A former Troup County Sheriff’s Department investigator who now heads security at a local medical facility says Sheriff Donny Turner tried to intimidate him when the employee was out campaigning for one of Turner’s opponents.
“Fundamentally it’s just wrong,” said Jon Whitney.
Turner threatened to contact the CEO of Whitney’s company and have Whitney fired, he said.
Whitney said his problem with Turner began on the evening of July 5, when he and another man were in the Rockwell Estates and Woodfield neighborhood campaigning for James Woodruff. They were talking to a resident in a yard when a black truck pulled up in the driveway next door. When Whitney said hello to the man in the truck, the driver responded by saying “Don’t bring that stuff over here.”
“I immediately recognized the voice as being the sheriff,” Whitney said.
Turner said “I sure do appreciate you two,” before driving off, Whitney said. Moments later, a deputy pulled up on the street and said he’d received a complaint of Whitney’s truck blocking the road. Whitney moved his truck and the deputy left without incident.
Later that night however, Whitney was contacted by one of his employees, who told him the sheriff had called his place of business three times and that if Whitney didn’t call the sheriff back within five minutes, the sheriff was going to call the company CEO.
Whitney went to his office at 10:45 that night to return the phone call and also recorded it. Whitney often records conversations when a complaint is involved as part of his job. It’s also legal in Georgia to record conversations as long as one person – in this case Whitney – was aware he was being recorded.
Whitney provided the LaGrange Daily News with a copy of the recording.
What follows is a transcript of the conversation:
Whitney: Sheriff Turner? Jon Whitney.
Turner: Hey Jon, how’re you?
Whitney: I’m good, sir. How are you?
Turner: I’m fine. I just want to get on the same page with you if you don’t mind.
Whitney: Yes, sir.
Turner: When George Kish called me several years ago about you …
Whitney: OK …
Turner: I recommended you over a guy I’d known for 20-something years as ex-police chief. I told him you’d do a better job than that guy would do, and I told him that, and that’s to be the truth of my knowledge. And I spoke good for you then …
Turner: So just wanted to tell you up front: tomorrow I’m going to call Jerry Fulks and ask to talk to the board of directors at the hospital.
Turner: I’m just going to tell them I resent the fact that the security of the police department at the hospital is going out knocking on doors to get me out of my office and that there’s a bad conflict there. I’m going to talk to Jerry tomorrow and ask him could I talk to the board of directors at the next meeting to talk to them about that situation.
Turner: Just going to be honest with you. I helped you get your job. You don’t know that. George Kish and my wife worked together for years together. George Kish called me, I told him that, I thought you’d had some bad situation with Willis, I told him that. So I’m just going to be upfront with you. I spoke good for you one time, and I just want to let you know upfront, tomorrow I’ll be talking to Jerry Fulks tomorrow and I’m going to do all I can to get rid of your ass the next time, OK?
Turner: So I just want you to know where I stand with that. And I just appreciate so much that I support you, you don’t support me, and I understand that situation. I want you to know that if you go after my livelihood I’m going to have to go after your livelihood, OK?
Turner: So I’ll see Jerry tomorrow morning, OK?
Turner: Thank you.
Whitney: Thank you.
Whitney says he believes the sheriff was trying to intimidate him.
“I have a right to vote and support whoever I want,” he said. “I wasn’t on my organization’s time, nor did I identify myself as being with my employer. By using my employer as a factor in that, he’s threatening my livelihood. I don’t appreciate that. How would he handle it if one of his deputies talked to him like this. He’d fire him.”
Whitney said he was hired by the sheriff’s office in 1998 and left in June 2007 to take his current job. He left the department on good terms and frequently draws on assistance from deputies at his work.
Turner originally had agreed to talk to the Daily News on Thursday afternoon to respond to the allegations. Thursday morning he canceled his appointment to speak to Daily News staff in person, but did send an email, the text of which follows:
In June of 1998, I helped Jon Whitney relocate to LaGrange from his home in Kentucky, in order to be with his family who were a part of the new administration at LaGrange College. I sent Jon to the proper training, and later promoted him to investigator. Jon worked with me for almost nine years, before the opportunity was presented to better himself with another agency. Then, I was instrumental in helping him to attain the chief of security position with West Georgia Health Systems.
In his departure from the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, we bid him farewell with a luncheon at the Captain’s Cove. Under his new position, I have also been very supportive in providing him with the resources for meeting the security needs of the hospital in times of duress. The sheriff’s office has assisted with instances of domestic violence in the emergency room. I contributed extra patrols and surveillance when catalytic converters were being stolen from the hospital’s parking lot. After the hospital encountered the first instance of “Swine Flu”, I provided extra security to help prevent unnecessary contamination. The sheriff’s office assisted in hospital disaster drills and accreditation, in addition to allowing for his use of our firing range.
On Thursday night, July 5th, Jon approached my son’s house while campaigning for another candidate for Sheriff. It deeply hurt and saddens me that someone whom I had considered to be my friend. A person whom I have given endless support to, would be trying to remove me from my job!
In the “heat of the battle”, I did call Mr. Whitney to express my disappointment. I further reminded him that I was instrumental in helping him with his career. Knowing that I had supported him 100 percent in his duties at West Georgia Health Systems, I was completely hurt and realized that I had obviously recommended the wrong man for the job. Therefore, I informed him that I would be speaking with Mr. Fulks at West Georgia Health Systems.
However, Mr. Fulks was never contacted, nor attempted to be contacted, by me. Additionally, I have no authority to effect his employment. I understand that Mr. Whitney has the Constitutional right to vote for whomever he desires. It simply amazes me that someone whom I have trusted and helped through difficulties and trials, in order to attain a successful career and home life, would attempt to remove me from my office and tarnish my career.
I am appalled that Mr. Whitney would record our conversation on a West Georgia Health Systems phone line, and exploit it by forwarding on to the local newspaper.
Due to my Sheriff’s Academy for Youth I will be unable to be there at 1:30. Please consider this my response. Thanks, Donny.
Whitney said Thursday afternoon that his CEO was aware of the situation and supports Whitney.