Employees’ treatment leaves some in community lost
Like the hit television series ‘LOST,’ there always seem to be more questions than answers at the Harrison County Justice Center. One of the latest water-cooler topics is in regard to Harrison County Officer John Britton and Jail Commander Nathan Simpson.
Britton, you may recall, is the deputy with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department who is ‘ or maybe isn’t ‘ on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of a lawsuit and a yet-to-be convened special grand jury that will look into potential criminal conduct surrounding the circumstances of the death of his wife, Christine, who died of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound in March 2009. During an interview with Indiana State Police Sgt. Andy Squier, John Britton allegedly said he told his wife, ‘You want to kill yourself, fine,’ and laid a .40-caliber handgun on their bed and walked out of the room just before Christine allegedly shot herself.
In September, John Britton was placed on indefinite unpaid administrative leave; however, recently it was discovered that he’d taken part in three firearm training sessions to the tune of nearly $5,000.
Simpson, who is the commander of the Harrison County Jail, was indicted by a grand jury last month on a Class D felony charge of obstruction of justice and Class A and B misdemeanor charges of false reporting or informing in connection with the claims of alleged sexual harassment by two females against Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick.
‘Innocent until proven guilty’ still holds true in both cases, but people in the community are wondering about the consistency shown toward two people who ultimately fall under the sheriff’s watch.
In one corner, you have someone who hasn’t been charged with a crime, hasn’t been allowed to come back to work (training not included) and hasn’t received a paycheck since October; and, in the other corner, there’s someone who’s been charged with a felony and two misdemeanors and is still on the clock and still draws a paycheck from the county.
Harrison County commissioners Terry Miller and James Goldman last week said they believe Simpson, at the very least, should be demoted or moved to a different position until his legal issues are over, especially in light of an inmate at the jail being beaten by other inmates a few weeks ago.
Granted, there are a few differences between the two cases, not the least of which being a lawsuit against John Britton filed by the family of his late wife. Britton remaining on the beat in Harrison County with a wrongful death lawsuit hanging over his head could certainly open up the county to additional liability.
And keep in mind that Simpson’s charges stem from his alleged involvement of a cover-up in the Deatrick investigation. If Deatrick himself refuses to step down ‘ as requested by Miller months ago ‘ by his own standards, there’s no reason to believe he’ll remove Simpson from his job.
To date and despite public opinion, no one has officially or legally proven Deatrick, Simpson or Britton have done anything wrong. And until we get our answers in a court of law, we’ll all be like Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the rest of the castaways on ‘LOST’: lost in more ways than one.