Timeline of events surrounding David Gibson’s retirement from Sheriff’s Office

Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam Photo courtesy of the SCSO

Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam
Photo courtesy of the SCSO

SHEILA A. MATHEWS

Publisher’s note: This is the beginning of a thorough timeline examining the circum­stances surrounding the Internal Affairs investigation of David Gibson, who on May 21 retired in lieu of termination from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office. The information contained within this timeline was obtained through dozens of Open Records requests and more than 200 hours of interviews and investigation. This week’s print edition covers only a portion of what The Grip has learned, primarily focusing on the circumstances surrounding the temporary restraining order that was used to sealed the investigative record. For the complete timeline of The Grip’s investigation, please visit www.the-grip.net for future updates.

On July 27, The Grip interviewed Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam about the events leading up to the issuance of a temporary restraining order that resulted in the sealing of the David Gibson Internal Affairs investigative file. Beam made the following statements.

“Again, I’m going by what I was told. I was not involved at all…This is what I have heard. Again, I was not involved in that petition. That was some of the employees talking about that and again, I’m not gonna interfere with their rights. They have a right to file it and then the judge has the right to make a ruling on it.”

When confronted with, “That’s not what this looks like. This looks like it was an in-office thing. It does not look like it was independent of the Sheriff’s Office. It looks like it was the Sheriff’s Office,” Beam responded, “Well, I hope that people’s perception will be done on a fair and impartial basis.”

Beam then made the following statements:

“I have not tried to cover this up. I will not try to cover anything up at the Sheriff’s Office. We will do things fairly and according to the law.”

“If people perceive it that way, then either they are just interpreting it that way or they’re being led by someone, by some people, but we did not have any intent to do that, nor do I have any intent to do it today. I want to get the truth out there, but at the time you’re talking about, I had been served with a restraining order.”

Reported here are the events and actions that led up to The Grip’s July 27 interview with Sheriff Beam. 

April 14, 2015

Capt. Tony Ranieri met with Sheriff Wendell Beam after having learned of Deputy Jessica Kelley’s previous complaint of sexual harassment by then Capt. David Gibson. After meeting with Beam, Ranieri reported the fol­lowing.

“On the same date, I met with the Sheriff and asked him if he had any knowledge of this to which he stated he had. Deputy Jessica Kelley several months ago had come to him regarding problems of sexual harassment that Capt. Gibson was committing in the presence of Deputy Kelley. He (Beam) informed her at that time to put those complaints and allegations in writing and get them back to him and as of that date I talked to him, I believe on the 14th of April, he had not received anything from Deputy Kelley.”

April 15, 2015

Ranieri met with Wendell Beam regarding a Kelley’s allegation of sexual harass­ment against Gibson and reported the following.

“Based on that information (from April 14) and thru some research that I did, I contacted Sheriff on April 15 and informed him that the information he had that initially was a verbal complaint and if an EOC violation occurred, EOC would not require it to be in writing other than the fact that the agency was made aware of the problem and did nothing about it.

Ranieri recommended another Sheriff’s Office conduct the investigation due to “problems that have occurred between myself as the division commander of CID and sometimes the bad attitude that Capt. Gibson has towards this division.”

April 17, 2015

Deputy Jessica Kelley spoke again with Beam and was taken to be interviewed by Ranieri. Ranieri reported he “pretty much received information that would basically show that there is a problem as far as sexual harass­ment between a captain of the Patrol Divi­sion, Capt. David Gibson, as well as members of the Patrol Division, namely the female of­ficers.”

Kelley told Ranieri she feared retaliation and was concerned she was going to be fired from her job.

Ranieri told Kelley he would be out of the of­fice on vacation and his investigation would resume when he returned April 29.

Ranieri also recommended to Beam that Gib­son be placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Ranieri reported, “The Sheriff agreed with that and that will proba­bly be announced after the 29th of April and prior to the Sheriff going on the Washington trip for the week long annual Junior Deputy trip to Washington. So at that point, nothing else would be done with this case and we will leave it at that until I get back.”

From April 29-May 5, 2015

Ranieri conducts several interviews with Sheriff’s Office employees.

