Another ECSO jailer arrested
By By Lisa Tindell
For the second time in as many weeks, the Escambia County Sheriff's office has found one of its own employees under arrest.
Alleged ethics violations were the downfall of assistant jail administrator Valerie Williams as the Escambia County grand jury made its final decisions last week.
Williams, a resident of 5434 Damascus Road in Brewton, was arrested Aug. 3 after the grand jury handed down indictments, according to Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith.
The Grand Jury docket held a record number of cases during this session, said Steve Billy, Escambia County District Attorney.
"We had more cases than ever before," Billy said. "The Grand Jury handed down 348 true bills that consisted of 291 felonies and 57 misdemeanor cases."
On July 21 Julius Ray Harris, a jailer at the Escambia County Detention Center, was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana – second degree, promoting prison contraband – second degree; and possession of drug paraphernalia. The arrest came after jail employees were searched as they reported for duty.
Charges against Williams include five counts of violation of the Alabama Ethics Law and one count of theft of property, first degree, Smith said. Bond was set at $50,000. Following her arrest on Thursday, Williams was booked into the Escambia County Jail and was transferred to another facility.
"It would have been inappropriate to house her at her former place of employment," Smith said. "We felt it was necessary to transfer her to another facility until her arraignment on Aug. 24."
In a press release Friday, Smith reported the indictments were the result of an investigation conducted by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation at the request of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
"We knew we had issues in the jail, so I made a written request of the ABI to conduct an independent investigation," Smith said. "We asked them to look into any improper actions and illegal activities on the part of our staff and take appropriate action."
The ABI did a timely and sensitive investigation of what could have been a tough situation, Smith said.
"I would like to thank the ABI for a thorough and professional job," Smith said. "It is unfortunate that every member of this office had to go through the investigation, but it was necessary."
Smith said he plans to take the same steps if these types of issues present themselves again.
"Law enforcement officers have to be held to a higher standard than the average citizen," Smith said. "The ABI handled the criminal investigation and I handled the personnel issues and decided who would continue to work for this sheriff's office."
Several personnel changes came as a result of the ABI report, Smith said.
"As sheriff, I am charged with the operation of the jail and the sheriff's office," Smith said. "I am the sheriff and I take responsibility for the actions of my employees. I also take responsibility for the correction of any wrongdoing on the part of my employees."
Smith said he could not comment further on the investigation at this time except to indicate that it is continuing.
Information on other indictments handed down by the Grand Jury are not made public until arrest warrants have been executed, Smith said.