One of the two high ranking deputies that were fired by Sheriff Richard Hill last Tuesday is speaking out.
Captain Tim Gideonwas hired into the sheriff's office exactly one day after Hill took office eighteen years ago. Gideon says he and Patrol Captain Rick Porter, who served in Hill's office for twelve years, were unjustly fired and that working in the office he loves was becoming "a hostile work environment."
Hill had never really faced opposition before, but all that changed this last election cycle when Branson West Police Chief Doug Rader announced that he was going to run as the top law enforcer in Stone County.
Both Hill and Rader ran on the Republican ticket and since there was no Democrat running in the general election the winner of the August primary would be the county's new sheriff come January 1st. Rader beat Hill by nearly two to one.
In several interviews with The Crane Chronicle Hill always stood by his deputies, including Brandon Flack, a former deputy whose excessive use of force has garnered several lawsuits for the sheriff's office and the county. But it appears his faith in his deputies died when a fifth term for Hill was denied by voters.
|Sheriff Richard Hill|
The sheriff's office was named in several civil suits filed in federal court this year. Robin Miller claims he was beaten up by Flack when he was arrested and another man is making a similar claim. Zack Stewart, who was convicted of a 2006 murder that was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court, filed a civil lawsuit against Hill, Gideon, et.al and the county for his wrongful conviction. And Jessica White, an alderwoman from Crane, is claiming that Deputy Taylor Jenkins and Flack used unjust force when they arrested her in May (she has yet to file a civil suit against the department.)
Gideon says when he went to Hill two weeks ago to tell him that he had accepted the opportunity to serve as Rader's Chief Deputy he seemed to take the news well. "He told me to be careful. I told him Sheriff, I've been a cop for eighteen years, I think I know how to be careful."
It was a week later that Gideon and Porter were called into Hill's office and terminated. "He (Hill) said we didn't support him in the election and he couldn't trust us and knew we were in contact with Doug," said Gideon. "He told me he went through my phone bills for my county issued cell phone to try to prove I was talking to Doug on the county's dime."
|Sheriff-elect Doug Rader|
Rader says both Gideon and Porter are assured jobs when he takes office. "I felt sick when I found out Sheriff Hill fired two very good officers that have served this county for over thirty years. They didn't do anything wrong. They supported him and were loyal to him during his campaign, and it just made me sick he would fire two good men that have families."
When Sheriff Hill was reached for comment about the terminations last week he said, "I can't comment on personnel matters. But if it did happen, it is exactly because of this...too much information is getting out."
"I was hoping for a smooth transition into the sheriff's department but with the actions taken this week by Sheriff Hill it doesn't look like it's going to be a smooth transition," said Rader.
It's an ironic twist of fate for the current Chief Deputy, Rich Anderson. "I was chief deputy in Christian County for Joey Matlock. I campaigned hard for him and when he lost, I resigned the day before the new administration took over."
|Chief Deputy Rich Anderson|
Anderson says he was with Hill and Rader last October when Rader told Hill he wouldn't run against him. "As a lawman your only as good as your word," said Anderson.
Several businesses and citizens have rallied around Gideon and Porter, who plan to file for unemployment. "I'm proud of my service to the county," said Gideon. "People have told us not to worry about any bills or Christmas or anything like that....that they will get us through to the beginning of the year."
But for those who know Gideon it will come as no surprise that he is more worried about his fellow brother in blue who was terminated and is rasing four children, than himself. "I'm fine - my wife has a great job and I will get to spend a lot of time with her and travel with her...he (Hill) really did me a favor."
When Porter was reached for comment he didn't want to go on the record but did say, "I wish everyone the best."
Hill was unable to be reached for further comment as he is on vacation until the end of October.