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No firings in jail-release snafu

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough has chosen to mete out less severe punishment, rather than fire 15 jail supervisors and nine correctional officers, following the erroneous release of four jail inmates.

Kimbrough said on Monday, out of 15 supervisors, seven will face demotions impacting their annual salary; five will face 30-day suspensions without pay; two will face 15-day suspensions without pay; and one will face a 10-day suspension without pay.

In addition, out of nine correctional officers involved in the inmate-release foul-up, three will face 20-day suspensions without pay, four will face 10-day suspensions without pay, and two will receive formal letters of reprimand.

Kimbrough said all of the officers with disciplinary action pending against them will be served with notices this week. They will face an administrative hearing before Chief Sheriff's Deputy Garland Watkins, who will hear evidence, and ultimately decide whether the punishments should stand.

Deputies will have 10 days from the start of their punishments to make an appeal to the Clayton County Civil Service Board, according to Kimbrough.

"Our policies allow for a range of punishments," Kimbrough said. "When I looked at the fact that we are going to have to go before the Civil Service Board, not the fact that they are trying to second-guess us, but they like to see progressive discipline. I tried to evaluate every employee's conduct based on their past record of discipline.

"Most of them had committed severe enough conduct in this case that we were in the more extreme range of punishment," the sheriff continued. "[However,] I just didn't feel that termination was warranted at this time. I think some people are going to feel that a demotion is as bad as being terminated. Those people who are getting suspensions instead of demotions, we are reminding them that this is what we expect of them."

Of the seven jail supervisors facing demotions, one captain will be demoted to a lieutenant and six correctional sergeants will be demoted to correctional officers.

Sgt. Sonja Sanchez, public information officer for the Sheriff's Office, said names of those facing punishment were being withheld, because the investigation has not yet been finalized.

Separate from suspensions and demotions, Kimbrough said several clerks and deputies will be transferred, or reassigned, in order to support better jail operations.

As of this week, four deputies will be taken from patrol positions, and assigned to the jail. Four clerks will be reassigned from the sheriff's warrant office to the jail's criminal intake office. In addition, the jail's security commander will be replaced, and the jail's watch commander will be transferred out of the jail, Kimbrough said.

"Essentially, I am trying to reorganize the jail, so we have people who are truly going to supervise," Kimbrough said. "We are trying to bolster the number of people in the intake area to see if that will alleviate the problem.

"When we're done, we should have a group of people who will move forward and maintain standards in our jail, according to the standards we have set," he said.

Kimbrough said the chief deputy will schedule administrative hearings for the 24 correctional officers after all have been served with a formal notice.