May 6, 2015

Administrative Lt. Ronald Brainard, of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, met with Ra­nieri and Capt. Ron Buchanan, the Spalding County Jail administrator, and was briefed on the allegations against Gibson.

Among other things, Brainard requested a copy of the SCSO’s Standard Operating Pro­cedure and was told it was currently under revision and that there was not an active cur­rent copy, and that most of the procedures that were in place or enforced were circulat­ed in memorandums.

(Note: On July 17, The Grip submitted an Open Records request to the Spalding County Sheriff’s Of­fice seeking its Standard Operating Procedure and received a formal and com­plete copy dated September 2011.)

May 19, 2015

Brainard finalizes the report on his investiga­tion of Gibson.

May 21, 2015

Beam meets with Gibson. Gibson retires in lieu of termination.

June 4, 2015

Spalding County Attorney Jim Fortune holds meeting with Spalding County Sheriff’s Of­fice Capt. Ron Buchanan. Fortune later emails Capt. Ron Buchannan and states, “Dear Ron, As you will recall, we had a discussion this morning concerning former Capt. Gibson’s file and the possibility that someone will file an Open Record request seeking the inves­tigated file. In the event that you do get an Open Record request for this file, please do not release anything until you and I have had an opportunity to discuss it fully. I am having Clay Knowles, who is a young attorney in our firm, do some research on the Open Records Act to see exactly what we can and cannot do if we have to. As soon as we reach some conclusions on that, I will be back in touch with you. If you have any questions whatso­ever, please do not hesitate to let me know. Best Wishes. Jim”

Fortune analyzes Georgia law regarding ex­ceptions to Open Records disclosures.

June 5, 2015

A female employee of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office who was interviewed as part of the Gibson investigation submits an Open Records request for Gibson Internal Affairs investigative file.

Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Record Clerk Amy Martin emails Spalding County Attorney Jim Fortune, advising him she has received the Open Records request for the Gibson In­ternal Affairs investigative file.

Fortune analyzes Georgia law regarding ex­ceptions to Open Records requests disclo­sures, reviews Gibson investigative file for confidential information to redact, reviews female SCSO employee’s Open Records re­quest, conducts telephone conference with Knowles, conducts telephone conference with SCSO Record Clerk Amy Martin regard­ing the same and holds conference with Knowles regarding file.

June 8, 2015

Fortune analyzes Gibson investigative file and reviews necessary redactions, drafts let­ter to Open Records requestor to attach to redacted file, confers with Knowles regard­ing Gibson Open Records matter, conducts telephone conference with female SCSO em­ployee (Open Records requestor), conducts telephone conference with Martin and deliv­ers Gibson investigative file for requestor.

June 9, 2015

Fortune delivers Gibson investigative file for service upon requestor, reviews correspon­dence with requestor with copy of Gibson file for Open Records request and conducts telephone conference with Buchanan re­garding Gibson file.

June 10, 2015

Female SCSO employee (Open Records requestor) receives a portion of the Gibson Internal Affairs inves­tigative file.

June 11, 2015

Spalding County resident Will Sanders sub­mits Open Records request to Spalding County Sheriff’s Office seeking Gibson Inter­nal Affairs investigative file.

Fortune calls Open Records requestor (female SCSO employee) to dis­cuss disclosure and researches requestor’s ability to seal Open Records disclosed.

June 12, 2015

Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Record Clerk Amy Martin emails Johnnie Caldwell, a pri­vate attorney practicing in Thomaston. Her email states, “Hi, Johnnie. I was told to give you the Sheriff’s secretary name and phone number. Her name is Ruby King and her num­ber is 770.467.5413. Thanks, Amy Martin”

Attached to Martin’s email to Caldwell is the Open Records request submitted by Will Sanders.

(Note: After receiving a copy of this email through an Open Records request, The Grip later asked Martin who told her to send this email to Caldwell. Martin said the directive came from Ranieri. Ranieri later de­nied having instructed Martin to email King’s contact information to Caldwell.

On Monday, July 27, Ranieri told The Grip, “Yeah, I don’t know noth­ing about that. I do know that I had told her it was Will Sander’s Open Records request that needed to be sent to Johnnie Caldwell. That basically came from the Sheriff telling me to have her email that to him.”

