Corrections officer considering sexual harassment suit against Sheriff Anderson

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A corrections officer says she has hired an attorney to look into possible sexual harassment from Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson.

Megan Smith says she may file a sexual harassment lawsuit over text messages the sheriff sent her.

At least one of those messages has been shared on social media. It appears to contain a reference to a sex position. Smith says there are other messages that have not been shared.

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus says he investigated the messages with help from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, but determined there was no criminal activity.

Mayor Richard Venable confirmed he has asked County Attorney Dan Street to look into the messages.

Anderson admitted Saturday to sending text messages to Smith containing profanity, derogatory comments about a political opponent and a mayoral candidate, and threats against sheriff’s office employees who are not involved in his reelection campaign. Many of those messages have been shared on social media.

In the texts that have been shared, Anderson referred to his political opponent, Jeff Cassidy, as a “crazy man”, “ass wipe”, and a “devil”. In one text message, he wrote, “I would put him jail at the drop of the hat.” In another text, he called Cassidy’s supporters “Satan worshipers”.

The sheriff also mentioned former NFL player and current mayoral candidate Gerald Sensabaugh, Jr., mentioning the fact Sensabaugh is black and calling him a “decrepit old retired football player.”

Anderson’s text messages also include threats of firing sheriff’s office employees who are not helping him in his bid for reelection.

“I just wanted to show people his true colors,” Smith said. “I care about the people I work with, when you work in this line, you form a bond with these people you go through things that you just wouldn’t with anybody else.”

Smith says she is still employed by the sheriff’s office but has taken leave until after the election.

“I don’t feel safe walking about in there, I mean I really don’t, I’m afraid to go back in there, thinking about it just tears my nerves up,” Smith said . “I don’t know what would happen, I really don’t so I took off.”

On Sunday, Judy Jenkins, a former employee at the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office shared screenshots with News Channel 11 of Facebook messages she had from Sheriff Anderson.

Jenkins retired from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in 2012, she said after the 2014 election, Sheriff Anderson attacked her on Facebook. 

Jenkins told News Channel 11’s Caroline Corrigan Sheriff Anderson was upset following the election in 2014, when he learned Jenkins didn’t vote for him. 

Jenkins said she took those screenshots to District Attorney General Barry Staubus too. 

After looking into the messages, she said Staubus said he didn’t find any criminal activity. 

Smith says she has not spoken to Anderson since she released the text messages.

News Channel 11 has reached out to Sheriff Wayne Anderson regarding the potential sexual harassment lawsuit. We have not received a response.

Saturday, Anderson issued this statement in response to the recently uncovered text messages.

I am aware of the recent text messages floating around social media. This conversation was on my own time and I apologize for any material that could have been seen as offensive. These past nine months I have been under a great amount of stress, and I was venting to a person I have known for years and trusted. For the last 20 years, I have faithfully and honorably served the citizens of Sullivan County. Pending approval, we have achieved great success in the addition of school resource officers for all of our county schools, and have been working diligently to fight the drug epidemic and jail overcrowding issues. With the continued support of the community, we will keep Sullivan County safe and prosperous.

-Sheriff Wayne Anderson

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