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Of Affidavits From
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Two county commissioners are calling for further investigation by the Greene County Commission into allegations against County Clerk David Thompson after several additional affidavits alleging misconduct have been made public.
County Commissioners Robin Quillen and Jan Kiker have called for Greene County to continue the investigation that County Attorney Roger Woolsey began in July following the filing of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against the county by a former employee.
In that complaint, Michelle Burke, a former deputy clerk who served in the county clerk's office under Thompson, alleged that he sexually harassed and discriminated against her during her employment in his office.
The EEOC cannot legally comment on the complaint while it remains under investigation, according to Federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
However, five other women have come forward alleging misconduct of various kinds.
Three of the five affidavits are from women who say they previously served under Thompson as deputy clerks.
Of these women, one said she was employed in the clerk's office for only a half-day before Thompson tried to kiss her in his office. She said she left and did not return.
A second woman said she worked there for eight months.
She alleged that she did not receive an employee handbook and that Thompson made unwanted sexual advances.
She also said that he altered her time card by hand to improve her paycheck.
A third woman said she worked in the clerk's office for 11 years.
She alleged that, when Thompson first took office, he would run his hands through her hair and rub her shoulders and neck despite her asking him not to do this.
The actions allegedly escalated into sexual favors in order to maintain her employment and receive such perks as altered timecards and extra benefits, her affadavit stated.
Another woman alleges that Thompson made sexual advances to her via text messages, including offering her a job in the County Clerk's office -- an offer she says she declined due to his previous advances.
She said in the affadavit that, later, on an occasion when she came to the courthouse annex to buy new car tags, he did not require her to pay for her tags, telling her it was "taken care of" and that she could leave.
The final affidavit, from a woman who did not work in the clerk's office, claims that Thompson made advances through an anonymous Facebook account.
The affidavit states that she believes the person who contacted her to be Thompson, but acknowledges that he never identified himself to her by name in the messages.
Burke's attorney, Sandra Stanbery-Foster, notarized each of the affidavits in either July or early August.
THOMPSON REFERS QUESTIONS
Thompson said this morning that, "Based on the advice of my attorney, I am unable to comment" regarding the affidavits and the ongoing EEOC investigation. "I would defer all questions to him."
The Greeneville Sun was unable to reach Thompson's attorney, Philip Baker, of Ensley, Baker & Shade in Johnson City, before press time.
The matter is one that the county should not just leave to the attorneys, according to some commissioners.
"I think we should have an investigation to see if the allegations are true," Quillen said.
She emphasized that an investigation should be not only into the alleged sexual harassment allegations, but also into the alleged timecard alterations and other favors.
"I can't see that many women just making something up and coming forward with sworn affidavits," Quillen said.
"I think if it all comes around and the allegations are found to have some bearing on them, I think we need to ask for his resignation, or I think we need to ask for an ouster suit.
"If the allegations are true, I don't think that [taxpayers] would like to know that they're paying his salary while he was maybe getting other favors in the office while he was on our dime," Quillen added.
"I absolutely admire these women for coming forward because most of their time statutes are up for them [for being able to claim damages].
"They just wanted to see things be made right and, if these things are going on, then maybe other women wouldn't be subjected to them," Quillen added.
Quillen has also called for the County Commission to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue prior to their October meeting.
"It's not just 'he said, she said' anymore," Kiker agreed in a separate interview. "It's several women coming forward.
"I think it's time that the County Commission takes a look and makes a decision about what needs to be done. I think if the full commission thinks an ouster suit needs to be pursued, that could be one thing.
"It just needs to be talked about, I think, and see what the consensus is. I think it needs to be brought before the full commission."
MAYOR DECLINES COMMENT
Mayor Alan Broyles, who chairs the commission, declined to comment.
"We don't comment when there's something like this until the investigation is done," Broyles said.
"[Woolsey] is handling this thing and, on the advice of the attorney, we don't make comments."
Attorney Stanbery-Foster confirmed in an interview with The Greeneville Sun that she sent the five affidavits to the EEOC to be included as additions to their investigation.
"I still think this is a sad chapter in this proud county's history ..." Foster said. "For my client's sake, I hope it can be resolved quickly."
Woolsey said in an interview that he also has a copy of the affidavits, which he obtained from Stanbery-Foster.
Woolsey said he received copies of the affidavits before he filed the county's response to the EEOC in mid-August.
Although he did not make a copy of that response public in deference to the EEOC's confidentiality, he told the Sun shortly after filing the complaint that he did not find a basis for charges of sexual harassment and discrimination.
"[The affidavits going public] really doesn't change anything as far as what I am trying to do in representing the county on this EEOC complaint," Woolsey said.
"Now I'm sure if those affidavits are public, it may affect other issues that I'm not concerned with at this juncture, but that somebody might be concerned with at some later juncture.
"I'm really not at liberty to discuss those affidavits as far as with the public," he added.
"I know that the county, of course, has to -- and has -- responded to the EEOC complaint. We would have to defend any civil action filed.
"As far as any other action, I actually don't know what's contemplated, what's going forward at this juncture."
He added that, should the County Commission decide to "look at this thing any further," including moving to file an ouster suit against Thompson, he would not be a participant.
"I would recuse myself as county attorney because I have associations and deal with [Thompson]," he said.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it because of my professional relationship with David. He calls on me for advice, not as relates to this issue, but other issues."