LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. — After an investigation in January revealed three Fayetteville City police officers had made inappropriate sexual comments while on the job in front of a female sheriff’s office employee, the officers were placed on unpaid suspension. Now, Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder is speaking out about how the punishment wasn’t harsh enough.
“They weren’t inappropriate conduct,” said Blackwelder about the alleged comments. “They were actually very vile, rude statements that should have never been said in the presence of a female. In reality, I would have never heard them said in the presence of a male.”
A statement from Lincoln County Sgt. Louis Burns said that Fayetteville City Officer Austin McGee spoke in explicit detail about performing sex acts with his girlfriend.
The comments were so obscene, WHNT will not report them on air or online in detail.
Burns also accused McGee of talking about the size of his private parts in explicit detail along with more specific examples of his sexual history.
Two weeks ago, Fayetteville City Administrator Scott Collins told WHNT the officers didn’t initially realize what was wrong with the comments.
“I hate this phrase,” said Collins. “But they thought it was just guys talking. Well, that’s unacceptable.”
“This isn’t guy talk. This is sexual harassment of a female employee,” explained Blackwelder.
The two Fayetteville City police officers investigated as a result of McGee’s accusations wrote statements to investigators. Both of them admitted that they had heard McGee make statements referring to sexual acts and other comments of a sexual nature in front of the Lincoln County employee.
Officer McGee denies ever making the sexual comments detailed in the complaint. In his own words, McGee writes, “The allegations made are far from the truth.”
“I would investigate it as they did. But if my findings were that my own officers said it happened, I would terminate that employee,” said Blackwelder.
That’s why Blackwelder was confused when he learned that McGee was suspended for two shifts and put on probation for a year.
“I’ve tried to handle this through diplomatic channels, said Blackwelder. “I have spoken with the mayor about a one-on-one meeting with the city council.”
Mayor Jon Law said that meeting was denied because elected officials cannot meet privately. Law added that it would violate open meeting laws.
“I’ve gone as far as making a formal request and having it served on the mayor and the city administrator to be on the agenda for this next Tuesday night. All of these have been rejected,” said Blackwelder.
The city of Fayetteville doesn’t allow time for public comment at the council meetings. Despite that, Blackwelder will be at the meeting prepared to speak on Tuesday.
“Hopefully, I can be recognized from the floor and have an opportunity to adequately educate the city council on the other side of this story and how serious it actually is because I don’t know that they’ve been told the whole story,” said Blackwelder.
City administrator Scott Collins told WHNT personnel issues are clearly defined by the city charter. He said to politicize them is not appropriate.
When we asked Collins if he was aware of the discrepancy in the officer’s statements he said he was not aware of any lying that may have occurred during the investigation.
Collins added that there wasn’t taped or recorded evidence of the comment that was alleged. The city administrator refers to those alleged comments as “borderline sexual harassment.”