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Fired YDC employee had history of misconduct

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As a criminal investigation continues into the November death of a teenager at the Augusta Youth De­velop­ment Campus, personnel files show one of the employees fired in a shake-up there had committed three acts of employee misconduct two years earlier but received only a “discussion” from a supervisor.

During the 2009 investigation, which took more than six months, Sharon Taylor continued to receive her pay, earning nearly $19,000 during that period, according to the files obtained by The Augusta Chronicle through an open records request.

Taylor, a counselor at the YDC, was one of three employees fired Dec. 16 during the investigation into the death of Jade Holder, a 19-year-old who was fatally beaten in his cell Nov. 7. Michael Elveridge, 17, has been charged with murder in the case.

Taylor’s dismissal letter said she was being let go because of her relationship with a youth identified as S.S. “while he was under the care and custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice and after his release from the facility.”

The department has declined comment on the nature of the relationship.

In 2009, Taylor was suspended with pay for 28 weeks during a different investigation. At a biweekly salary of $1,350.76, she was paid $18,910.64. The investigation found Taylor violated employee conduct rules three times but she was allowed to return to work with no other penalty other than a discussion with her supervisor.

Emily Gest, who was Juvenile Justice’s communications director un­til she left Jan. 3, said in an e-mail, “I can’t speak for what happened under a prior administration – particularly since many if not all of the decision makers are no longer working here. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of the public’s resources, and present policy is to expedite investigations involving employees on paid suspension.”

An incident report filed March 25, 2009, said correction officer Carla Chance accused Taylor of employee misconduct. Chance said Taylor had been “asking personal questions” about her pregnancy, obtained personal information about her and shown up to one of her doctor’s appointments to argue about correctional officer Roosevelt Mealing. The director at the time, Tom Brady, suspended Taylor the next day.

Todd Weeks, who was the director of the Eastman YDC until Feb­ruary 2011, started the investigation May 19 – almost two months after Taylor was put on suspension – and finalized a report July 9. Taylor, still on paid suspension, returned to work three months later in October.

In the investigation report, Weeks found Chance and Taylor were both pregnant with Mealing’s children. It also stated that Mealing had dated Kendra Strowbridge, who was a lieutenant at the facility at the time and was one of the employees demoted Dec. 16.

Strowbridge, who had been promoted to assistant director at the Augusta YDC, accepted a demotion and transfer and is now a lieutenant at the Augusta Regional YDC. Her dismissal letter said she was let go because of “the department’s loss of confidence in your leadership abilities.”

Weeks’ 2009 report said Mealing had filed several complaints against Strowbridge for “sexual harassment and retaliation,” but that Strowbridge said they were unsubstantiated. Strowbridge was not mentioned in Weeks’ findings.

However, Chance, Mealing and Taylor were listed as violating the ethics standard because their relationship had “caused conflicts of interest among staff and resulted in a disruption of the daily operation of the facility.”

Taylor was accused of two other violations as well. The fighting between Chance and Taylor at the facility had caused other staffers to complain to their supervisors. On one occasion, Taylor had to be escorted off campus.

Taylor’s third violation was that she had “failed to fully cooperate with the investigation when she made false and misleading statements,” Weeks stated. Weeks alleged that Taylor lied to him about the day she went to visit Chance at her doctor’s appointment. Taylor denied in the report that she had visited Chance at the doctor’s office. Mealing, Chance and a few others said she had been there.

Mary Fletcher, Juvenile Justice’s program coordinator for Secure Cam­puses, received at least three recommendations to fire Taylor from the regional administrator, program coordinator/director of secure campuses action and the facility director. However, the employee relations manager and legal services both stated there was not sufficient legal evidence to terminate her employment.

The “director’s final submis­sion” was submitted Oct. 6, and Taylor was taken off suspension Oct. 8. Her discussion with her supervisor, however, did not happen until Dec. 23.

 Taylor's personnel file also revealed some past problems with the law. In filling out a Georgia Security Questionnaire Loyalty Oath, she reported three incidents where she was convicted by federal, state or other law enforcement authorities. She acknowledged a speeding citation, a lack of insurance proof citation and theft by receiving charge.

When given space on the form to explain, Taylor wrote that she did not “really think I was speeding, but I accepted the ticket and I paid it.”

For the insurance citation, she said she was driving her sister’s car home because her sister was under the influence. She acknowledged that she knew her sister did not have insurance.

She explained the theft by stating, “I can’t explain why I bought something for less. Back then it seem(ed) like the right thing to do.”

On the bottom of the page, under the explanations, she wrote, “We live and we learn,” and included a drawing of a “smiley” face.

Taylor’s records stated she was given two promotions since her hiring in 2006 – one in September 2007 and another in May 2008.