Several minutes after that statement, Ranieri said, “But Will Sanders information is what the Sheriff said to send to Johnnie Caldwell because he requested it and that was after the conversation him and the Sheriff had.”)

At 10:54 a.m., Caldwell calls Ruby King, Sheriff Beam’s secretary. The following is a partial transcript of their conversation.

King: Sheriff Beam’s Office.

Caldwell: Is Miss King there please?

King: This is she.

Caldwell: Miss King, Johnnie Caldwell in Tho­maston, Ga.

King: Hi. How are you?

Caldwell: Fine, thank you ma’am. I have been faxed a copy of this Open Records request that y’all have received from this individual Will H. Sanders

King: Yes, sir.

Caldwell: I think, if I can read it.

King: Yeah, it’s Will Sanders.

Caldwell: Right, and Tony Ranieri had called me yesterday and had asked me if I would look at this and see if I could help some of the people up there and I told him I’d be happy to and I have just gotten it in my hands. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on and what the status of this thing is presently?

King: I mean, are you talking about as far as what it was about or the people involved?

Caldwell: Well, the people. I know it had to do with Gibson and him being that he resigned supposedly over sexual harassment and that’s about all I know.

King: Well, it was hostile work environment and sexual harassment. He had kinda bullied people and you know berated them and the sexual harassment has been the biggest issue especially a couple of the women, one in par­ticular, it was very graphic what he did to her. And just, you know, people have a concern about, you know, her husband finding out. I don’t think he knows that this was being done to her, so, um, you know. I was actually interviewed, but he never…he always picked or focused or I guess you’d say singled out weak people with low self esteem or some­body when they were in, you know, going through a hard time or being separated or just having a weak moment. He would kind of take advantage of it and it’s pretty, pretty, um, graphic.

Caldwell: All right. Let me ask, and I’m trying to figure out a way to help to see if we can stop this thing at least hold presently may­be. Of course, with an Open Records request you’ve got to respond within three business days.

King: Yes, sir.

Caldwell: And so this was just served yester­day, so technically, you’ve got until Monday.

King: Yes.

Caldwell: Because today’s the second day and weekends don’t count, you know.

King: Right.

Caldwell: So, you’re basically looking at Mon­day. Now, is there, and I got this from the pa­per last night. I was able to pull up, believe it or not, the Pike County Journal because I get it and I remembered something about this in it. Well, anyway, my wife knew how to do it and she found this article, and it said in the bottom of that article, that the, let me read it to you exactly what it says. It says, “The inves­tigation is continuing. When it is completed, and of course it’s talking about the Sheriff’s Office investigation, it will be reviewed by the DA’s office to determine if any criminal charges ought to be made.” Now, has this been given to the DA’s office, if you know?

King: Yes, sir. It has.

Caldwell: It has?

King: It has been. Yes, Scott Ballard has it.

Caldwell: All right. And they haven’t done anything, have they?

King: Not to my knowledge. We haven’t got­ten a yea or nay from them.

Caldwell: All right. Well, what I’m saying is. If you’ll, and this durn statute is real long. If you’ll look at this durn statute having to do with public records and the disclosure, and then you’ve got the next section, I think it’s like 50-18-72 of the official code, it talks about records that don’t have to be released.

King: Mmmhmm.

Caldwell: And it talks about certainly those which are ongoing investigations are con­tinuing you know. Well, that’s an initial way to stop it. Now, if there’s no investigation internally or with them, about the only chance we’ve got maybe is to get a redaction of names, and I don’t know if that can happen.

King: See, that would at least help if they could redact the names.

Caldwell: I understand and I’m gonna, that’s one thing. Now, I’ve got to find somebody to file out there, and what I mean, I’m not talking about me. Is this gonna be in the name of a particular woman or women or is this on be­half of the Sheriff’s Department?

King: I would actually say it would, well, without the Sheriff, with it, I don’t think the Sherriff’s Department could do it. I think it would have to be the group of people that’s involved in it. That’s how I’m kinda taking it.

Caldwell: Well, and I’m not disagreeing, but if that is the fact, then the Sheriff is who I’ve got to file this against. Does that make sense?

