Deputies File Grievances Over Firing on Alleged Sexual Comments

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Three Washington County Sheriff's deputies have been suspended with pay awaiting the outcome of grievances they filed Monday (April 22) with the county Human Resources office after being fired over inappropriate sexual conversations, said George Butler, county attorney.

The three deputies are Tiffaine Scott, Mercedes McReynolds and Brandy Shipley, according to the county attorney.

Sheriff Tim Helder fired the three April 17 following complaints from other jail employees that the women engaged in inappropriate sexual conversations, Butler said.

"Rising to the level of potential sexual harassment," Helder added.

Helder said 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.

During the grievance process, their employment status was changed to "suspended with pay," Butler said.

The Washington County Quorum Court Personnel Committee will hear the fired deputies' grievances and issue an advisory ruling, Butler said.

However, since only an elected official can make a hiring or firing decision, the sheriff can ignore the advisory ruling from the personnel committee, Butler said. A date has not been set for the hearing, he 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.