Fiscal Court upholds decision to dismiss Detention Center worker

by Barbara Atwill

During a Special Called Fulton County Fiscal Court meeting June 19, Magistrates Jim Paitsel, Wade Adams, Hugh Caldwell, Shaun Parks and Judge/Executive Jim Martin heard the second reading of the County of Fulton Budget for 2019/2020; discussed the copy machine proposal for the Fulton County Detention Center; and Emergency Medical Dispatch for reimbursement providing an Invoice is received.

Judge Martin stated, “The Budget has been published in accordance with the Statutes, with a minimum of seven days and no more than 21 days before the event. To recap, the General Fund is $2,514,536.66; the Road Department, $2,838,411.85; the Jail, $8,345,578; the LGEA, $500; Federal Grants, $3; DES, $16,776; Jail Construction, $0; Ambulance Revenue, $113,868; for a total budget of $13,829,673.51.”

The Magistrates approved the Budget for 2019/2020 to take effect July 1, 2019.

Fulton County Jailer Steven Williams recommended to the Fiscal Court the purchase of 13 Ricoh copy machines for use at the Fulton County Detention Center, with Magistrates approving the purchase.

An Invoice was presented to the Fiscal Court for Emergency Medical Dispatch for reimbursement in the amount of $2,413.09. Magistrates approved paying for the equipment and filing the Invoice for reimbursement with the 911 Board where there is ample money to pay for the new hardware and software for 911 Dispatch.

Magistrates then went into Executive Session to discuss pending lawsuits.

Magistrates then returned to Open Session to offer former Fulton County Detention Center employee Brittany Walsh the opportunity to present her case, relative to her dismissal.

She was dismissed from the Fulton County Detention Center on May 31, for violations of the Code of Ethics at the detention center on May 14.

“Walsh’s disciplinary action was the result of discovering she deposited money into an inmate’s account, through a Kiosk in the booking area of the detention center, diverting fees, which would normally be incurred if a citizen came and made the deposit in the lobby Kiosk,” stated Fulton County Jailer Steven Williams.

Williams provided evidence of the video of Walsh making the deposit.

“By doing the favor for the prisoner, prisoner’s family, or prisoner’s friend, that is against Fulton County’s Detention Center Code of Ethics. It is also a Jail Standard and KAR (Kentucky Administrative Regulations). Handling of money is kept to a minimum, that is why we have a booking Kiosk,” said Williams.

Attorney Leanna Wilkerson, for Fulton County Attorney Rick Major, asked, “Which jail personnel are allowed to make deposits into the booking Kiosk?”

Williams answered, “Any personnel. “Walsh is the supervisor over the midnight shift and has other fellow officers working with her.”

Wilkerson asked, “Can you explain the physical process of how you deposit?”

“I’ve never done it, but you have the booking pulled up and there are slots you insert the money into, like a soda machine,” answered Williams.

Wilkerson asked, “Would they have a list of the inmates that came in and total amount of money that should have been deposited that day, and this is how they found an additional name as well?”

Williams reported, “The Kiosk reports the booking date, time, amount, booking number, and inmate name. On the day in question, there were three names and only two inmates booked.”

Judge Martin asked for the KAR to be stated that is in violation.

Williams read, “Exchange of personal gift or favor from prisoner, prisoner’s family or prisoner’s friend. By law we have to incorporate the KAR into our Code of Ethics.”

“It is reviewed every year at training. We have two examples where she signed off on it. One in January and another one in 2013 or 2014, not including the training classes where it is brought up and discussed,” Williams said.

“So, there are a number of things on the Code of Ethics, so would all of those things on the Code of Ethics warrant dismissal if violated, with no exception,” asked Martin.

Williams answered, “Yes.”

Brittany Walsh addressed the Magistrates saying, “On Friday, May 31, I was told I needed to come in at 10 a.m., and speak with Jailer Williams. When I spoke with him, he asked me about the $20 bill that I had deposited in the vending machine at work for Lamont Wilson on May 13. I told Jailer Williams I received a text from a neighbor related to Wilson and, said she was unable to get out, due to having a young child, and aksed that I would put money in the machine once I got to work.”

“In the six years I have been here, I came across employees, such as Gaither Yates, whose son was incarcerated here for a couple of years; Ava Little, whose child’s father was incarcerated; Angie Isbell, whose husband was incarcerated; Bobby Johnson, Ronnie Fair, Terry Hutcheson, who all had family members incarcerated at the jail. This is known to everybody that works there. I am not related to Wilson, but I have, in the last six years, seen property brought in, money being placed in vending machines, that had been discussed by all of us that worked there. I showed Jailer Williams a copy of a text I received from my neighbor, and he stated my action went against the first rule of the Code of Ethics that states there is not to be an exchange of a personal gift from an inmate or inmate’s family. The definition of ‘exchange’ according to an online dictionary, is act of giving one thing and receiving another, especially of the same type of value in return. There has not been anything that has been shown, that I received favors or gestures, and my text messages clearly shows that was not the case. I have been suspended without pay, pending charges according to Jailer Williams. I was suspended for six days pending charges that were supposed to have been brought to Fiscal Court, which is what I was told when I was suspended, that my paperwork was going straight to Fiscal Court and the Fiscal Court attorney would decide if they were going to press charges against me. That is why I brought my paperwork first here,” Walsh stated.

“I have been an employee at the Detention Center for the last six years and have been on numerous occasions, told by Lt. Fair, my supervisor, that I was being discriminated against by Jailer Williams, Carrie Powell, and Jeff Johnson. At the last supervisor meeting that I was told that, four sergeants were there, myself, Jamie Alexander, Derrick Couch and Terry Hutcheson,” Walsh said.