King: Ummm…

Caldwell: I’ve gotta file against the Sheriff and this Sanders fella and say you can’t re­lease it because of…

You understand what I’m saying?

King: Oh, yeah. That makes sense. Yes, but see, the Sheriff can’t. We had discussed it and he was saying that, well, we are considered public servants. He is a public servant, so it looks like he is trying to hide something if he’s trying to get it sealed.

Caldwell: But I just want you to understand that if I can get something put together, since it’s not for the Sherriff’s Department, you un­derstand, I’ve gotta make the Sheriff the re­spondent in this. Does that make sense?

King: It does make sense. Yes

Caldwell: I mean, I’m not after the Sheriff. I’m just trying to get this stopped.

King: Oh, yeah , I understand that. I under­stand that, because I mean, cause he is asking the Sheriff’s Office, which the Sheriff represents, for this, and see, we were told since we were public servants, that it had to be that. And I always thought you had to have a citizen be­cause it was our, you know, Internal. It was our people. No citizen was involved, so we have a hard time understanding why you can get this. You know.

Caldwell: I understand, but if you’ll look at that durn code section, that thing it’s, again I’m getting it off the top of my head, but it seems like it’s OCGA 50-18-71, and that’s the Open Records thing where it says what is, and then the next section over, as I say, is the one that gives you all the exceptions to it, you know.

King: Yeah.

Caldwell: Anyway, be that as it may, can you get this lady to call me so I can talk to her and see what we can pos­sibly some way we can try to help them?

King: Be able to help them? Do you mean (fe­male deputy)? The one that was…

Caldwell: Yes, ma’am, (female deputy).

King: She’s the main one, but we haven’t talk­ed to her. Now, you know, I’m assuming she wouldn’t want it out there. I heard that two of the girls did not want, they didn’t want it sealed, but then I’m like, well, you didn’t have the graph­ic stuff that this one had, you know. So, there was 18 people interviewed.

Caldwell: Good gracious.

King: Yes, and some were men, some were women, so I was one of the women, but like I say, he just made little comments and I witnessed things, but as far as… I don’t worry about mine particularly, but I worry about the others, you know. We had (female employee one) we had (female employee two) we had (female employee three). There was gosh one, two three, I guess maybe eight women I’m guessing that was interviewed. You know, so, I don’t know how many people it would take to do this.

Caldwell: Basically it only takes one, but I’ve gotta have somebody to use as the person that’s filing. Does that make sense?

King: Yes.

Caldwell: I’ve gotta have somebody and we might even can call em individual one that’s a possibility, but I still have to have that person if the case the court says well who is individual one? Do you understand what I’m saying?

King: Yes.

Caldwell: Somebody has got to be the per­son that’s complaining that it’s going to be released. You have to have, you might say, a petitioner like you have to have a respon­dent.

King: Okay.

Caldwell: The respondent basically is gonna be, based on mine and your conversation, the Sheriff’s Department, or the Sheriff, and I’m not after him, of course, and this fella Sanders, to say this is why you can’t release this, but somebody has to be the person who wants it stopped. Does that make sense?

King: Yes.

Caldwell: And I have to have a person. I can have persons, but I gotta have at least one.

King: Well, I mean, does it, does it have to be that one?

Caldwell: No.

King: I mean, like (female employee) in dis­patch, she doesn’t want it out either.

Caldwell: Right, well, it can be her.

King: And she’s here if you would like to speak with her.

Caldwell: Yes, ma’am I’d be happy to. Abso­lutely.

King: Okay, because I mean to me, it doesn’t matter as long…you can put my name, you can put anybody, but now I wasn’t, like I say, mine is mild, but hers and (fe­male deputy) was more intense, so, but let me, she should be at her desk, so let me call over there. Can you hold just a minute?

Caldwell: Yes, ma’am.

(King places Caldwell on hold.)

King: Judge Caldwell, are you still there?

Caldwell: Yes, ma’am.

King: I’m sorry.

Caldwell: Yes, ma’am.

King: I spoke to two of them and they don’t want to do it. You can put my name.

Caldwell: Okay.

