Investigation substantiates long-term pattern of sexual harassment at Sheriff’s Office

David Gibson, a 27-year veteran of the Spalding County Sheriff's Office, is the subject of a new investigation being conducted by the Spalding County District Attorney's Office. Gibson retired in lieu of termination May 21 in the midst of an Internal Affairs investigation pertaining to allegations of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, improper use of the Internet, conduct unbecoming a deputy and violating his oath of office. Photo courtesy of the Spalding County Sheriff's Office.

David Gibson, a 27-year veteran of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, is the subject of a new investigation being conducted by the Spalding County District Attorney’s Office. Gibson retired in lieu of termination May 21 in the midst of an Internal Affairs investigation pertaining to allegations of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, improper use of the Internet, conduct unbecoming a deputy and violating his oath of office. Photo courtesy of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office.

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Publisher’s note: Through an Open Records request to Spalding County, The Grip obtained three months of emails from the accounts of Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam, Capt. Tony Ranieri, of the SCSO Criminal Investigation Division, SCSO Records Clerk Amy Martin and Ruby King, Beam’s secretary. This request yielded the 66-page final investigative report issued by Administrative Lt. Ronald Brainard, of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that conducted the investigation at Beam’s request.

The Grip will not identify any individual that the investigation substantiated was sexually harassed.

The Internal Affairs investigation that resulted in the retirement in lieu of termination of David Gibson, the former captain over the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Patrol Division, was initiated after a female deputy alleged she had been sexual harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment since prior to her official start date with the Sheriff’s Office.

The female deputy was initially interviewed in mid-April and the formal investigation began April 29, approximately two weeks later. At that time, she met with Ranieri, who recorded multiple incidents of alleged sexual harassment and hostility in the workplace.

Ranieri then interviewed a number of additional SCSO personnel, and upon realizing the scope it would take, the investigation was soon turned over to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.

Brainard’s investigation included interviews with 19 current and former SCSO personnel nine females and 10 males – including Gibson.

In Brainard’s initial interview with the complainant, she alleged the harassment began during the hiring process and that it had been “an ongoing problem for most of her employment.”

She cited the first alleged incident that she said occurred prior to being told she was hired as a road deputy when, during a car ride with Gibson, he began to behave in a “paranoid” manner.

“As they continued to travel, he made the comment several times that if she developed or had an ‘itch,’ that he could scratch that itch and it would remain between the two of them. She understood that he was telling her if she wanted to have sex with him, that it would remain confidential. She responded to that by telling him that people have a perception about her because of her looks, etc., and regardless of what he’s heard about her from (her previous place of employment), she was going to show him that she was not that type of person. He told her he had stuck his neck out for her to get her the job and if she ever developed that itch, he would scratch it.”

Brainard’s report documents a number of incidents in which the complainant said Gibson allegedly made inappropriate comments regarding the female deputy.

“She described numerous times that Capt. Gibson would come to or be around the Patrol Room and would make unprofessional remarks towards her or about her to other deputies and their immediate supervisors,” he wrote, specifically citing the deputy’s drug cases that required her to notify a member of the Special Operations Unit.

“As a result, Capt. Gibson would make comments that she was f*cking members of the narcotics unit. If she did something with Griffin PD officers, then she was f*cking Griffin PD; whatever Capt. Gibson believed she was doing, he would make numerous comments in front of anyone that she was f*cking this person or that person, to include the Sheriff, because he backed her up on a call one time,” Brainard reported. “At first, she would defend herself. Then as time continued, she would agree with him and just say things like, ‘Yeah, I’m a big whore,’ so that he would just stop for that particular time.”

According to the complainant, these comments were frequently made in the presence of her immediate supervisory staff.

“She told me that the thing she hated most of all those incidents was that when they were said in front of her supervisors, she expected or hoped that they would address it with him (Gibson) and get the activity to stop,” Brainard wrote. “They did not and she would come to understand that he brought that wrath to many people in his own ways and there was nothing that could be done about it, so it was best to just leave it alone, endure it when you had to and move on.”