TERMINATIONS, SUSPENSIONS FOLLOW DEATH OF AUGUSTA YDC INMATE

On Dec. 16, five employees were fired from the Augusta YDC in the aftermath of the death of inmate Jade Holder. Through an open records request, The Augusta Chronicle obtained their dismissal letters.

• Sharon Taylor, a counselor, was fired based on her relationship with a youth identified as “S.S.”

• Christopher Cann, a corrections officer, was dismissed based on his failure to retrieve contraband from youths under his supervision and report the contraband to his supervisor.

• Natasha Neely, also a corrections officer, was fired over misconduct. Her termination letter said she violated Department of Juvenile Justice policy when she “observed a serious violation of the contraband policy and failed to immediately report the incident to (her) supervisors.”

• Two assistant directors, Kendra Strowbridge and Lawrence P. Cloutier, were let go because of “the department’s loss of confidence in your leadership abilities.” The letters said that because of their long service, the department was offering them new positions. Cloutier is now a juvenile counselor at the Regional Youth Development Campus in Sandersville, and Stowbridge is a juvenile corrections lieutenant at the Augusta RYDC.

• Two people were put on suspension with pay in the beginning of November for possible employee misconduct. Former department spokeswoman Emily Gest would not say whether the suspensions were part of the Holder investigation. Heather Gates, a security officer, was suspended with pay Nov. 9. The suspension was extended Nov. 14 “as the investigation (is) not yet complete,” according to her notification letter. Gates resigned from her position at the Augusta YDC on Dec. 23 according to Jeffrey Coleman, the department’s legal service officer.

• Victor Martin was placed on paid suspension Nov. 10. His extension letter, dated Nov. 14, said he “will remain in effect until the investigation is completed and you are notified to return to the facility.”

– Summer Moore, staff writer

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copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 01/07/12 - 09:44 am
0
0
This just shows a person can

This just shows a person can work for the government yet, be so incompetent they allow someone to be murdered right under their nose, and ONLY lose the government job! I wonder if this person lost their pension.

raul
5714
Points
raul 01/07/12 - 01:34 pm
0
0
Could you imagine working in

Could you imagine working in a place like this? Sounds like the employees aren't any better than the inmates.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 01/07/12 - 01:46 pm
0
0
copperhead, I only scanned

copperhead, I only scanned this article, but there was a previous one that spoke of termination in one breath and reassignment in the other. I don't think, many, if any, actually lost their jobs, just got moved to another locale.

Yes, raul, that place gives law enforcement a black eye. It is my understanding this facility is contracted out, so maybe that is the real problem; they may not be LEO's.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/07/12 - 02:29 pm
0
0
Absurd to be paid for so long

Absurd to be paid for so long and then only receive a verbal warning. All of this money should be paid back to the state.

For all of those transferred, they should be fired.

Willow, this place is not run by Law Enforcement Officers nor are the employees LEO's. The current director that was appointed for 90 days is a LEO / Police Chief who was brought in to clean up the mess but most likely will not stay in the position. As a matter of fact, some police officers with many years of experience and great records were denied positions recently due to lack of experience in juvenile justice corrections.

raul
5714
Points
raul 01/07/12 - 04:35 pm
0
0
@Asitisinaug. Are juvenile

@Asitisinaug. Are juvenile justice corrections officers "qualified" as LEOs? Seems to me police officers would be a welcomed asset to YDC.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 01/07/12 - 05:24 pm
0
0
Why is anyone surprised? The
Unpublished

Why is anyone surprised? The school system does the same thing with teachers that abuse students.

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 01/07/12 - 06:00 pm
0
0
(R)aul, You must be new to

(R)aul,

You must be new to the GA governmental scene. Fortunately during my thrity years-plus in various positions in several levels of government, I worked with many good people. But many other employees were good-for-nothing and were tolerated for political, kinship, and "social" reasons. I use the term "social" because the filter would reject a more definitive description of the nature of these "social" relationships.

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 01/07/12 - 06:01 pm
0
0
OOPS: thirty not thrity.

OOPS: thirty not thrity.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 01/07/12 - 06:33 pm
0
0
@Asitisinaugusta, "As a

@Asitisinaugusta, "As a matter of fact, some police officers with many years of experience and great records were denied positions recently due to lack of experience in juvenile justice corrections."

Perhaps YDC officials feared a qualified Law Enforcement Officer would place them under arrest for their unlawful behaviors. There really needs to be a watchful eye on that place from the inside until the new management can restore public trust. I would be very surprised if there are not lawsuits as a result of their practices.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/08/12 - 04:12 am
0
0
Willow, I very much agree. I

Willow, I very much agree. I am not a big fan of law suits, probalby because so many are frivilous...but, in this case they seem to be warranted as well as possible criminal charges.

