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Anderson County circuit court clerk center of multiple sexual harassment allegations

CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) - The Anderson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to admonish and censure the county circuit court clerk based on multiple sexual harassment allegations. 

William T. Jones is currently running for circuit court clerk reelection and now is at the center of claims by four past and current employees and one citizen. 

The Anderson County Human Resources Department received the allegations and determined Jones demonstrated a "pattern of conduct that is beyond any reasonable interpretation of ethical and moral decency for anyone supervising employees." 

Some of the claims listed in the commissions resolution for Jones to resign include: Jones used degrading nicknames, requested employees dress inappropriately to please him, unlawful employee interview questions, unwanted sexual advances, sexually explicit messages, and unwanted touching. 

The Human Resources Department determined that the claims together create a hostile work environment for Anderson County employees.  

In October 2016, according to Kimberly Whitaker, the director of Anderson County Human Resources Department, the county approved Health Workplace Act policies that included elected officials. 

The policies addressed bullying in the workplace, harassment (including sexual harassment) and ethical standards. 

"Upon attending one of the sessions, Mr. Jones announced that he would not sign the form, acknowledging the training nor would he implement the policies for his department and his staff would not be attending the trainings," said Whitaker while speaking to the commission. 

In a release, Board Chairman Tim Isbel notes that Jones "willfully refused" to adopt the countywide policy on harassment, bullying, and social media. 

The release continues that Jones "failed to participate in mandatory training on these important subjects." 

In a resolution presented during Tuesday's county commission meeting, the board requested Jones resign immediately, stop any inappropriate conduct and publicly apologize to Anderson County citizens. 

Before the meeting, Chairman Isbel said Jones was given the opportunity to attend the meeting and defend his actions but chose not to attend.

Instead, he sent a letter that he requested be read at the meeting and added to the minutes. 

The letter reads: 

Dear Mr. Isbel:
 
I have just been made aware of several statements by current or former employees, as well as an individual never employed by me, which allege various inappropriate workplace actions by me.
 
While some minor offensive joking may have taken place, I categorically deny any actions which would create a hostile work environment.
 
 I suspect these false allegations are politically motivated with convenient timing. I am in the process of engaging attorneys to respond and appropriately deal with these claims. I have not been interviewed or asked a single thing about any of these matters and look forward to setting the record straight in the proper forum. 
 
A copy of this letter is being provided to each commissioner and the other officials mentioned below.  Please include a copy in the minutes.
 
Sincerely,
William T. Jones

In his statement letter, Jones says he only learned of the allegations Tuesday, but Whitaker says, he was notified multiple times. 

"I personally delivered all redacted statements to Mr. Jones last week. Furthermore, Mr. Jones has been put on notice by HR, as well as the law director and the Chairman of the Anderson County Commission." 

The commission's statement continues to state that there is no tolerance for harassment of any kind, including elected officials. 

Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, learning of the specifics of the claims Tuesday night, said she was shocked. 

"The claims are pretty serious and pretty intense. If they are true, I think it's important that there be accountability," said Frank. 

A motion was passed to allow Whitaker to help the employees that have made these statements seek counseling and receive job assistance from the commission that would allow them to be placed in new jobs that allow them to maintain income.


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