A lot of people in Columbia County have their eyes on the Internal Affairs Division of the sheriff’s office this week.
Rumor is that the internal investigation regarding former EMA Director Pam Tucker’s claim that County Administrator Scott Johnson created a “hostile work environment” will be concluded at the end of the week.
Of course, the investigation is also looking into allegations by former EMA Deputy Director Rusty Welsh that Tucker was “controlling, manipulative, condescending, arrogant, disrespectful, hypocritical and juvenile” while serving as his boss.
For the past several months, everyone has been quietly pointing fingers at everyone else, while the leadership in Columbia County has remained silent.
Finally, Tucker spoke to the Metro Spirit last week and told her side of the story.
She described being frequently chewed out by Johnson and discussed, what she called, his “beratement room” which was the small conference room on the second floor where the doors always remained closed during her meetings with him.
So, what really happened behind those closed doors?
Was Johnson being hostile and verbally abusive of Tucker?
Did Tucker really feel threatened by Johnson?
No one really knows except Tucker and Johnson and possibly Deputy County Administrator Glenn Kennedy, who was allegedly present during some of the meetings.
But Tucker is publicly saying Johnson’s behavior was extreme.
“His hands were shaking so badly that I took it to mean that he was more than just furious. That if he could have had his hands around my throat, I probably would have been dead,” Tucker said of Johnson. “It was terrifying. People have no idea.”
According to Tucker, Johnson was enraged over the fact that he didn’t like the person she had chosen to hire for one of the positions in the EMA department.
Needless to say, many of Johnson’s friends and family weren’t too happy with Tucker’s comments and quickly began calling her names like “drama queen” and claiming that she was running in next year’s election for commission chair “solely on revenge.”
It’s ironic because just a few weeks prior to the Metro Spirit’s interview with Tucker, a reporter also sat down with Barry Smith, the former director of the Community and Leisure Services Division in Columbia County, and talked about his reasons for resigning from his position.
Smith described similar encounters with Johnson. Smith never said he felt threatened by Johnson, but Smith did say that Johnson was heavy-handed when it came to the hiring of new employees in the Community Events Department.
In fact, Johnson became angry with Smith after he filled some positions within the department.
Smith claims he was fully authorized and approved to do so, but Johnson continued to argue that he told Smith not to fill the positions after Commission Chairman Ron Cross was upset that the employees had been hired.
After being on vacation for a few days, Smith was called into Johnson’s office to discuss the new hires.
“I went into Scott’s office and he said, ‘Barry, I told you not to fill those jobs,’” Smith said. “I said, ‘No. You didn’t. You told me to hire who I wanted to and that you don’t micromanage.’”
According to Smith, Johnson again insisted that he told Smith not to hire the three events specialist positions.
“By this time, I had a belly full of it,” Smith told the Metro Spirit. “I said, ‘Scott, I am not going to argue with you. You did not ever tell me not to fill those positions. You approved it. This has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks. You were cognizant of it.’”
But Smith said Johnson continued to argue the point.
“Scott said, ‘I told you not to hire those people.’ And I said, ‘Scott, I’m not going to argue with you. I quit,’” Smith said.
Smith said he had reached the point of no return with Johnson.
“At that moment, I knew that I could not have an effective working relationship with Scott Johnson anymore,” Smith told the Metro Spirit. “I couldn’t even look him in the face anymore. If you don’t tell me the truth, it’s over. I tell the truth.”
So, does this show a pattern of Johnson’s hostile behavior toward his employees?
Most would say, “No. Those are only two employees. There are similarities in their encounters with Scott Johnson, but differences, too.”
But the word on the street is that about 150 people have been interviewed over the past two months regarding the internal investigation being conducted by the sheriff’s office.
One hundred and fifty different experiences of people’s interaction with Columbia County’s government.
To be a fly on that wall, eh?
There are also allegedly taped conversations of both Tucker and Johnson that investigators are reviewing.
With so much time invested in interviewing people, the public can only hope that there is a solid and valid conclusion to this investigation.
A conclusion that will make the county stronger and better in the end.