King: Because I mean, I was involved in it, so. I’m just like…

Caldwell: Right.

King: I don’t know. (Female deputy) just got off work, so I’m thinking she’s in bed, so if you wanna use my name, you know, I’m Ruby King – K-I-N-G.

Caldwell: Yes, ma’am.

King: I don’t have a problem with it because I’m thinking of other people. Like I say, I’m not worried about myself, but I do worry about the other people even though they don’t want it out, they’re not willing to step up, and I’m like really?

Caldwell: Mmm.

King: You’re sitting there going I don’t want this out but you don’t want your name just put on here temporarily to stop it? Oh, mercy.

After discussing the length of the report and Sander’s request, their conversation continued.

Caldwell: All right. All right. Well, let me see what we can possibly come up with, see if we can try to help y’all at least maybe to stop it. Now, I may, don’t misunderstand what I’m fix­ing to say – you’re not gonna owe me a dime. I’m trying to help the department and help these folks. I may have a filing fee up there now at the Sheriff’s, I mean with the clerk of court. I hope not, but I might. Do you understand what I’m saying?

King: And how much is usually a filing fee?

Caldwell: Well, since we don’t have to serve anybody, I don’t know.

King: Oh, okay.

Caldwell: Normally, when you file a divorce, like any civil petition, the fee’s $257.50.

King: Oh, so it wouldn’t be any more than that?

Caldwell: No, no more than that, no.

King: Okay, that’s not a problem.

Caldwell: So, I’m just saying if the Clerk’s Office, when we try to get this filed, says you’ve got to have a filing fee, it’s gonna be $257.50 is what I’m saying.

King: Okay.

Caldwell: Okay.

(King makes comment regarding Sanders being “kinda psycho” and upon Caldwell’s request, provides him with her home address and cell phone number.)

Caldwell: Okay, let me see what we can pos­sibly try to get something put together and I will, uh, I’ll get in touch with you, but let the Sheriff know now that I’m gonna have to make him a respondent in this.

King: Okay, Well, that makes sense. It makes sense.

Caldwell: Well, I mean, I have to.

King: Because he can’t do anything because he, it would look like he’s trying to hide something so he under­stands that.

Caldwell: This is the way I’m trying to stop him from hav­ing to do it, you understand what I’m saying?

King: Yes, sir, I do.

Caldwell: Okay.

King: Okay.

Caldwell: Thank you.

King: Thank you.

At 12:24 p.m., Beam calls King at the Sheriff’s Office and asks about the status at his office.

King: The only thing is Judge Caldwell called.

Beam: Mmmhmm.

King: And he, you know, I guess Ranieri contacted him about trying to fill that…

Beam: Well, it wasn’t him di­rectly. It was somebody else, but anyway, he was contact­ed, and…

King: Well, he called me be­cause I was given as a con­tact and he explained to me what he needed to do. He told to me that he was doing this as a favor, but he didn’t really want that out.

Beam: Mmmhmm.

King: He said there would not be a charge unless it was a filing fee and it would be under a certain amount, and I said well, that’s not a problem. If I have to, I’ll pay it. He said that he will have to file this like, I’m gonna have to, in other words, he’s gonna have to petition this against you because you are the sheriff, but we are the employees, and I am the em­ployee that I told him to use because no one wanted to be used. The only two peo­ple was me and Amy (Martin) and I said put me down.

Beam: Okay

King: As the petitioner be­cause …..

Caldwell: Okay

King: You know…and he said, well, I want him to know this is nothing, nothing not gonna go against him. He said I just have to show it as we’re petitioning it against the Sheriff’s Office which is he, being the Sheriff, that the employees are, you know, petitioning to have it sealed or if he can do, if anything else. He said Ruby, I’m not gonna prom­ise you anything, he said, but I’m going to try. He said the public records 50-18-72 had some kinda little glitch­es or clauses in it. He said I’m gonna check on it. He said if nothing else, maybe we can redact the names, he said, but I can’t promise anything, but he said I have to have a name of somebody that was involved in it, and I said well use my name. He got my ad­dress, my phone number and all that and I said to do what you’ve gotta do.

Beam: Right.

