MANSFIELD, Ga. – Mansfield City Councilman Bryan Hale was suspended from his position as a deputy with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office court services division after an investigation by internal affairs found he had violated two conduct codes when he made comments about the new NCSO precinct during a council work session in February.
Hale was elected to the Mansfield City Council in August 2016 and sworn in Sept. 12, 2016 when he was the only qualifier to finish the post’s term through Dec. 31, 2017, Mansfield City Administrator Jeana Hyde told The News. He was the only qualifier again when that term expired and is now serving from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2021. According to his personnel file, Hale has worked with NCSO since May of 1997.
Council meets for work session Feb. 7
According to work session notes, provided by the city of Mansfield, an update was given on the new NCSO precinct by then-Mayor Jefferson Riley during the Feb. 7 council work session.
“Councilman Bryan Hale said he was curious to see how this precinct was going to work,” according to the notes.
As previously reported by The Covington News, Riley resigned from his position as mayor March 25, citing slander, lies and verbal attacks on himself and his family.
Riley files report April 6
According to the NCSO IA report, Riley filed a complaint against Hale April 6 “alleging unbecoming conduct and duty to support the sheriff’s office and all members thereof.
“Mayor Riley alleges that Deputy Hale exhibited unbecoming conduct when he became upset with him (Riley) and Mansfield’s City Clerk, Ms. Jeana Hyde, when they wouldn’t immediately grant his (Hale’s) variance or accept his (Hale’s) statement that his father had already paid for the water and sewer tap to build on their family property,” according to the report. “Furthermore, Mayor Riley alleges Deputy Hale made threatening statements much like: 'I will kill anyone who comes on my property.'
“Also, Mayor Riley alleges Deputy Hale did not support the Newton County Sheriff’s Office when on Feb. 7, 2019, during a Mansfield City Council work session, he (Hale) asked to make an off the record comment. According to Mayor Riley, the off the record comment was to the effect of Sheriff Brown can’t put a post (law enforcement precinct) in Mansfield because he (the Newton County Sheriff’s Office) doesn’t have the money. Mayor Riley said Deputy Hale continued saying we all know why he’s doing this. Mayor Riley took Deputy Hale’s statement as Deputy Hale believed Sheriff Brown’s actions were political.”
Brown has announced his intentions to seek reelection in the November 2020 election for the Newton County Sheriff position. Currently, two other candidates - Ken Malcom and Clay Ivey - have also announced their candidacy for that position.
According to the IA report, which was investigated by Sgt. Michael Cunningham, of the NCSO office of professional standards, Hyde corroborated Riley’s comments.
According to the IA report, Hale “accused Mayor Riley of unethical behavior” and said he was “trying to force him (Hale) out of political office.”
Hale “adamantly denied” making any threatening comments to Riley or anyone else in the city of Mansfield and admitted to asking to go off the record during the Feb. 7 work session.
“While off the record, Deputy Hale admitted to saying ‘This (opening of NCSO East Precinct) could be a political move, but I welcome whatever.’ Deputy Hale explained that he sees how the statement could have been taken out of context, but he had no ill intentions when he made it,” according to the IA report.
Hale also told Cunningham that when it comes to matters involving NCSO, he recuses himself, which is why he asked to go off the record.
According to the IA report, Cunningham concluded, “Deputy Hale’s conduct was reprehensible and certainly not representative of a law enforcement professional.”
“Based on statements from witnesses, it is quite apparent that Deputy Hale used poor judgment when he made public statements that did not support as well as questioned the Newton County Sheriff’s Office,” according to the IA report. “The successes and failures of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office is specifically linked to the behaviors of its members.”
However, Cunningham concluded there was no evidence to support Riley’s allegations of threats made by Hale.
The charges of “unbecoming conduct” and “duty to support the sheriff’s office and all members thereof” were sustained as a “Category II ‘C’ violation.”
That level of violation is categorized as “the occurrence of a very serious work rule violation.”
According to the NCSO violation code, Hale was suspended for five days, with a 36-month reckoning period.
According to Mansfield June 6 work session notes, Hale made the following statement: “I have no knowledge of the business of the Sheriff.”
Hale's work history reviewed
Hale started with NCSO in May of 1997 as a detention officer.
In 2013, a commendation was filed by a local citizen, stating he and two other deputies showed professionalism and dedication in the apprehension of a suspect who was in violation of the Newton County Adult Felony Drug Court.
In 2016, Hale received verbal counseling after his ex-wife filed a possible harassment claim. According to the report, Hale passed by his ex-wife's house on his commute and was instructed to look into other possible routes.
"Tenure is not considered regarding violations of the Newton County Sheriff's Office," Cunningham told The Covington News. "All punitive actions assessed are governed by the range of discipline outlined in our policy. In this instance, the minimum five-day suspension was given."
The News raises questions
To the best of his knowledge, Cunningham told The News the only NCSO employees who currently serve as elected officials are Hale and Detention Officer Anthony Henderson who is on the Covington City Council.
Cunningham said regardless of elected position, all members of NCSO are governed by the NCSO Standard Operating Procedures, "with no exceptions."
Initially, Riley expressed his concerns about Hale directly to Sheriff Brown. Brown then asked him to come to NCSO to talk with the NCSO Office of Professional Standards.
"The Newton County Sheriff's Office Allegation, Inquiry, Commendation (AIC) form can be submitted orally or in writing," Cunningham said. "Oftentimes, AIC's are received as walk-ins to the sheriff's office, mailed or via social media."
Cunningham said Hale had the right to appeal his discipline.
"If Deputy Hale felt the discipline was unwarranted or excessive, he had the right to appeal," he said. "Deputy Hale failed to exercise his right to appeal. If Deputy Hale had exercised his right of appeal, his suspension may have been reduced. At this point, Deputy Hale has not lost any wages.
"Incidentally, when the Newton County Board of Commission re-wrote its current policies, it was Sheriff Brown who lobbied for all Newton County employees to have the right of appeal."
After multiple attempts by The News to contact Hale for a statement or interview, no response was given.
The News files request
The Covington News filed a request via email for Hale’s personnel file, including any suspension and disciplinary reports, with NCSO June 13.
According to OCGA 50-18-71, the Georgia Open Records law, records must be produced responsive to a request within “a reasonable amount of time not to exceed three business days of the receipt of a request.
“In any instance where records are unavailable within three business days of the receipt of the request, and responsive records exist, that agency shall, within such time period, provide the requester with a description of such records and a timeline for when the records will be available for inspection or copying and provide responsive records or access thereto as soon as practicable.”
On Friday, June 21, NCSO responded to the request via a voice mail message stating it had been transferred to Cunningham. The following Wednesday, June 26, The News inquired about the status of the request and was once again told it was in Cunningham’s possession.
Later that day, a portion of the requested documents were hand-delivered to The Covington News office.
The following day, on June 27, Cunningham informed The News that the request was incomplete and the remaining documents would be emailed the following day, June 28.