Anderson Co. leaders condemn clerk's 'disgraceful' behavior

The Anderson County Commission chair says William T. Jones is the subject of harassment complaints from "multiple" women. Jones said he's just now learning about the complaints. He alludes to perhaps some "minor offensive joking" taking place.

'Multiple" former and current Anderson County Circuit Court office employees have accused Clerk William T. Jones of sexual harassment and abuse of his position while supervising them since 2016, records obtained by 10News show.

After a months-long review by several offices including the Anderson County law director, the Anderson County Commission heard about the case Tuesday night in Clinton.

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Interim Human Resources Director Kim Whitaker made the presentation.

“The Anderson County Human Resources Department has received multiple reports regarding unbecoming conduct in the workplace by William Jones," Whitaker said.

She listed his accusations to commissioners.

"(He's accused of) alleged instances of unprofessional comments, which include degrading nicknames, a request to dress inappropriately to please him, unlawful interview questions, unwelcome sexual advances, sexually explicit messages, solicitation of sex, and unwanted touching," Whitaker said.

Commissioners released a statement saying Jones refused to adopt county policies on harassment and failed to participate in mandatory training.

They said they're committed to providing a safe and secure workplace for all employees.

The commission publicly condemned Jones Tuesday night, passing resolutions to provide assistance for the victims and calling Jones' behavior, if the allegations are true, "disgraceful."

10News sought comment from Jones about the commission review and documents.

On Tuesday afternoon he forwarded this statement addressed to Tim Isbel, commission chairman.

"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," Jones' statement reads. "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."

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A Feb. 9 letter from Isbel to Jones states:

"The Anderson County Board of Commissioners received information from the Human Resources Department that multiple women have come forward and made allegations that you have engaged in a pattern of inappropriate and unprofessional activities generally characterized as sexual harassment."

The letter continues that the board "takes the safety and security of its employees seriously" and invited him to attend the meeting and make his own statement.

"In the meantime, please discontinue unprofessional behavior at once and do not contact or retaliate against any of the alleged accusers or employees."

Several women have met with human resources officials to relay their complaints, records show. His alleged activity began in at least 2016, and a county investigation began in 2017.

In another letter obtained by 10News, Yeager informed Jones in September 2017 that the Law Director's Office had received a complaint about him.

"Regretfully, I must inform you that Anderson County has received a sexual harassment complaint against you," Yeager's letter states. "This matter will be investigated thoroughly and the results forwarded to the proper office for additional consultation and direction."

Yeager suggested in his letter to Jones that Jones' conduct could expose the county to liability.

"During the meantime, steps will be taken to insure no additional liability can be attributed to the county," the letter states. "The original complainant will be reassigned when a new position is made available. Until then the complainant will be on administrative leave.

"This decision is primarily being made to protect the legal interests of the county and complainaint."

Jones is not charged with a crime.

The Anderson County District Attorney's Office has looked at the case, documents obtained by Channel 10 show.

Yeager last month forwarded to District Attorney General Dave Clark "file materials" about Jones' alleged conduct, records show.

Clark wrote a letter Jan. 29 to a woman who made a complaint, and he also spoke with her.

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"In response, it is unclear why Mr. Yeager sent the materials to this office," the letter states. "The materials include a number of allegations of inappropriate and even disgusting comments by the suspect. However, there is not a single allegation of any sexual contact between Mr. Jones and an alleged victim.

"While mere words may be inappropriate or disgusting or even reach the level of actionable workplace behavior, there is no evidence of a criminal act contained in the materials submitted to me.

"Criminal conduct requires the highest standard of proof and more evidence and worse behavior than the type that can be brought in a civil lawsuit by private individuals."

Clark concluded: "...even if there was sufficient proof, there are legal limits on the time within which to bring a legal action; including criminal prosecution. Several of the allegations submitted to me last week date back to period of time that is now too late to act upon."

County Mayor Terry Frank said Anderson County will continue to stay strong.

"I think it gives the county an opportunity to shore up any weaknesses in the process," Frank said. "I do know that this has been many months in addressing the matter, so I think there’s probably some improvement to be made there."

Jones, a Republican, was elected in 2014, beating Democrat Tyler Mayes.

In an autobiography on his website, Jones wrote that he has "24 years of law enforcement experience, which included arraignments and paperwork for the courts."

He states: "I have always been a man of ideals and goals."