King: But he said he didn’t know, but he didn’t want you to think it was anything against you at all. And I said oh, I understand that. I said we had already dis­cussed it and he had said if anything happened it had to be done by one, you know, or us or a group of us. He said no, I only need one of you, and I said well, use me.

Beam: Okay. All right, so how quick does he think it’s gon­na happen because see, I’ve got a request, like it’s sitting right now.

King: See, that’s what he’s gonna do is the petition is against, it’s going to go to Will Sanders saying that I have done such and such against the Sheriff’s Office to try to keep it, to you know, keep it from going out right now, so he said I’ve got until Monday. He said Mon­day is the day because he got a copy of the request.

Beam: Okay.

King: It was faxed to him. So he is aware of the time. Yes.

Beam: Okay. All right. Well, that’s fine. That’ll be fine. That ain’t no problem at all. Okay.

Also on June 12, Fortune conducts telephone con­ference with female SCSO Open Records requestor regarding sealing Gibson report, conducts telephone conference with Jim Grubiak (General Counsel for Associ­ation County Commissioners Georgia) regarding sealing records, conducts telephone conference with Tammie Rig­gins, a SCSO employee, and a telephone conference with Buchanan regarding Gibson file.

June 15, 2015

Caldwell files a petition for declaratory judgment in Spalding County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order to seal the Gibson investigative file. Judge Mack Crawford grants that petition, sealing the re­cord.

Fortune researches Georgia law applicable to temporary restraining order request in Gibson investigation, reviews petition for declaratory judg­ment and conducts office conference and telephone conference with Caldwell.

June 16, 2015

Fortune holds telephone conference with Caldwell, holds telephone conference with Beam regarding order signed and holds telephone conference with Martin re­garding temporary restrain­ing order, prepares answer to temporary restraining or­der and declaratory action complaint and corresponds with Caldwell and Sanders regarding declaratory action complaint.

June 18, 2015

Fortune makes court ap­pearance to file answer in Gibson matter, corresponds with Caldwell with answer, and holds telephone conference with Spalding County Board of Commissioners Executive Secretary Kathy Gibson and second telephone confer­ence with Beam.

June 19, 2015

Caldwell voluntarily dismiss­es Sanders as a respondent to the petition for declarato­ry judgment.

June 22, 2015

Fortune holds telephone conference with Caldwell regarding new Open Records request and Spalding County’s response, reviews letter to Sanders, holds telephone conference with Martin and confers with Beam regarding Mathews’ Open Records request.

June 23, 2015

Fortune conducts telephone conference with Beam re­garding Open Records re­quest from The Grip, con­ducts telephone conference with County Manager Wil­liam Wilson regarding Sheila Mathews’ (The Grip’s) Open Records request and holds telephone conference with Johnnie Caldwell regarding same and holds telephone conference with Mathews regarding production of doc­uments.

Fortune asks Mathews if she would be willing to accept a redacted version of the records requested. Mathews declines that request and asserts she wants a clean copy of the record.

June 24, 2015

Fortune conducts telephone conference with Wilson re­garding Mathews’ Open Re­cords request and conducts telephone conference with Wilson regarding redacting emails.

July 1, 2015

The Grip receives materials sought through Open Re­cords request to Spalding County. This request was for all emails pertaining to David Gibson and the investigation of Gibson from the accounts of Sheriff Wendell Beam, Gibson, Capt. Tony Ranieri, Ruby King and Amy Martin. Contained within those re­cords was the Internal Affairs final report from Lt. Brainard, of the Houston County Sher­iff’s Office.

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Comments

  1. Johnny Jones says:

    Great job of reporting the facts Sheila. Please keep up the good work. Your diligence is “much” appreciated.

  2. Glad this is out there – my husband worked there for almost 11 years before he quit this past year. And it was because of Gibson. My aunt was also employed there for several years. Gibson made my family uncomfortable and literally told my husband that I wasn’t “aloud” to go to public social town events if my husband was going to be working. He talked terrible about my husband behind his back. And than blacklisted my husband when he left. We are still picking ourselves back up from that 8 months later.

  3. Sharon Dowdy says:

    Good job, Sheila. Above and beyond for the readers/citizens of Spalding County.

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