The controversy surrounding Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones continues to reverberate through the Anderson County Courthouse. Jones has been accused by several women of sexual harassment and with creating a hostile work environment. The County Commission on February 20th unanimously voted to publicly censure Jones and ask that he resign, but he continues to deny all the allegations and stands firm in his assertion that he will not step down. Last week, he filed an ethics complaint against all 16 County Commissioners, the Law Director, and both the former and current Human Resources Directors, accusing them of failing to follow due process and with leaking information to the media and others for political gain.
Last week, another woman came forward with allegations against Jones that date back to 2014, shortly after Jones was elected to the office, defeating interim Court Clerk Tyler Mayes in that August’s election. The complaint was originally filed with the county’s HR department in 2014, but according to the accuser, that report is no longer in her file in the HR office.
The former employee writes that she had been hired by Mayes in March of 2013 and stayed on after the election, remaining a deputy clerk. She says that on Jones’ first day in office on September 2nd, 2014, he came into the clerk’s work area, “[o]pening the door so hard it slammed against the refrigerator,” and asked them “Do a bunch of pigs work here? These same dishes have been laying in this nasty sink since the weekend. I don’t live in a pig sty at home and I refuse to work in one.”
The accuser also states that during this, the staff’s first encounter with their new boss, that Jones also ordered all staplers confiscated as he said he also saw “staples all over the floor” and that they would no longer be able to use staplers.
Jones also allegedly told the employees that he had a list of people he wanted to see in his office and that when asked why, he allegedly replied that “you may or may not have a job, you might be gathering your things and going home and not worrying about getting sworn in.” That is when the woman says that Jones asked her to step into the back room of the General Session Clerk’s office. According to the complaint, Jones asked her if she enjoyed her job and confirmed that her husband was a Sheriff’s deputy, before asking questions about her relationship with his predecessor, Mayes, including asking her if she and Mayes had ever gone on a “date.” She said no and told him that she was uncomfortable with his questioning and asked him to move from in front of the door, which he allegedly did not do, asking her if she had campaigned for Mayes during the election. She said she had because she “appreciated Tyler as [her] boss and that [she] felt he did a very good job as Circuit Court Clerk.”
Two weeks later, she alleges that Jones again called her into his office and asked if she had been on the clock when she had been campaigning for Mayes and told her that if she was that she “could go to jail for stealing government funds for campaigning for gain.” She informed him that she had been off the clock at the time and that the time off had been approved by her supervisor. Jones then allegedly asked her again if she had ever had had an inappropriate relationship with Mayes, adding “How far did you go to keep his job?”
The woman writes that she then told Jones that if he continued with questions like these that she would file a complaint with the HR office, to which Jones allegedly laughed and replied, “your efforts didn’t get you very far, don’t forget I’m the boss now.”
The complaint goes on to say that over the first few weeks of his tenure, Jones let several employees in the office go. The woman also writes that she started to stand up at her desk whenever Jones came in after he would come into her cubicle and put his hand on her shoulder while he looked at her computer screen. She also said that Jones routinely made crass jokes in the office.
In late 2014, the woman said that she reissued a garnishment on a defendant’s wages because the defendant had a judgement against them and had failed to keep the payment plan as ordered by the court. She re-issued the garnishment and the defendant’s employer than began garnishing the defendant’s wages. A few days later, the defendant came to the Clerk’s office crying and asking if the garnishment could be rescinded. The accuser informed her she did not have the authority to pull the order and the woman asked to speak with Jones.
A short time later, another employee of the office came up to the woman and told her to pull the garnishment, which she refused to do on the grounds that it would be illegal. She was then told that the defendant “was a friend of Jones’ and he wanted the garnishment pulled and that the defendant had entered into a verbal payment arrangement with him.” When the employee still refused to do it, she says Jones and the other employee (whose name is redacted in the complaint), and the other employee “screamed I “would follow the chain of command and that I would pull that garnishment.” Jones than allegedly said that she would “pull it or else,” and advised her to “know her place in the food chain.” She never pulled the garnishment.
After that incident, the woman says that, tired of “being harassed and threatened,” she filed a formal complaint with HR and ended up accepting a job in the Human Resources office under former HR Director Russell Bearden. She says that while employed in the office, she herself took phone complaints and a written complaint regarding Jones’ conduct, including that he was taking lengthy lunches with the Oak Ridge Sessions Court Office Manager, and that he was violating county rules against nepotism.
The woman says those complaints were given to Bearden, who then took the issues to the County Mayor’s office and began short interviews with Jones on the subject. In March of 2015, Bearden came to the accuser and said that Jones had complained to the Mayor that she was on a “witch hunt” for Jones. Bearden is then accused of saying that she was not being a “team player,” and that he felt she was having difficulty doing her job.
She was further told that she needed to “mind [her] own business about the Clerk’s office and that William was being sent to Nashville for sexual harassment training.
Ultimately, Bearden told her to “watch her tone or leave.” She writes that after a lengthy disagreement, she was told to leave and was “essentially fired.”
Her complaint concludes by stating that “I have inquired as to my original complaint and was told it is no longer found in my employee file.”
(Response from former Circuit Court Clerk Tyler Mayes) “I am saddened and disgusted to hear the line of questioning by Mr. Jones to this employee. I have stayed out of this mess simply to avoid any perception that this is politically motivated. But, when my name was mentioned, especially, in such a way that is wholly inappropriate and wrong, I feel the need to respond. The Office of Circuit Court Clerk is vitally important to the operations of our court system. I took that position very serious as did the men and Women before me. This debacle is a black eye to Anderson County and to the judicial system. This office is too important to be riddled with this behavior. Unfortunately, what has been overshadowed are the women who are victims to this. All involved with this mess should be held accountable. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families as they try to get through this time.”