Home / Featured / More emails shed more light on Jones allegations timeline, raise more questions

More emails shed more light on Jones allegations timeline, raise more questions

As we continue to delve into the issue of who knew about the serious sexual harassment allegations against Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones, and when, more emails have come to light that seem to indicate that, contrary to statements from current and former officials, more people knew than originally reported.

As we have reported on the air, online and on “Ask Your Neighbor,” former HR Director Russell Bearden said that the first complaint he had received had come into his email inbox on the evening of May 5th, 2015. In two sworn statements, Bearden stated that he had told County Mayor Terry Frank about the allegations, and in the second sworn statement given on February 27th of this year, that she had expressly told him not to tell County Law Director Jay Yeager about the complaint.

Yeager, in an email to WYSH Radio owner Ron Meredith, said that he did not learn of the allegations of harassment against Jones until late summer 2017, when an anonymous letter detailing the accusations was delivered to the Courthouse, and that only the Mayor had been told. His statement to Meredith repeated Bearden’s assertion that the mayor had directed him to stay quiet about the issue.

After we reported on that, a private citizen delivered an email exchange between Bearden and Yeager from May 6th, 2015 in which they discuss the allegations and Yeager informs Bearden that “only the voters” could force Jones as an elected official to undergo sexual harassment training with a Nashville law firm.

Since the news of the allegations made by now eight women against Jones was first reported, those two men have stood firm in their claim that only the mayor knew.

Following her appearance on “Ask Your Neighbor” on Tuesday, Mayor Frank provided WYSH with documents she herself had obtained through an open records request. Among those was a statement from IT Director Brian Young (pictured here) that he could find no trace of an email from the original complainant to Bearden in the former HR Director’s email, writing “I cannot verify this particular email’s existence as it’s either been deleted or never was delivered to this account.”

Further, the mayor also provided an email from Bearden to then-Trustee Rodney Archer, who was the Chair of the County Human Resource Committee, dated May 6th, 2015 in which Bearden seeks Archer’s guidance and included the purported email as an attachment. Archer replied, according to the documents, that “This is a first for me. I’m not really sure what to say. I can get involved if you think it is appropriate. I’m not really sure if it is or not. Thoughts?”

A subsequent email (pictured below) from Bearden to Mayor Frank on May 11th, 2015 says “The meeting with the official went better than I ever expected on Friday! It was very well received and was truly concerned. He has agreed to go to class, in a few weeks. It will take that long to set it up. The attorney is also preparing a letter stating that this type behavior would not be covered under the County’s insurance policy.” This backs up a memo he sent to the Mayor later that month–May 29th–in which he wrote: “I repeatedly tried to contact [the complainant], by phone, to discuss the differences in the stories and to try and get any additional information. I have [the complainant’s] resignation text to [an employee’s] phone in which she made no mention of any type of harassment. Based on the two matching statements (from Jones and the staff member) and the inability to get [the complainant] to contact me back, I consider this matter closed unless more information comes forward.”

According to the documents, Bearden did forward the original complaint email to an attorney at Ogletree Jenkins, a Nashville law firm that offers sexual harassment training, bringing the total number of people who “officially” knew about it to five.

On a related note, a records request by WYSH for all of Yeager’s email correspondence with Commissioners and other elected officials NOT protected by privilege from February 1st, 2018 to April 12th was denied because, according to the response, that information is not able to be shared under state law, specifically T.C.A 23-3105 (attorney-client privilege).  We are exploring our options to obtain NON-PRIVILEGED communications between Yeager and those other officials.

As more information becomes available, we will pass it along to you.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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9 comments

  1. So it is clear, and on the record, that the original sexual harassment complaint against William Jones was resolved by the Human Resources director in 2015. But it was dragged up, and embellished, by our esteemed Law Director in late 2017, just in time for the current elections. The new allegations, and sworn statements contrary to original records, were orchestrated by who? I vote Yeager. And why? I vote it was to smear Jones in an effort to put in Lynch, a Yeager crony.

    I’m definitely still voting for William Jones.

  2. Jones has lost my vote. Won’t vote for a man with clear issues and 8 different women. The interesting thing at this point is Yeager’s involvement, which seems clearly orchestrated when this many people have shown to be known. Also regarding privilege, it has to be for the purpose of seeking, obtaining, or providing legal assistance to the client. General emails not regarding confidential information or involving a client or situation aren’t privileged. You should certainly be getting most documents Ron. Make specific requests to documents that you believe, and you should hopefully receive them sooner rather than slowing and delaying this process. Best of luck. The documents should be available.

  3. Again a double standard in this country and county. If our president can have his attorneys office raided surely the Anderson County law directors office can be raided…County commission stand up and fire him now! He has run this county long enough… I am in full support of Ron Meredith and the WYSH staff, please inform the people with names of elected officials playing politics. I sure hope people stand up this time.

    • Mr. Evans, thank you for your position on the law director. I don’t think there is a single commissioner that has ever not accepted whatever lies and misinfirmation Yeager has handed them. I think this should be the single most important issue confronting commission candidates in their upcoming elections. Example: what is your assessment of the commission’s employee, Jay Yeager? Have you inquired as to how many complaints he has had made against him to the lawyers Board of Professional Responsibility? Do you think he is better than a professional purchasing agent, such as Pamela Cothram, at negotiating contracts? Is that even his job? Can you think of much of anything of significance that he hasn’t poked his nose into? And messed up on? And, finally, do you really think he hung the damn moon?!?

  4. What and when is just a distraction. In the end, Jones is responsible for what happened. Yeager, Frank, and Bearden all knew as early as 2015, and sat on it for the sake of their own political careers while these women suffered. Shame on all of them, and anyone else who thinks that these women’s safety is less important than politics.

    • For your information, your statement makes no sense. You say what and when is a distraction and Jones is responsible but then say shame on them for sitting on it. The whole what and when question is about getting the truth out about Yeager sitting on it. So no, I don’t find exposing Yeager and Bearden who evidently think politics is more important than women’s safety is “just a distraction.”

      Also, Jones is certainly responsible for what happened. Truly shame on him.

  5. Frank knew too and also sat on it. She is not Jones’s boss, but she could have done something for those women. You said I made no sense, then agreed with almost everything I said. You want Yeager blamed, I get that. But all 3 knew about it, and put politics first. Meanwhile, those women had to deal with it alone.
    Blame IS a distraction at this point. Keep the focus on Jones. Hopefully soon we will see him gone.

  6. Let’s try explaining my comment to you a second time. If you had simply said “what and when is a distraction. We should only care about what Jones did wrong and nothing else,” your argument would have made sense. You simply discredited your initial statement by addressing the other three parties named in your post and shaming them. Just detailing the poorly worded nature of your statement. No need to get angry. This post about Yeager being blamed is because he lied about knowing nothing and Ron is showing that he most certainly did.

    • I’m not angry, but Frank knew too and you seem pretty focused on Yeager. Ron reported all 3 knew in 2015. You only seem to want to “shame” one of them and then me too. “Let me explain this to you a second time”. Really, man?
      As you said, this is Jones fault. Everyone else is just playing politics with it.

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