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Sheriff Deputy Claims Coerced To Support New Jail

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Jun 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 02:15:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn - A Davidson County Sheriff deputy said his boss' push for a new jail has gone too far.

Six-year Sheriff's Office veteran Cpl. Jack Byrd said he was put on leave, and then demoted, after being coerced into signing a letter of support for a project he's against.

"[Last week] I was called in by my boss' boss' boss," Byrd said. "A man that's five ranks above me and I was called in and said 'sign this.' I said 'what is it?' 'Just sign it' was his response."

Byrd lives in the area where the new jail would be built and said he doesn't support the project.

He said when he asked what would happen if he didn't sign the letter, he said his supervisor responded with "'do what your career can handle, buddy.' I said 'oh okay, well I'll sign it.' So I signed it."

Earlier this week, Byrd was decommissioned and placed on leave.

He admits he has challenged the administration in the past on other issues, but said this investigation is because of the letter.

Sheriff Daron Hall characterized Byrd as an employee who "has trouble telling the truth."

"I've talked directly to his supervisor and he said emphatically that [the allegations of coercion are] false," Hall said. "That's wrong and I believe the supervisor. Mr. Byrd's credibility is in question and has been around here for a long time."

Byrd said he has a spotless record and was awarded the department's Ambassador award, one of the highest in the department.

NewsChannel 5 obtained Byrd's personnel file through a public records request. The file showed that Byrd was cleared of any wrong-doing in all of the investigations he was part of.

The file also showed Byrd received all above-average performance reviews.

Sheriff Hall said Byrd being placed on leave has nothing to do with the letter of support and is part of a separate investigation.

A "notification of complaint" Byrd was told to sign on June 4 said an investigation has been launched "about concerns arising from comments you made during a recent conversation with [Armed Services Division] Director Corley Pearson."

Pearson is the supervisor Byrd alleges made him sign the letter.

Pearson did not respond to a request for comment.

The sheriff said he did authorize the letters be distributed throughout the department for employees who live in southeast Nashville to sign, but only if they wanted to.

"Employees were asked 'here is the situation. If you don't want to sign it you don't have to sign it,'" Hall said. "We have people who didn't sign it. There is no coercion. I don't even know who didn't sign it. It doesn't really matter to me."

Byrd said he's upset about the situation he's in. He said he's been loyal to Sheriff Hall since he was an intern.

"I truly think that it's fear and intimidation," Byrd said. "I feel like it has no place in t he workplace."

The Metro Council is set to vote on the Capital Improvement Budget which currently includes the plan for the new jail.