A Columbia County jail sergeant has retired from the sheriff’s office amid personnel investigations prompted by an internal complaint.
Sgt. Carolyn Townsend was placed on administrative leave in late October. Around that same time, jail commander Capt. Tony Weaver was also placed on leave for a separate complaint. Sheriff Brian Pixley said the two complaints were unrelated and do not involve criminal accusations of their conduct, though he would not elaborate on the nature of the complaints.
The investigation into the complaint made against Weaver is still ongoing, and the sheriff said he is in the process of determining if the investigation into the complaint against Townsend will proceed in the wake of her retirement.
According to Pixley, the sheriff’s office handles their own personnel investigations when they are not of a criminal nature. The investigation into Weaver is being conducted by former chief deputy Steve Salle, who was appointed to that position in an interim capacity following former Sheriff Jeff Dickerson’s retirement in mid-2018 until Pixley took office.
“He’s one of the most impartial and thorough people I know,” Pixley said. “If there’s something to uncover, he’ll find it. He’ll leave no stone unturned.”
Pixley said the sheriff’s office would be wrapping up that investigation as soon as they could, but Salle still had several more interviews to conduct. When asked how seriously he was taking the investigation, Pixley said action was taken to ensure that accountability measures were being met within 24 hours of the received complaints.
“I ran on a campaign of keeping my staff accountable, and this is how I do that. I’m not trying to sweep anything under the rug. Appropriate measures will be taken depending on the seriousness of the offense,” Pixley said. “I don’t play around when it comes to any allegations.”
Since Weaver was placed on administrative leave, Lt. Brooke McDowall has taken over as the interim jail commander. Pixley admitted having two staff members on leave has resulted in additional overtime for staff in an already woefully understaffed jail. The Chronicle received a tip that members of the jail had been “jumping ship,” but Pixley said that was untrue.
“No one has jumped ship. The only people who have left the jail that I can think of in the past year are people that have taken patrol positions,” Pixley said.
Pixley said he’s been asked why he doesn’t lower his standards to hire people more quickly, but he said the hiring standards are as high as they are to ensure he amasses a top-notch staff capable of handling the work. However, according to Pixley, it’s been a slow and difficult search while competing with surrounding law enforcement agencies – the majority of whom offer better pay during a time when the state’s unemployment rate sits at low of 4.1 percent.
Pixley said he does currently have three potential hires in the process of background checks for the positions of control tech, transport deputy and corrections deputy. He also has two open positions for both an entry-level corrections deputy and a lateral, which can be found on Columbia County’s website.
The Chronicle will continue to follow-up on the personnel investigations as they wrap up and new information becomes available.