At least one of the three Washington County deputies fired last week had the reason for her termination changed by the sheriff before she was officially fired.
Three Washington County deputies suspended with pay in April were fired last week, after withdrawing their grievance motions against the Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Tim Helder initially fired Tiffaine Scott, Mercedes McReynolds and Brandy Shipley on April 17 following complaints from other jail employees that the women engaged in inappropriate sexual conversations, said George Butler, county attorney. After filing paperwork to receive a grievance hearing, their employment status was changed to “suspended with pay,” Butler said.
The last of the deputies’ grievance hearings was set for May 3. The deputies withdrew from the hearings, after which they were fired, according to the Washington County Human Resources office.
Jim Rose III, a Fayetteville attorney representing Scott, sent a letter to 5NEWS on May 10 stating that Scott was fired because the sheriff no longer needed her services, not because of sexual harassment allegations.
Attached to the letter is a statement from Helder to Scott that reads, “I have determined that I am no longer in need of your services and thus you are terminated immediately.”
Helder told 5NEWS there were also retaliation accusations uncovered during the investigation.
“A lot of other violations of policy that just really confirmed in at least my mind that this was the appropriate action to take, that we just weren’t going to be able to overcome this situation,” Helder said.
5NEWS spoke with Scott, who declined to go on camera, but she said the conversation was not about anything sexual in nature.
The Washington County Quorum Court Personnel Committee was set to hear the deputies’ grievances and issue an advisory ruling, Butler said.
However, since only an elected official can make a hiring or firing decision, the sheriff could have ignored the advisory ruling from the personnel committee, Butler said.
The three fired employees, one of whom is black, filed a counter charge against a white male jail employee, Brian Walton, alleging racism, Butler said. Walton is one of those involved in the original complaint against the three women, he said.
The sheriff investigated the counter charge and determined it was unsubstantiated, Butler said. Walton has since resigned, Butler said.