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Records show explicit messages from Anderson Co. court clerk to employees

CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) - Records are shedding new light on an investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against Anderson County's circuit court clerk. William T. Jones was accused by several current and former employees.

Jones sent a statement to WATE 6 On Your Side saying "I categorically deny the allegations against me. What we are seeing is a premeditated political character assassination, carefully planned out and timed for release just before this election. Those who are behind this are willing to act without concern for the collateral damage done to my family. I trust the people of Anderson County to understand that an election year allegation is not an indication of truth. This is not just about me. It is the good ole boy system sending out a warning that they will not be challenged by any of us."

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to admonish and censure Jones, who did not attend the meting. Instead, Jones sent an email saying that while some minor offensive joking may have taken place, he categorically denies creating a hostile work environment.

More: Anderson County circuit court clerk center of multiple sexual harassment allegations

The 90-page document includes everything from letters, to emails, screenshots from social media, and sworn testimony from women who share what happened inside and outside of work.

In a letter to the county's human resources department, an employee explains what happened, how it made for a stressful work environment and that she felt she had to watch her back every step. She says it started on Snapchat.

In conversations between the woman and Jones, he sent a suggestive meme and in another a graphic sexual request. The woman said she stopped using the app and her husband reached out to the Department of Labor, the attorney general, and many more people for help.

Jones took office in 2014. He had a meeting in May 2015 with the former Anderson County human resources director, Russell Bearden.

Bearden's affidavit notes during their meeting they talked about recent reported sexual harassment complaints. Bearden expressed the seriousness, then notes Jones laughed saying, "The beauty of this is that I don't report to anyone. I don't have a boss. I could sit in my office butt-naked with the door open and there's nothing you can do about it."

At that time it was recommended Jones go to a law firm for sexual harassment training, Jones initially agreed but then canceled.

Included in the documents is an email to Bearden from a woman interviewed by Jones for a job. She says he asked if she had a boyfriend, about her faith and told her to smile saying, "You look prettier when you smile."

Then in September 2017, the county let Jones know he was being investigated and they began interviewing a number of women alleging harassment.

Women say in their sworn testimony that Jones called himself "daddy" at work, grabbed an employee by the waist, and referenced they wear tighter clothing.

During the conclusion of one interview a woman said, "I just feel like he needs stopped. I think everybody is a victim that works for him, even if they don't come forward."

Jones has not returned any phone calls.

Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager says Jones could be disciplined. Yeager there are three ways Jones be removed from office:

  • Jones could be dismissed by a judge under Title 18 of the Tennessee Code.
  • An Ouster suit could be filed, which is a state law for removal of public officials.
  • If there are criminal proceedings and Jones is convicted of misconduct in office, he could be removed and it comes with a 10-year prohibition of public service.

The district attorney's office could not comment on the allegations.

Yeager says the county's liability is a big concern. Yeager adds they're doing their best to take care of the employees by offering counseling, job assistance, and job placement with the county to those who have been fired. Yeager says the county wants to make sure Jones stops and knows what he's accused of doing is wrong.

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