Thomson Public Works employee suspended

Mayor denies any impropriety in Huff incident

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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."

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TK3
562
Points
TK3 06/22/11 - 10:02 am
0
0
That is a clear case of what

That is a clear case of what you call arbitrary/autocratic use of authority (Good Old Boy System). You or I would likely be cited/arrested for D.U.I.!

usklxm72
13
Points
usklxm72 06/22/11 - 10:26 am
0
0
Why wasn't Huff taken into

Why wasn't Huff taken into custody? The mayor should also be arrested or reprimanded. His position does not allow him to drive someone from the scene that is violating the law. What is the policy on driving county/city vehicles that the employees signed off on when hired or when polices change? Of course, Thomson does not have an employee handbook or no one qualified to prepare a handbook. When will Thomson/McDuffie County hire a qualified HR rep to run their Human Resources Department? The citizens and employees are becoming educated to their rights. The "that-a-boy" mentality must change.

emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 06/22/11 - 10:26 am
0
0
I agree. Employment

I agree. Employment consequences (suspension) because you were DUI on the job is a totally separate issue from legal consequences (arrest).

"My immediate concern was for the safety of everyone present at the scene."

Just exactly how would arresting him and booking him for DUI endanger the safety of everyone present at the scene?

lightsspeed
0
Points
lightsspeed 06/22/11 - 11:03 am
0
0
Sounds like the Police might

Sounds like the Police might have been to scared to arrest him seeing that the last two officers who were doing their duty were terminated and had their good names run through the mud... It appears that it may be time for the State of Georgia to start looking into the Thomson Police Department and Thomson City Government...

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 06/22/11 - 11:58 am
0
0
I wish I'd had someone pick
Unpublished

I wish I'd had someone pick me up after one of my DUI"s. (3) I learned the hard way and don't drink anymore. Personal choice. My wife now uses me as the designated driver.

lightsspeed
0
Points
lightsspeed 06/22/11 - 12:19 pm
0
0
Question: Has the City of

Question: Has the City of Thomson ever terminated any employee of color or female for being under the influence of ETOH/Drugs while on duty? If so sounds like a good case for a EEOC claim or even a possible Class Action suit for discrimination. Since the Mayor is White and Mr. Huff is White and they are both male. The city of thomson is an HR nightmare just waiting for a really BIG lawsuit and it may be coming sooner than later....

Sweet son
11651
Points
Sweet son 06/22/11 - 02:30 pm
0
0
EEOC, NAACP, Class Action

EEOC, NAACP, Class Action suit, White, HR and lawsuit! Sounds like sour grapes from a current or former Thomson employee! POOP! Oh, didn't mention NAACP, Justice Department or even ACLU; maybe they should have been included!

da-realist
8
Points
da-realist 06/22/11 - 02:57 pm
0
0
The good ole boy system is in

The good ole boy system is in place all over the CSRA. I'm surprised it even made the news. Any law breaking citizen driving DUI in a company vehicle would have been terminated. No mention of the charges either. GBI needs to do some snooping.

lightsspeed
0
Points
lightsspeed 06/22/11 - 03:03 pm
0
0
No never worked for

No never worked for them....Just another small town gov at it's finest.

"EEOC, NAACP, Class Action suit, White, HR and lawsuit! Sounds like sour grapes from a current or former Thomson employee! POOP! Oh, didn't mention NAACP, Justice Department or even ACLU; maybe they should have been included!"
But by your post you must work for Thomson city hall

Sweet son
11651
Points
Sweet son 06/22/11 - 06:03 pm
0
0
Naah lightspeed, never did

Naah lightspeed, never did never will! Hope the McDuffie citizens stir it enough so that it will satisfy all of their citizens and of course you! No disrespect meant!

OhWell
326
Points
OhWell 06/22/11 - 06:39 pm
0
0
This is not about race, it is

This is not about race, it is about the law. I am as white as Mr. Huff but if I were caught in my company car under the influence I would be in trouble. I would expect charges to be brought if I were in the presents of law enforcement and very serious repercussions from my employer. The city of Thompson is liable for accidents caused by their employees when in a city vehicle. This could have been a costly ride for the tax payers. Most municipaities try to provide a safe haven for their citizens and this is not being done by not punishing drunk drivers. While Thompson is a beautiful town I am proud I do not have to call it home. The mayor has set a bad example for law abiding citizens.

lightsspeed
0
Points
lightsspeed 06/22/11 - 07:48 pm
0
0
The point I was trying to

The point I was trying to make was the last Police Officer to be terminated from the City of Thomson was a Hispanic female who was fired just because she was pregnant but now that it's ok to be DUI in a city owned auto and all you get is a 10 day vacation. the people of Thomson really need to reconcider who they have for Mayor, City Admin, Police Chief, HR Manager... Just Search for Thomson, Ga and just look at all the trouble this little city Gov. has caused...

areyoukiddinme
1
Points
areyoukiddinme 06/22/11 - 08:56 pm
0
0
No it wasn't the place for

No it wasn't the place for him to be because he was about to go to jail Mr. Mayor. You weren't trying to bypass the police, you DID bypass the police by saying "we're going to deal with this my way" and taking him home. Mr. Huff should have been arrested for dui if he was found over the limit and Mr. Usry for obstruction of an officer. The police are scared that the mayor will fire them for doing their job... What if Mr. Huff had a wreck and hurt/killed someone? Next time the TPD stops a dui suspect and reads them their rights, the suspect should say, "Ok, I don't need a lawyer, can I just call Mr. Usry...?" Augusta Chronicle should get the video and post it!!

