A Faulkner County grievance committee on Friday afternoon upheld actions taken by former Faulkner County Sheriff Karl Byrd against a former Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office detention officer who was relieved of her duties following an investigation into allegations of criminal harassment.
Former detention officer Tabatha Janiece Henderson was arrested in July on a warrant for harassing communication charges stemming from an incident involving voicemails she allegedly left on her ex-husband’s wife’s phone, resulting in the woman’s pursuit of a warrant on the basis of harassment.
When Henderson learned of the warrant on Jul. 2, she turned herself in to deputies and was booked and released from the jail.
Henderson was already scheduled for vacation the week of her arrest and was not placed on administrative leave, but was later terminated from her position.
Henderson told the grievance committee that prosecutors had dropped the charges against her and she was seeking the chance to clear her name. She also cited arbitrary claims of discrimination and discrimination due to disability as grounds for the hearing.
Henderson testified she was denied the chance to resign, unlike two other male employees who tendered their resignations from FCSO following internal investigations; and also claimed she was terminated at the end of July, six days after she submitted a request for medical leave prior to undergoing surgery.
Sheriff’s Maj. John Randall, then an internal investigator with the department, told the committee Henderson was let go from the department for "questionable" judgment after it was determined through the course of the internal investigation that Henderson had been accused of harassment in a similar incident involving her current husband’s ex-wife in Greenbrier in 2010.
"If you can’t conduct yourself off duty, how can you be expected to conduct yourself while on duty?" Randall asked.
Randall testified Henderson had never expressed an interest in resigning, even after meeting with her in late July to review the charges against her.
Jason Owens, an attorney with Rainwater, Holt and Sexton who represented the county’s interests in the case, told the panel it causes "substantial disharmony … and disunity" when a jail employee is booked and processed by coworkers.
Henderson had "every opportunity" to resign, Owens said, but didn’t.
"And there is no evidence of any disability ... other than a request for leave," Owens said. That request was also submitted "shortly after" Randall "told her what was coming," Owens contended.
In the end, the grievance committee agreed to uphold Henderson’s termination, saying Henderson did not meet her burden of proof on the basis of discrimination or retaliation and her legal rights were not violated.
(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this story and others, visit www.thecabin.net)