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Upshur County dismisses maintenance leader

By Christina Lane
Nov. 19, 2012 at 10 p.m.

GILMER - Upshur County Commissioners fired 19-year Building Maintenance Supervisor Charles Daniels on Monday after finding he violated trustee labor rules, County Judge Dean Fowler said.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to terminate Daniels. Commissioner James Crittenden abstained from the vote. Fowler said he does not believe criminal charges could result from the findings; however, he said they were serious enough that the court had to end Daniels employment. He said the violations are grounds for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education to revoke Daniels' jailer certification.

"I got a call from a citizen who had a concern about inmates being unattended at Sam's in Longview," said Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner.

A couple of days later, Sheriff Anthony Betterton also received a call about inmates being left unattended in the parking lot of Sam's Club in Longview, Hefer and County Judge Dean Fowler said.

Video surveillance that county obtained from Sam's showed that Daniels had left the inmates in a vehicle in the parking lot without supervision while he was inside the store for more than half an hour, Fowler said. The vehicle was marked as belonging to Upshur County.

The Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation and found additional violations by taking statements from inmates.

They found, and Daniels admitted, that he had allowed inmates to come in his office several times and make calls to family members from his land line, Fowler said. Daniels also admitted that he had allowed the inmates to work out on equipment in the juvenile building, he said.

"They should have been working - not working out," Fowler said. "The court felt the only thing to do was terminate him."

"He's been a great employee. He's been here a lot of years," Hefner said. "He shows up to work on time. He has a great attitude. This was an extremely difficult decision to make, but it was a liability issue for the county to have inmates out of town being left unsupervised, being allowed to use telephones when they weren't supposed to. This is just what we had to do - not what we wanted to do."

Crittenden said he abstained from the vote to fire Daniels because he wanted Daniels to be given the opportunity to resign first.

"I didn't want to have to terminate him," Crittenden said. "I respect him and I look up to him for his tenure with the county. I think it was a mistake on his part."

The commissioner said Daniels admitted to taking the trustees out of Upshur County several times.

"He didn't try to conceal it," Crittenden said. "That told me that he didn't know he was doing anything wrong."

Daniels had been a good employee for the county, addressing issues that commissioners had, Crittenden said.

"I think he always tried his best to do the right thing," Crittenden said.

Commissioners appointed maintenance employee Tim Saxon to temporarily fill the position until someone permanent can be hired, Fowler said. Commissioners are accepting applications until Jan. 5 and Fowler expects the court to hire someone at its Jan. 15 meeting.



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