Connor Threlkeld
998
Points
Connor Threlkeld 06/22/11 - 09:34 pm
0
0
Video should be online

Video should be online momentarily, hosting service is taking its time processing it!

infoman
1
Points
infoman 06/23/11 - 08:24 am
0
0
WELL, then! Lord Kenneth

WELL, then! Lord Kenneth Usry rescues Sir Alfred (Scott) Huff once again. Anyone who listens to the audio which accompanies this video clip should be able to decipher the obvious protective nature of the Mayor when dealing with this intoxicated employee. "We may have to write him a damn DUI ticket tonight". Words straight from Usry's mouth. Wake up, citizens of Thomson. It makes no difference who the Mayor is or what his underlying intentions are. He has blatantly interfered with law enforcement and stated he was going to do things "my way". According to Usry's written statement which was released Tuesday and read on WTHO news, he was "driving the neighborhoods to inspect storm damage when he noticed Huff talking with police". The audio plainly reveals Usry stating that "I got a call to come up here". The officer later states "that's the reason we called you up here". Where is the truth? In the audio that proves Usry was lying from the beginning. Watch the video on WJBF's website an notice the Mayor's undeniable hidden smirk while the camera is in his face as he defends his actions and denies any impropriety.

SnowBallCity
2
Points
SnowBallCity 06/23/11 - 11:07 am
0
0
Some good people who simply

Some good people who simply make a mistake, get their bank accounts and dignity dragged through the mud for a number of months, while others get a free ride home to sleep it off (from the Mayor no less).....................That ain't right.

usklxm72
13
Points
usklxm72 06/23/11 - 12:58 pm
0
0
The mayor needs to step down

The mayor needs to step down and Huff needs to resign. But of course, that will not happen unless the citizens push it. It is not a racial issue. Who is the HR manager in Thomson, anyway?

Andyinc30906
0
Points
Andyinc30906 06/23/11 - 06:01 pm
0
0
Lightspeed, they will not be

Lightspeed, they will not be called because of the lack of an arrest. USK. I guarantee you in a small town if he is fired or arrested it will be a racial issue.

Andyinc30906
0
Points
Andyinc30906 06/23/11 - 06:09 pm
0
0
The second part of that

The second part of that article reads as if the Officer was doing what was suggested by the Mayor. Well everyone has someone to answer to. I will not knock the officer for his lack of action because of the higher authority figure present. What you all have to remember an arrest is at the "officer's discretion." He clearly made a choice. Now he has to hope that the gentlemen does not do this in the future. The city will lose, the officer will lose and the family of the officer will lose. Pray this man does not get out and kill someone because of DUI. The mayor needs to keep his nose out of Law Enforcement business.

infoman
1
Points
infoman 06/23/11 - 08:24 pm
0
0
Let's get this in order.

Let's get this in order. First the mayor stated that he was just riding around and noticed Huff talking to the police. The audio from the dashboard cam of the police car says differently. He was called and asked to come to the scene. He admitted that he was called and the investigating officer also admitted that Usry was called to the scene. And someone called the Mayor a "higher authority figure". He wishes! He is a figurehead that is elected to represent the citizens who put him in that office. He has no more legal authority than Huff himself did. He is just the puppeteer as long as he has the strings in his hands. There was clearly a choice made; albeit the wrong one. Had the Mayor not been called the situation would have probably ended with a well deserved arrest. Perception is truth and tolerance is permission. The Mayor needs to recognize a train wreck when it occurs and let the dust settle before interjecting himself forcibly into a situation which he has absolutely no business interrupting. He compromised a police investigation and the Chief of Police should be livid. There is a difference in being hired to perform a specific set of duties (law enforcement) and being elected to moderate business proceedings (the Mayor). KNOW YOUR ROLE. The office of Mayor should be built on respect and protection of the citizens and general public. And one last caveat; how can anyone confuse racial motivation with the plain truth? The camera doesn't lie. Neither does the microphone. There is black and white. There is right and wrong. Then there is sober and drunk.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 06/23/11 - 08:55 pm
0
0
The Mayor had NO BUSINESS

The Mayor had NO BUSINESS interfering in a police matter. The officers should have made the arrest, asked the mayor (even though he is also their boss) to back off.

