Judge rules against Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson in employee lawsuits
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The cases are closed against Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. after a judge sided with three employees accusing the agency of violating their rights as officers.
Eighth Circuit Judge Donna Keim issued an order granting “extraordinary relief” in three cases involving employees of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office who claimed the agency violated Florida’s Officers’ Bill of Rights while conducting internal affairs investigations.
Judge Donna Keim ruled that Captain Rebecca Butscher, Sergeant Kevin Davis, and Former Sergeant Frank Williams’s rights were violated during internal investigations into policy violations.
The court ordered the sheriff’s office to hold compliance review hearings.
Watson responded that ASO will fix mistakes that were made and make sure all deputies are given their rights.
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Attorney Bobi Frank, who represents all three plaintiffs, requested the court step in and require the hearings after the sheriff’s office refused to.
The judge agreed stating, “The plaintiff has a clear legal right to have a compliance review hearing convened, [the] defendant has not demonstrated that the Officers’ Bill of Rights provides any discretion whether to convene a compliance review hearing.”
Watson released a statement on Thursday night about his intent to comply with the judge’s order.
“As Sheriff of Alachua County, it is my responsibility to ensure that every law enforcement officer employed by this agency is afforded the rights prescribed to them under Florida State Statute 112, known as the “Officer Bill of Rights.”
Based upon the ruling from the Honorable Judge Keim, it was found that each Deputy’s request for a compliance review hearing was timely and complied with Florida Statutes; therefore, this request must be granted.
I want to assure you that as your Sheriff, it is my inherent duty and responsibility to make sure that we work diligently to remedy any errors that have occurred. While a mistake may have been made, it is my job to ensure we make it right.
I want to thank the Honorable Judge Keim, and the respective legal counsels, for allowing the court to hear both sides prior to rendering a decision. This decision provides us with an opportunity improve upon our processes and better serve the men and women in uniform.”
An investigation was launched against Butscher accusing her of acting “insubordinate” to a superior officer through her “body language and tone.” Ultimately, she was reprimanded and given two days suspension without pay.
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Williams was fired after an investigation determined he violated the agency’s social media policy when he criticized the sheriff’s office on Facebook. Davis was suspended while they investigated possible violations of the social media policy.
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