On Tuesday, May 25th, the Jones Board of Trustees held a special meeting to terminate the Police Chief Robert Williams. The meeting was scheduled on Friday, May 21st at 5:09 pm, and the agenda was first posted on Monday, May 24th at 6 pm. During the two and a half hour meeting, the Trustees spent the bulk of their time in executive session. There was no public discussion contemplated by the Trustees or allowed at this meeting. Chief Williams was present with his counsel at the meeting. The Trustees invited the Chief into the closed meeting for an approximate 30-minute period, but the Town’s attorneys both stood at the door and refused to allow his attorney to be present during this time.
As many of you know, Police Chief Robert Williams is my father. As best as I can, I will give you some facts leading up to and surrounding his termination. For the last few months, I have been investigating a story on a possible embezzlement case at City Hall that was uncovered sometime prior to June of 2019.
According to the 2019 Financial Audit (as referenced in Audit Finding 2019-1 on page 21), the Jones’ auditor noted internal control deficiencies that led to discrepancies in the Town’s fines and fee collections. In the audit, the Town notes that they launched an internal investigation into court records for the last three years (2017-2019). They also stated they would wait to make changes to internal controls until their investigation was complete. The last 8 years of Audit Reports show repeat findings in internal control deficiencies.
Seeing no progress on the internal investigation since his time employed with the Town, the Police Chief Robert Williams directed his staff to report the issue to OSBI on September 23, 2020. I confirmed with OSBI that the Jones Police Department sent the investigation to them on this date. I also confirmed with OSBI that they received no other requests from Jones Trustees, City staff, or any other parties to conduct this investigation. OSBI later notified the Jones Police Department that this investigation should be sent to the State Auditors Office.
Based on the Police Department and OSBI recommendation, on January 5, 2021, the Board of Trustees voted to approve the investigation moving forward to the State Auditors Office. I contacted the State Auditor’s Office, and confirmed the following timeline:
- January 5, 2021 – Jones Trustees vote to send investigation to the State Auditor.
- February 26, 2021 – Mayor Ray Poland drafts a letter to send to the State Auditor. (see below)
- March 31, 2021 – The letter was emailed to the State Auditor’s Office, with the wrong documents attached.
- April 27, 2021 – The correct documents were sent to the State Auditor’s Office.
According to the State Auditor’s Office, their investigation will take at least 18 months from the date they received the correct documents. It took the town 112 days, almost four months, to send the correct documents to the State Auditors Office.
I requested a copy of the Town’s court records investigation on May 20, 2021, but my request was denied. The Town’s Attorney told me this investigation is still ongoing, after at least two years. An employee was terminated during this time frame, but the Town has again refused my public information requests regarding this person’s name, job title, time of service, and reason for termination. My request was a verbatim copy of the Open Records Act (Items B3 & B4). The Town did not make any Facebook posts announcing the termination of this employee, nor did it make any other efforts to inform the Town’s citizens of this serious internal investigation.
On Friday, May 21st at 9:09 am, I sent an email to all of the Jones Trustees, to discuss my concerns about the upcoming sales tax election. In this email, I also referenced the audit findings I mentioned above and my public information request. I implored them to address this matter publicly. I also asked them to look carefully at the 2020 Audit Report (which will be presented to the Trustees on Tuesday, June 1st), to see if any of these internal control deficiencies have been corrected. I have included a copy of my email below for you to review. Within hours of my submission of this request, the Town’s Board of Trustees scheduled the Special Meeting to terminate my father’s employment.
On Monday, May 24th, prior to the Special Meeting, one of the Jones Trustees met with my father and asked for his resignation. The Trustee claimed that he was the person who submitted this investigation to OSBI. This statement was not confirmed by OSBI. The Trustee also mentioned that a conversation between my father and a former Trustee was overheard while they were eating at Shuff’s. Their discussion was related to this investigation. The Trustee stated that this was a contributing factor into my father’s termination. Another Trustee later mentioned that the public information requests that I was sending were also a contributing factor in his termination. This investigation remains ongoing, and I will continue pursuing relevant and discoverable information to report to the Town as it is uncovered.
Chief Williams served the Town of Jones for three years.