KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Sheriff’s Office announced the firing of a third employee in as many days.
Scott Moore has been terminated from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office as a result of an internal affairs investigation that began in October, according to Sheriff Tom Spangler.
“The actions of Mr. Moore are unbecoming a Knox County Sheriff’s Office employee and extremely disappointing,” Spangler said in a statement. “His actions are not representative of the majority of the hardworking men and women at the Sheriff’s Office.”
Moore was been with KCSO since November 2014.
Moore’s termination comes two days after the announced firing of Ivan Harmon and Larry Hurst because of the same internal investigation from October.
The firings are related to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the use of inmates and county-owned resources for work on property that is personally owned, according to investigative reports obtained Thursday.
The reports included numerous interviews with current inmates, former inmates and current KCSO employees, on top of transcriptions of the interviews with Harmon, Hurst and Moore.
Noted in that report is the Sheriff’s Office code of ethics, that “prohibits staff, contractors, and volunteers from using their official positions to secure privileges for themselves or others” as well as “prohibits staff, contractors and volunteers from accepting any gift or gratuity from, or engaging in personal business transactions with and (sic) inmate or an inmate’s immediate family.”
Harmon, Moore and Hurst were all accused of selling scrap metal and wood pallets to local recycling facilities for cash.
Selling scrap metal was a violation of state law, which requires government entities receiving payment for scrap metal to accept checks or money orders.
“I made a phone call to Larry and he informed me that yes, he had also been told by Scott Moore and Ivan Harmon when to haul off scrap and each time that he did this, he turned over all cash and the receipts to Scott and Ivan. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office Finance Department has no records of ever receiving scrap metal money or receipts,” an investigator stated.
Not handing the money over to the department is also against state law.
Over a two-year span, Hurst and an officer working with the program, Joseph Cooper, had collected nearly $2,000 from scrap metal sales.
Hurst and Cooper stated they handed the money over to Moore and Harmon.
Cooper told investigators he was informed by Harmon and Moore that the money was going to the Knox County General Fund.
In their interviews, Harmon and Moore claimed they didn’t know about the state law, which was a violation in the Knox County Sheriff’s Office General Orders.
As for the wood pallets, investigators talked with the owner of the recycling facility, and he stated that he had been buying pallets from Hurst and Cooper for “years” at $1 per pallet.
He said the two would usually bring between 200 and 250 pallets once or twice a month.
That money was also given to Harmon or Moore.
Lt. Chuck McNew, the supervisor of Inmate Industries, and Moore and Harmon’s direct supervisor, told investigators that some of the money from scrap metal and wood pallets were supposed to go to a “fund for needy officers” called the Lt. David Moody Fund.
He said that order previously came from former Sheriff JJ Jones and Chief Roger Wilson, who is now deceased.
McNew said he didn’t know what was happening to the funds until Harmon handed him more than $200 in cash twice in 2020.
The two chiefs who oversee the fund both said they hadn’t received money from Inmate Industries since Wilson died, a span of three years.
Moore and Harmon said the money received from scrap metal and wood pallets went to food, drinks and snacks to officers and inmates working in the program.
That violated KCSO General Orders that require inmates to only receive meals prepared at the jail, and they aren’t allowed to receive gratuities or favoritism for their work.
Harmon, Moore and Hurst are all accused of having inmates, through Inmate Industries, work on personal projects at fleet services.
Case files show, “Mr. Hurst is accused of accepting an air conditioner from Black Oaks Church for some work that inmates had done removing brush from around some land the church had acquired.”
Hurst admitted to having inmates work on the air conditioner at fleet services.
He also admitted to having inmates fix up a car hauler trailer for him.
However, no inmates were reportedly taken to Hurst’s property, although he tried to have an inmate help him install the air conditioner at his hunting property in North Carolina after the inmate was released.
Hurst said the inmate never answered his calls when he tried to get that work done.
Harmon and Moore are accused of taking inmates to their personal property for work.
Harmon claimed the inmates only went to his personal property if he needed to make a quick errand at his home, but left the inmates unattended in the vehicle.
Moore was accused of having at least one inmate go to his property to help fix up a broken down truck.
Both Moore and Harmon were accused of bringing horse trailers to fleet services for the inmates to work on, using county-owned materials for the repairs.
The investigation found that Harmon also had inmates haul off tree parts saving a friend’s company thousands of dollars in exchange for favors.
In Harmon’s interview, he said that wood would be given to those in need so their homes could be heated.
Moore is accused of using his Knox County tax exempt number for personal purchases at Tractor Supply Company.
Tractor Supply employees told investigators that Moore had to set that up in person, and it was linked to his cellphone, not county-owned phone.
Both Moore and Harmon confessed to doing personal favors for inmates families, when the inmates were incarcerated at the time.
The Sheriff’s Office said no more terminations are expected, but they are still awaiting a State Comptrollers Report following the department’s investigation.