henderson is one of the best officers I have had on my shift,” Knowles wrote. “Officer Henderson follows the rules of my shift to the letter with no complaints. Officer Henderson, I feel, one day would make a good supervisor.
“Also I wish I had a whole shift of people like Officer Henderson.”
Other papers in Henderson’s file were letters of commendation for work well done.
One, dated Sept., 2000, was from Lt. Billy Wills to commend Henderson work in apprehending Tony Carey, a Floyd County murder suspect.
“The results from a citizen tip and your quick response and dedication to your job and your continued effort in this situation resulted in a wanted person being taken into custody,” Wills wrote.
Another letter was from a man whose car was broken into in 2005 stating Henderson was “a true professional and a real asset.”
The third letter, dated Jan. 28, 2009, was from a social service case manager regarding serving a shelter care order and taking a child into Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) custody.
Henderson provided back up to a Rockmart officer in a tense situation, according to the letter.
“The presence of two uniformed officers who remained calm, courteous, and professional in a very tense situation helped us take the necessary action to see to the welfare of the child involved,” the letter said.
The only other items in Henderson’s file is a Oct. 13, 2009, letter to the sheriff and Garrison resigning his corporal position and a Dec. 5, 2009, letter requesting an appeal of his Dec. 3, 2009, termination.
In the letter resigning his corporal position, Henderson states he is giving up that position effective immediately “due to personal reasons.” He had that position for three years, according to the letter.
The letter of appeal states that Henderson felt he had been wrongly terminated and wanted to go through the appeals process to retain his job with the sheriff’s office.