Thomson Public Works employee suspended

Mayor denies any impropriety in Huff incident

Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry denied doing anything improper in an incident involving a city employee Saturday night.


Thomson Public Works employee Scott Huff has been suspended from his job for 10 days. Statements from the city police and the mayor say Huff had driven a city vehicle after drinking.

The incident happened in the wake of a storm that felled trees and power lines throughout the area late Saturday.

In an interview with The McDuffie Mirror today, Usry said he did nothing to prevent Huff's arrest.
"By no means was I trying to bypass the police," he said.

He said he drove Huff home in the city vehicle because "that was not the place for him to be." He said he was concerned for Huff's safety as well as that of others at the scene.

However, Thomson Police Chief Joe Nelson said the mayor's intervention made a DUI arrest impossible.
"The integrity of the investigation was compromised the minute he left," Nelson said, because no Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test had been performed.

"There was no way we could be certain," Nelson said.

Statements from the mayor and the incident report filed by Thomson Patrolman Keith Smith were released earlier today by city attorney Jimmy Plunkett. Huff could not be reached for comment.

Smith wrote that he was called to Lee Street and West Hall Street, where a tree had fallen across the roadway. Smith said Huff drove up in a city vehicle. Smith said fellow officer Pat Sanders reported smelling alcohol on Huff.

Capt. Jamie Bridges was called to the scene.

When the officers confronted Huff, he asked to speak with the mayor, who had just arrived.

Usry's statement says he was driving the neighborhoods to inspect storm damage when he noticed Huff talking with police. Usry said he realized the officers' concerns. "I, too, thought I smelled alcohol on Huff," the mayor wrote.

According to Smith's statement, police administered a field sobriety test and the measure "usually indicates an alcohol concentration of .150 grams or more," the report states. That level is above the legal limit.

After the mayor told Huff he was going to take him home, Smith and Bridges told Usry that Huff had driven up in a city vehicle and was over the legal limit, the police report says.

However, the mayor said in today's interview that it had not been determined whether Huff was over the legal limit because no scientific test had been administered.

"For this violation, Huff has been reprimanded and suspended by the city for 10 days and must meet certain requirements prior to returning to work," the mayor said in his statement. "His actions were unacceptable and a clear violation of our city policies."

He concluded, "I have the utmost respect for all of our city employees. My immediate concern was for the safety of everyone present at the scene."

Mayor to police: 'I'm going to deal with it'

Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry can be heard on a patrol car video telling police that he will deal with an employee who police say was drunk when he drove a city vehicle to a storm-damage site Saturday night.

"I'm going to deal with it, OK?" Usry can be heard telling Patrolman Keith Smith at the scene.

Public Works employee Scott Huff has been suspended for 10 days as a result of the incident.

"I guarantee you, he's at least .15," well over the legal limit, Smith tells Usry at one point in the video. A field sobriety test had been done, but no blood-alcohol test was performed before Usry drove Huff home in the city vehicle Huff had brought to the scene.

The officers tell the mayor that they have received numerous complaints about Huff's drinking, and the mayor replies, "He drinks all the time."

"I don't normally get in the middle of it," Usry tells Smith.

"Yes, sir, I understand," the officer says.

"But when it comes to one of y'all employees," Usry says, "I'm going to deal with you."

"And that might be the best way to deal with this," the officer says.

"I don't know if that's the right way, but we're going to deal with it in my way," Usry says.

"And you're the mayor; that's your (unintelligible)," Smith replies.

An earlier video segment shows Huff being given the field sobriety test. As the mayor arrives, Smith says, "The mayor can't help you on this, Scott. The mayor has nothing to do with what we do right now."

After some discussion, Usry says to Huff, "Come on with me."