Anderson court clerk files ethics complaint against commissioners who censured him

William Jones alleges Anderson County Commission improperly acted against him Feb. 20 when it censured him and called for his resignation. He's also filed the complaint against former human resources director Russell Bearden and interim director Kim Whitaker.

Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones has filed an ethics complaint against the entire Anderson County Commission, some of whom sit on the committee to which he's making the complaint.

Jones, 49, submitted the document Wednesday to the Anderson County Ethics Commission.

That's a body that hasn't met in years - maybe since 2009, according to Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager.

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Yeager himself is named a party in the complaint. He serves as "ombudsman" to the ethics commission.

Jones provided 10News with a copy of the document Thursday. He does not list Mayor Terry Frank in the complaint.

More: More complaints emerge against Jones

More: Clerk accuses opponent amid abuse accusations

Jones was censured last month by the 16-member County Commission. Commissioners also unanimously called on the Briceville Republican to step down, something he's vowing not to do.

Jones, first elected in 2014, is running for reelection against Rex Lynch, the former Anderson County mayor who pleaded guilty in 2011 to sales tax fraud.

Last August several women reported that Jones had sexually harassed them, records acquired by 10News show. Their accusations to human resources officials included that Jones had sent vulgar social media messages, talked about women's breasts, referred to himself as "Daddy" and to at least one woman manager as a "bitch", had asked inappropriate personal questions and had bullied women employees.

Jones denies the accusations generally, although he said he engaged in some minor offensive joking.

Last month, interim human resources director Kim Whitaker presented allegations against Jones at a County Commission meeting. Jones did not attend.

Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank addressed William Jones' alleged actions Tuesday night.

Yeager notified Jones last fall he was the subject of an investigation, records show. Ahead of the meeting, commission chair Tim Isbel sent Jones a letter alerting him that commission was going to consider the case against him Feb. 20.

In his ethics complaint, Jones alleges Anderson County's government has mishandled sexual harassment accusations against him.

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"The investigation has been done without giving William Jones an opportunity to speak about allegations moved or questions by anyone," his complaint states. "An executive session was called of County Commission in which Jay Yeager, Kim Jeffers Whitaker, and 2 unknown men were present and the 'so-called facts' were deliberated and discussed that led to a decision that was made behind closed doors in violation of the Sunshine Law."

The commission's resolution condemning Jones is non-binding. It has no authority over him.

Whitaker and Russell Bearden, former human resources director, also are named in the ethics complaint. Bearden left Anderson County last fall.

Jones argues the county has failed to follow guidelines in the county code of conduct.

Commissioners in their resolution said Jones "has willfully refused to adopt, implement and participate in mandatory" harassment training.

The commission said in its resolution that Jones' conduct was "deplorable and dishonorable" if true and could leave the county vulnerable to lawsuits.

Jones also alleges county officials illegally released confidential information about him.

It's not clear how the ethics complaint will proceed. Several county commissioners sit on the ethics commission, which hasn't met in nearly 10 years, Yeager said.

Complaints against Jones date to 2015 when a woman who worked briefly for him said he'd asked her inappropriate questions and made an offensive remark after inviting her to eat her lunch in his office.

In 2014, a longtime employee in her late 60s filed an age discrimination suit against him. Jones fired her within days of taking office in 2014.

Jones said he fired her for insubordination. The lawsuit was settled for $20,000.