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ASO and deputy cut ties following internal investigation over social media posts

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 9:56 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -A share on social media is just one reason why the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office tried to sever ties with one of their deputies.

“So to the extent the Sheriff’s office is a government entity, that’s where the First Amendment issues start rising,” said Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, Dr. Clay Calvert.

TV20 obtained the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation into Facebook posts made by Lt. Howard Adams in mid-August. The posts in question include comments on vacancies at the jail and sharing posts by former ASO employee, Ray Swallows.

“Certainly government employees on matters of public concern are allowed to speak out about them,” added Calvert. “While you can criticize, then you get into the question of what are you actually saying? Are you making ad hominem attacks? Are you suggesting people are incompetent? Are you saying something that might be defamatory? And that’s kind of where the gray issue I think will be in this case.”

RELATED STORY: TV20 obtains list of 31 Alachua County Sheriff’s Office employee reassignments

The report concludes Adams’ was found insubordination, found in conduct unbecoming of an employee and violated knowledge of ASO ordinances, statutes, and directives---calling for his termination.

“The individual’s interest in speaking out about matters of public concern versus the Sheriff’s office in the efficient manner in which it operates in effectiveness,” mentioned Calvert. “And I think one of the issues here is its credibility as a law enforcement agency to be perceived as neutral, to be perceived as fair and just. And I think that’s the interest here that is undermined by the social media post.”

Adams wouldn’t interview but tells TV20 he takes full responsibility for his post, has no regrets during his time at ASO and always acted in the best interest of staff and citizens. Sheriff’s office officials won’t comment until the final paperwork regarding Adams’ termination process is complete. This is despite Adams’ confirming his resignation was accepted in lieu of termination.

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