Brainard reported that this statement made by the complainant and alleged comments by Gibson were substantiated by several SCSO employees, including her supervisors.

The female deputy then cited an incident involving a ceremony for slain Griffin Police Department Officer Kevin Jordan.

Brainard substantiated that Gibson had commented in front of the female deputies co-workers that her boyfriend – a member of the narcotics unit – was outside and she should “go outside and see what pops up first.”

The female deputy admitted she became upset and challenged Gibson to take off his white shirt, which is worn by personnel in upper level supervisory positions, so they could talk about his comment. Gibson allegedly responded by stating he “would rather chew on afterbirth.”

She said she later apologized for what she described as unprofessional conduct in challenging him in such a manner, but explained how upsetting his statements were.

Another incident Brainard substantiated reportedly occurred at the Kiwanis Fair. The female deputy alleged that during that incident – during which Gibson had ordered her to walk with him – carnies who were working the fair made comments to her such as she could arrest them and do whatever she wanted as well as remarks about her body.

“She decided to ignore it and kept walking. Capt. Gibson had fallen a little behind her and when she turned around to look, he was making a gesture to the carnies where he separates his first two finders slightly and flicks his tongue between them. I have seen this gesture and it refers to performing oral sex on a female. Gibson then asked the carnies if they liked his pet,” Brainard reported.

The female deputy stated Gibson “would always either refer to her sexual life or how she did her job,” and that he used terms like “holster sniffer” and “badge sniffer,” and stated she “could not get enough.”

“Every time she had an encounter with any other law enforcement officer from any department, Capt. Gibson would make comments about her f*cking them,” Brainard reported. “It got so bad, so often, that she slowed way down on her job performance and stopped making so many cases just so she would not have to endure the harassment that would come with it.”

Brainard said this was all substantiated by other deputies.

The female deputy reported that “after she had taken the abuse so long without sign of it letting up,” she spoke with Beam and made a complaint against Gibson.

“She met him (Beam) in a parking lot while she was at work and spoke to him about it. It seemed to her that as soon as she spoke to the Sheriff, Capt. Gibson knew she had. People started coming up to her, telling her that they knew what she was experiencing, they had seen it, they had heard it, they had heard it through the grapevine and she needed to make a formal complaint,” Brainard reported. “After that, the sexual comments from Capt. Gibson stopped, but other comments were made about lawsuits, recording devices or that she had her phone on recording him. She felt she was going to receive backlash for talking to the Sheriff and waited for it to come.”

Beam did substantiate that meeting with the complainant took place.

According to Brainard, Gibson also “kept up with” the female deputy’s personal life, and would make comments about people with whom she socialized, where they hung out and what they were doing.

“He would make those comments to let her know he knew those things. She did not know or understand what business it was of his what she did with her off-duty time,” Brainard wrote, later stating “This was substantiated. Capt. Gibson did this with (two additional female deputies) as well.”

According to the investigator, Gibson monitored and tracked multiple female deputies’ personal activities through the mobile data terminals (MDTs) located in their patrol cars.

Numerous additional incidents in which the female deputy was subjected to sexually-explicit or derogatory comments were substantiated. This included the suggestion that the complainant should engage in a lesbian relationship with another female deputy.

In addition, Brainard substantiated that Gibson allegedly used his position to intimidate the complainant and others.

“Capt. Gibson would tell her he was responsible for her being hired, and never said she ‘owed’ him for that, but he implied it,” the investigator reported. “This was substantiated through different employees who stated that Gibson often presented himself as having the influence or power based on his position and who he was.”

When asked to identify others she believed had been subjected to harassment by Gibson, the female deputy cited nine individuals, and she related such incidents as an employee being repeatedly called a “fat f*ck,” another who felt they had been treated unfairly following an wreck, a female deputy who allegedly received texts messages containing images of Gibson’s penis, another female deputy who allegedly met with Gibson in county vehicles at determined locations and others females she alleged had been sexually harassed. (The Grip will later report on additional aspects of further complaints and interviews with alleged victims.) 