Raul, you can work as a juvenile correction officer, state corrections officer, jailer in county jails, etc. and not be a certified or POST qualified law enforcement officer.

allhans
24818
Points
allhans 01/08/12 - 08:45 am
0
0
You know what? This is not

You know what? This is not even surprising it has become so common place.

Ole School
1
Points
Ole School 01/08/12 - 08:57 am
0
0
Mr., Spinks so everything is

Mr., Spinks so everything is not always black and white is what you are trying to say ....... RIGHT ?

EyeMaeNo
20
Points
EyeMaeNo 01/08/12 - 11:52 am
0
0
@asitisinaugusta ... kind of
Unpublished

@asitisinaugusta ... kind of curious how you know certain info regarding the possible intent of Chief Jones & the people whom he may have intended to bring on at YDC when only 3-4 people were privy to that info?

anngunter24
0
Points
anngunter24 01/09/12 - 10:28 pm
0
0
All I can say is those boys

All I can say is those boys need dedicated,loyal leaders, who are there to show them how to be productive,disciplined,and respectful young men. Yes they have made mistakes, who hasn't? They are not supposed to be treated unfairly by staff at all.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/08/12 - 03:19 pm
0
0
EyeMaeNo, if people in law

EyeMaeNo, if people in law enforcement are applying for jobs and they don't get the jobs don't think that only 4 people know about it as that would be completely naive. Frankly, with the exception maybe of national security (and even then not always) if more than 2 people know anything, then most people in the same circles will know it as well.

As for Chief Jones, he is a superior Law Enforcement Officer and I believe he will do a good job of cleaning up the place to the best of his ability. However, this is run by the state and the higher up you go in government or politics the more problems you will run into as well as bureaucracy, etc. which is not a positive thing in my opinion.

EyeMaeNo
20
Points
EyeMaeNo 01/08/12 - 03:40 pm
0
0
Not attacking dude & I agree
Unpublished

Not attacking dude & I agree ... except NO ONE actually applied for those positions you speak of. They were recommended by Gary Jones & the new "High Priestess" shot him down to bring in her OWN people; which pretty much ties his hands in making changes he feels are needed out there. So in less than 90 days it will be more of the same for YDC ... business as usual.

On another note, I loved your post regarding the overtime pay, however, there is ONE person at RCSO who is having their college paid for by the county, while using a county car & county fuel!!! It should be checked into.

AtiredLittlesister
0
Points
AtiredLittlesister 01/08/12 - 06:12 pm
0
0
Omg this have gottn really

Omg this have gottn really out of control!!! What do my sister past have to do with this child's murder??? Why are you guys trying to put the blame on the wrong person!!!! She wasn't at work at the time of the murder and as far as youth ss relationship,she'sjust a caring person!!!! Why the media trying to make it seems like it was sexual relationship!!! If so,why aren't any charges filed?? But there will be on her end!!! This is the exact reason why i don't read the paper or look at the news,BECAUSE ALL OF IT IS ALWAYS SWITCHED AROUND AND STIRRED THE DUCK UP!!!! Let me tell you the facts about Ms.Sharon Denise Taylor,she's the oldest child out of 6! She attended L.C.L highschool.GRADUATED!! Went to 3 colleges which she was successful at all of them!! Never took assistance,therefore she has always been a taxpayer!! You guys went 10 years back but all you guys bringing up is. BS i gmt even say bad things because driving your intoxicated sister home is such a good thing to me!! And if things was as bad as you guys trying to make it seem with ms.chance situation,why wasn't she fired!!! With that being said and done I'm about to leave you guys with my sister,SHARON DENISE TAYLOR'S MOST POPULAR PHRASE "BABY SISTER, THEY TALKED ABOUT JESUS CHRIST,AND HE STILL DIED ON THE CROSS FOR US"!!! JUST TO LET U GUYS KNOW, her strength is as powerful as the name JESUS!!!! SHE WON'T BREAK;)

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/08/12 - 06:29 pm
0
0
EyemaeNo, didn't think you

EyemaeNo, didn't think you were attacking and from what I understand, you are fully correct. I don't know Gary's plans but no true "Leader" will stay where his hands are tied and he is force to make terrible decisions if that is actually the case.

If correct, agreed.

GaOldCompass
0
Points
GaOldCompass 01/09/12 - 10:23 am
0
0
There are excellent people in

There are excellent people in all levels of government. And these excellent people know that they can't change "the game". Why are correctional people in all levels not fired for inappropriate/unprofessional behavior? They can't find anybody else that will do the dirty and unappreciated job. Not to mention the in-house backstabbing.

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