Based on the current information of what happened, the Mayor could certainly be arrested for his actions.

buyer11191983
0
Points
buyer11191983 06/24/11 - 11:13 am
0
0
IF ANYONE KNOWS WHO TO CALL

IF ANYONE KNOWS WHO TO CALL TO GET THIS MAYOR OUT LIKE FBI OR WHOEVER , PLEASE DO FOR ALL OF US WHO WOULD OF WENT STRAIGHT TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT 200 DOLLARS !!!!!!!!!!!
YOU THOMPSON PEOPLE SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED FROM THIS PIECE OF DIRT. I WONDER WHO ELSE HAS BEEN COVERED IN THE PAST THAT WENT ON TO KILL SOMEBODY IN THE FUTURE? I DON'T BLAME THE COP, HE REALLY HAD NO CHOICE. WHAT A SHAME..

buyer11191983
0
Points
buyer11191983 06/24/11 - 11:14 am
0
0
THIS IS UNREAL. THAT MAYOR

THIS IS UNREAL. THAT MAYOR SHOULD BE IMPEACHED, OR WHATEVER. WE ALL NEED TO GET HIS NUMBER, GET DRUNK AND CALL HIM. IF HE Does NOT COME GET US, WE WILL ALL START A CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT, AND GET HIM OUT OF THERE, THAT COP SHOULD OF STOOD HIS GROUND.

infoman
1
Points
infoman 06/24/11 - 12:45 pm
0
0
"Kenneth, what are they doing

"Kenneth, what are they doing to me?" Words from a genius! It is called a field sobriety test. It is a series of simple requests that you are asked to participate in and complete in the presence of a sober law enforcement official. The results of which alert the officer of the participant's estimated level of intoxication OR their innocence of any suspiscion of intoxication. It is not complicated. This test is usually followed by a scientfic test (breathalyzer or blood sample) in order to document the concentration of alcohol present in the participant's bloodstream. It is very unusual for the participant to be questioned by an elected official. This duty is usually reserved for the police officer who, by definition, is paid by the city of Thomson to enforce the laws as written. Maybe just a simple I.Q. test would suffice next time? It would likely consist of one question and one reply: Question: Mr. Usry, would you like for us to allow this intoxicated department manager to be handed over to you at this time so that no embarassment will come to him? Reply: Why yes, officer, that would be a great idea. That way, both you and Mr. Huff can retain your employment with MY city. How cosmopolitan can you get? The days of twisting the truth and getting away with it seem to be on the decline with the introduction of cameras and lapel microphones.

cushb1sc
0
Points
cushb1sc 06/25/11 - 03:45 am
0
0
I have the utmost respect for

I have the utmost respect for honest police.This is a perfect example of an officer trying to do his job only to be overriden by the mayor.I got dui drugs for refusing blood and urine test and three cans of mace while hands up and vehicle turned off,and almost got another gift until two honest lawmen stopped the plan the team had in place.I know its not what you know, but who you know and this exemplifies it fully.It is obvious police was in the right, but now could be in a compromising position concerning his abiding to the law.

infoman
1
Points
infoman 06/25/11 - 08:51 am
0
0
Channel 6 news produced a

Channel 6 news produced a piece of documentation that was signed by Mr. Huff, if I remember correctly in 2006, stating that he would never operate a city owned vehicle while under the influence of alochol. Is this something that every employee must agree to and sign OR is it something which only known violators are required to do? Obviously there is a difference in "drinking and driving" and "drinking and THEN driving". Who knew? If you play in the road long enough you will get ran over. Would somebody please just scrape up the mess and dispose of it somewhere besides under the Mayor's already lumpy rug?

OIC
25
Points
OIC 06/25/11 - 11:23 am
0
0
The Mcduffie County Sheriff

The Mcduffie County Sheriff also has jurisdiction. The video is clear evidence of Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer.

Patty-P
3520
Points
Patty-P 06/26/11 - 03:52 pm
0
0
Well we all know now where we

Well we all know now where we can get away with DUI. What the mayor does for one he should do for all.

infoman
1
Points
infoman 06/26/11 - 04:19 pm
0
0
AAAHHHHHHH! The soothing

AAAHHHHHHH! The soothing sound of the rubber hitting the road. I wonder if the next mayor, whom I suspect will be taking the oath of office long before Mr. Usry would expect it, will reflect on the present Mayor's inabilities to perform his duties in the prescribed manner? I surely hope that a burden is about to be lifted from the citizens AND employees of the City of Thomson. The present Mayor seems to have a clouded perception and understanding of his limited powers. Being the Mayor of a small town should be a privilege and an honor. I have experienced the role of leadership in a small community and I can tell you this: The people you pass on the street daily are the people you truly serve. You are no better than the "least" of your citizens. You are no better than your worst judgment decision. Citizens of Thomson, stand up! Let's put this behind us and move forward with new leadership. The things which lie in our past and the things which lie in our future are pale in comparison to the things which lie within us. The true intentions of a man will surface when he thinks that no one is watching.

dangerousdave
0
Points
dangerousdave 06/27/11 - 10:57 am
0
0
Sure wish i could get the

Sure wish i could get the Savannah mayor to get me out of 3 tickets that i have go to court tomorrow for!!!Not a chance in the world because he is too busy helping our new city manager spend 40,000.00 to redo her new office.What kinda crap is that?Just goes to show you it goes on in big cities too.Just go to Savannah Now.com and see for yourself some time!!!

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