GIBSON DENIED ALLEGATIONS OF WRONGDOING; REQUESTED TO RETAIN JOB 

As part of his investigation, Brainard interviewed Gibson May 12.

“He (Gibson) felt he was behind the eight ball because after 27 years, no one would talk to him about since the investigation started (sic),” Brainard wrote. “As far as the sexual harassment, there is no ‘meat on that bone sort of saying.’”

Gibson reportedly stated he felt the Internal Affairs investigation against him stemmed from a prior investigation involving other SCSO personnel.

“He then went into describing his view of that investigation and how (the complainant) was involved. He believed that because of all the discipline that resulted from that investigation, this was just their way to get back at him for him. There were texts that said for those involved not to worry about it because (the complainant) had something on Capt. Gibson.”

The report states that Gibson felt he was the only one who had ever been placed on administrative leave, and that he knows people say he retaliates, but he does not, but rather overlooks more than he should with regard to disciplinary action.

“One of his downfalls was that he was too social with them,” Brainard recounted from Gibson’s interview. “He would hang out with them and cut up with them, but they always understood when the cutting up was over, that he was there for them to take care of them and get them what they need. His wife would say he is the kindest man who cares too much about people.”

Gibson denied having ever sexually harassed any SCSO employee and said he had not created a hostile work environment.

“I asked him, as the captain, did he monitor or encourage a professional work environment. I told him I knew how cops talked and he agreed we are all guilty of that. I then explained how the professionalism as you climb the ranks becomes more important because we are setting the example,” Brainard reported. “He (Gibson) agreed and said he sets the example for his troops. He’s done his best to watch what he says, especially around female deputies, and he’s spoken to supervisors with the same guidance. He said there are women in their department that have ‘mouths’ on them worse than any man. He feels the problem has gotten better because of his efforts. At this time, I thought Capt. Gibson was making a personal plea to the Sheriff. He stated he will work hard every day to do his job better and if the Sheriff would see fit to leave him in his job, he would continue to get better because this investigation has been an eye opening event for him. He asked himself, ‘Where did he go wrong.’ If he is told where he went wrong, tell him and he will correct it.”

Asked by Brainard if any previous complaints about him had been made to the Sheriff, Gibson allegedly said Beam had “talked with him two or three times.”

“He told the Sheriff to tell him who was saying it and he would go apologize and make it better. The Sheriff would tell him and he would make it better and a few months later, the Sheriff would tell him that he was not hearing anything any longer,” Brainard reported. “Capt. Gibson said he is the type of guy that if you tell him he is doing wrong, he will fix it and make it better, that he would not use his power against people.”

When Brainard specifically questioned Gibson about the female complainant’s allegations, Gibson either denied they had occurred or alleged they did not occur as had been reported.

“He (Gibson) asked why I would believe 13 people, but not him. I told him when 13 people are all saying the same thing and one person denies it all, the 13 are most likely telling the truth,” Brainard wrote. “He (Gibson) wanted to know why I wasn’t interviewing everyone in the agency.”

Brainard reported that Gibson later “went back to this whole investigation being a conspiracy against him and how things were set up to bring him down.”

Gibson later stated “that many people want him out of the way.”

Note: The Grip will continue reporting on this investigation as well as Gibson’s legal response to the allegations with articles published online at http://www.the-grip.net. 

 

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Comments

  1. Gibson abuse his power over others…being a high ranking officer…let’s sit back and see what will be done with him if anything…

  2. Clayton says:

    With the number of people that have been screwed over the years at SCSO, Gibson should’ve known how the investigation would turn out. Gibson isn’t innocent by no means, but once they’re ready to get rid of you, you’re done. There are excellent examples of Law Enforcement at SCSO, but the negative far outweigh the positive. Now if an outside agency would investigate the entire department, maybe they could rid the place of some of the power abusers. As good of a person Sheriff Beam is, he doesn’t want to hear it. He’s worked with them for many many years. Problems don’t get solved. It’s probably one of the finest examples of the ‘Good Ole Boy’ systems left in Georgia.

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