CCSO off the hook for eating on the sly

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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The Claiborne Grand Jury has been relieved of having to decide whether to issue a true bill for the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office. The CCSO won’t be facing a trial for allowing the department’s maintenance employees and others to consume food purchased solely for the Claiborne County Jail. A detailed investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller did not persuade William C. Bright, Assistant Attorney General for the 6th Judicial District, to move forward with the allegations.

Bright says in his letter to Deputy Chief Investigator Joseph Ensminger that he does not believe a reasonable conviction could be made with the currently available evidence.

The question of improper food consumption first came to light in the Comptroller’s Audit Report for Fiscal Year 2022-23. The report reprimanded the CCSO for allowing food to be distributed to employees of the maintenance garage and others when it was meant only for the jail.

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According to the report, one employee had said he had routinely prepared and ate meals at no cost to him – estimating the frequency at three or four times per week.

The food was sometimes used to feed inmates who worked in the garage or were part of the litter and mowing crews with other department staff in on the consumption, according to the report.

“Due to the lack of records and lack of controls over food inventory at the jail and at the garage, investigators were unable to determine how often inmates and department personnel ate meals at the garage, or if the food sent to the garage was used exclusively at the garage or taken for personal use,” reads the report, in part.

The original policy was put into place for the safety of employees. The report cited the potential for the improper handling of food by inmates as one of the chief reasons for the policy. Another was the need for food delivery to undergo health inspections to insure it is free from the threat of communicable or infectious diseases.

According to the report, the sheriff no longer allows food purchased for the jail to be delivered to the garage. This new practice has been in effect since January 2022.