Will Sanders was sued by the personal secretary for the Spalding County Sheriff when Sanders tried to get records embarrassing to the department.
GRIFFIN, Ga. - A sex scandal inside one metro sheriff's department has led to allegations of a cover-up.
Former Captain David Gibson was indicted for multiple sex charges involving deputies he supervised. This all came to light following an internal affairs investigation, a report that some did not want made public.
In it, investigators listed multiple complaints from female deputies. Captain Gibson "exposed his penis" to one deputy, sent "graphic photos" to another deputy, and urged subordinates to have sex with him. Gibson admitted watched pornography on office equipment and various websites.
The allegations in the report go back years.
But when Griffin truck driver Will Sanders tried to get a copy of the investigative file under the Open Records Act, the sheriff's secretary Ruby King sued to block him. A judge granted her a temporary restraining order.
As Sanders would later discover, her attempt to stop him raised even more questions.
"I knew there was more to the story than just them not wanting to release the records," Sanders said.
Two weeks after the judge blocked him, Sanders made the same Open Records request to the Spalding County Board of Commissioners. They gave him the Gibson file. In it, the report listed several employees who say they complained to the sheriff about bad behavior on the part of his captain. But because they would not write down their complaints, Sheriff Wendell Beam told FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis there wasn't much he thought he could do.
Sheriff: Somebody might tell me something but they wouldn't come forward and support it. It would be rumors at that point. They didn't want to pursue it. And I don't know why.
Randy: Could it be that they worried they wouldn't get a fair shake in a department that had a guy in it for years perhaps doing this sort of stuff?
Sheriff: You're asking me to speak for someone else. I couldn't do that sir.
But Sanders believed the sheriff's failure to respond aggressively to the complaints of his people was why the department tried so hard to keep the file from him.
"Absolutely," Sanders said. "There is reference over and over inside the documents referring to Sheriff Beam knowing about what was going on and he took no action."
But even though Will Sanders finally got Captain Gibson's internal affairs file, what he had to go through to get it still bothered him. So he filed another open records request, this time for phone records. Turns out every phone call that comes into the Spalding County Law Enforcement Center is recorded.
The recordings revealed local attorney Johnnie Caldwell offering to file a lawsuit to block Sanders from getting the Gibson file and making it public. The sheriff's secretary Ruby King agreed with the strategy, worried the victim names would get out.
"He's the type that would post it on Facebook and I thought that wouldn't be good," she says to Caldwell on the recording.
Ms. King had earlier told investigators Gibson "did not really direct" sexual comments her way because she worked "directly for the sheriff." But when none of Gibson's alleged victims would agree to block the open records request, the sheriff's secretary put herself on the lawsuit, swearing that Gibson had made "sexually explicit statements" to her.
On one recording, Ms. King informed the sheriff.
Ruby King: He said I only need one of you and I said, well, use me.
Sheriff Beam: OK, so how quick does he think it's going to happen?
The FOX 5 I-Team asked the sheriff if he thought his secretary misrepresented her true status as a victim to block the release of a damaging investigation.
"I don't think she did," the sheriff said. "And again, I go back to the fact that she told me she was present when some sexual comments were made. I'm open with people. I'm not trying to hide anything. I hate it that some people are thinking I'm doing that. No one here's trying to hide anything."
But the man who succeeded in getting the report made public thought something else.
"The sheriff's the leader," said Will Sanders. "He's the one you go to when something's wrong. He's supposed to stop this. He should have stopped it years ago."