“Excuse me. Who said you were being discriminated against?” Martin asked.

Walsh answered, “Lt. Ronnie Fair, my supervisor.”

“I filed a complaint against Jeff Johnson about two months ago, that I gave to Jailer Williams, that ended up in my file. During that meeting Lt. Fair and Carrie Powell, both present, signed off on them not having anything to do with him saying exactly what he said to me in a meeting. Telling me he pays me to supervise, not Fiscal Court. Here is the original incident I reported and nothing is being done about that. This is the one from Carrie. I told him to include a copy of that with my paperwork and I wanted to take care of it in-house, but if I had to bring it to Fiscal Court I would. Since then I have been written up two times and one for an employee, on my shift. I was written up for that. I was written up for a transport, that the inmates were probably 10 – 20 minutes late getting up front, for them to be transported, I was written up for that. There are sergeants that miss rounds, days and everything else. I received five days suspension. One, because I called off because I had a death in my family last year, and two, for clocking in five minutes late, when there are employees there that have missed more than those days,” stated Walsh.

Martin asked, “So you are aware of people putting money in the machine and you chose not to report that. Tell me why you thought that was ok.”

“Who am I reporting it to? I have been discriminated against because I reported things of discrimination and nothing has been done about it. Who am I, as the only black sergeant at Fulton County Detention Center, to report to?” Walsh answered.

Martin stated, “You bring it to the Jailer. I’m asking what your reasoning was not for reporting it. Did you think…”

Walsh interrupted, “My reasoning was because it has been a normal action.”

Martin said, “Exchange of gifts for favors. When you decided to put $20 on an inmate’s account as a favor for a family member of an inmate, you did not see that as…”

Walsh interrupted, “Once again, an exchange is when you give something and get something. I do a favor for her, and she does a favor for me.”

Martin replied, “I’m not going to get tied up on the definition of exchange. I think the intent of this is that you, as an employee, not participate as a go-between to handle assets to an inmate. And you would know, more than most people, over the years this has been a big problem of violations of multiple things, as I look down the list.”

“Most of them have been recent and are still going on right now. If you see your superior doing things like going to the store and getting a milkshake and bringing it back for inmates, an inmate is getting a Coke or a bottle of water, in exchange for information for false information they are giving, how am I going to look at what I did, putting money, not giving it to the inmate, but putting it in the actual machine. How am I supposed to look at that as a favor?” stated Walsh.
“You made a statement that your Supervisor, expressed concerns about your treatment, so that if you had questions or issues, he was giving you information. Did you not feel comfortable telling him, these reports of things you had seen and concerns you had and work up the chain of command? Do you not discuss that?” asked Wilkerson.

“Yes. I do. I had actually written an incident report about the Coke given to inmate Carol Winters, by Carrie Powell. I do work up the chain of command, when there is nothing continuously being done, I don’t know what I am supposed to do for it. It is conflicting. Who am I supposed to bring my stuff to, when I am being told the higher up people are fighting against me?” stated Walsh.

Wilkerson said, “Ok. That was my question. Lt. Fair apparently is on your side. That is what you are saying. He is telling you things like go and tell. He would be a resource for you. It appears you feel he was looking out for you by telling you these things.”

“At the time I did discuss it with Lt. Fair, some things. But Lt. Fair is the type that kind of plays both sides. He will tell you one thing, and do kind of another,” stated Walsh.

Martin asked, “Do you know about the Coke incident?”

Williams replied, “Yes. She was under a hunger strike also, and the doctor was worried about her stroking out. I hate to talk about inmate’s medical in the open.”

“At the jail, we have to ensure that we give people with special diets, liquid diets, that are readily available. You can supply for the inmate,” stated Walsh.

“So, you were aware they were on a hunger strike?” asked Paitsel.

“Carol Winters was not on a hunger strike. She had a couple of incidences she refused her meals, but she was not on a hunger strike,” stated Walsh.

“Carol Winters was on a hunger strike. I actually contacted the Director of Local Facilities for DOC for advice,” stated Williams.

Martin asked, “What did they tell you?”

“Do everything we could to get her to eat. When I took office in August 2017, they had just had one inmate at Christian County Jail on a hunger strike and he died,” stated Williams.

“You’re saying, these two incidences with the milkshake and Coke were related to hunger strikes,” asked Martin.

“They were related to hunger/medication issues,” replied Williams.

“I can see where someone standing on the sidelines would see that and not understand it to be a medical issue, and see it as a gift. I understand what you are saying,” Martin said.

“Without anyone asking, they would make the assumption, but if they were to ask they could be…”, stated Williams.

“It would be like he discussed. There are some medical issues that don’t need to be discussed,” Wilkerson said.

Walsh said, “That is correct, but we all signed before we were signed in. That is part of our paperwork and stays within the facility. I think if someone is on a hunger strike or somebody, that is a fellow employee, is over them should be aware of these things going on.”

“Were you over these two, you are talking about?” asked Paitsel.

“Yes. That is how I know Carol Winters was not on a hunger strike. She refused breakfast if it was something she did not like,” Walsh stated.

“These other people you know about, Yates, Little, Johnson, and Fair, do you know of any instances they gave a gift or some sort of value to an inmate?” asked Martin.

Paitsel moved to affirm the Court’s decision, seconded by Caldwell to support the dismissal.

“I would like a copy of all my interviews for my lawyer, from Jailer Williams. I will supply a flash drive, but I would like those interviews,” stated Walsh.

Paitsel said, “Your lawyer can request those in the proper legal procedure.”