Waco cops roust marijuana smokers in drunken party involving McLennan Deputies (click on image for full size)
Waco – A clear pattern of abuse and intimidation emerges as one reads the records of investigations leaked to The Legendary by an unknown informant in the Sheriff’s Office. These records have been confirmed by public information released by open records requests.
Cpl. Kim King had no idea what her boss was talking about. She just knew he was very, very angry, according to a statement given on February 19, 2014. The day was September 5, 2013.
Lt. Chris Eubank thrust himself into her office in the personnel and training department of McLennan County Sheriff’s Office headquarters. He “threw a copy of the…Organizational Chart on my desk and asked me who my direct Supervisor was…
“I told him it was him. He said ‘That’s right’ and I need to know everything that goes on in this office. He said he was tired of hearing from other people about things going on in this office (Training and Personnel). I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about and he said the Chief Deputy (Matt Cawthon) came up to him and asked him what he thought about the results of the Jail Sergeant interviews…
“Eubank said he looked like a fool because he didn’t know who was promoted to Jail Sergeant.”
She explained that Jail Division Captain John Kolinek told her to inform the Chief Deputy, “so that’s what I did. Eubank said he didn’t care what department the promotion was for, that I was to always inform him first. He told me I was to always utilize my chain of command and that I had no excuse because he had just given me a copy of the organizational chart.”
Thus chastened, she recalled, “I told him I understood and from that point forward I would always notify him and I did.” Not long after, she took advantage of an opportunity to make a lateral transfer to the Jail Division to take a job as an investigator there, reporting to Captain Kolinek. From the looks of her Facebook page, Cpl. King is the proud mother of a couple of boys. She learned her profession as a Peace Officer at McLennan County Community College after serving her country in the Armed Forces.
It wasn’t the first time she had been whipsawed from pillar to post in her duties. According to a lengthy statement given by Captain Shawn Lippe on February 17, 2014, she and Cpl. Matt Cunningham had an item to discuss with him regarding a background investigation on Cody Myers, who had applied for a reserve deputy position.
Lippe found it odd to learn that Deputy Ken Witt had disqualified the applicant based on his findings at McGregor Police Department. “I found this to be very odd due to the fact that Ken had called me on my cell phone approximately 3 weeks prior and stated that he just left the McGregor Police Department and everything looked fine.”
Intrigued, he paid a visit to the Personnel and Training Department. “Visibly upset,” Cpl. King “made the statement that I had no idea what goes on down there and what all they have to put up with, with Lt. Chris Eubank…” According to their conversation, Lippe learned that “it seemed like Ken only did the backgrounds on the people that Chris (Eubank) wanted to get hired.”
Lippe believed her because Sgt. Ben Toombs had earlier “stated to me personally that Ken personally told him that he (Ken) is doing the backgrounds on people that the administration wanted to be pushed through or on people that needed to be ‘hacked’ because the administration knew he would sign off on it. Ben requested that this information be kept confidential if possible due to fear of retaliation.” There is some evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement because an applicant with previous experience at the Hewitt Police Department named Danny Powell was not hired to work at the jail. Ken Witt had been slated to handle that investigation, as well, and statements show there was confusion as to whether Cpl. King or Deputy Witt should handle the inquiry.
Cpl. King said it all started when a personnel evaluation on a rookie patrolman named Cody Blossman was changed. “At one point Chris (Eubank) came to Personnel and began screaming at her, stating that if he wanted to change Cody’s evaluation he can. Chris accused her of spreading rumors that got back to the civil attorney…”
A public information response shows that Blossman’s evaluation after 6 months on the job showed a mediocre rating of 5.6 out of a possible 10 points, nothing unusual for a new hire still learning the tricks of the trade. When the documentation was changed over Eubank’s signature, he had received a glowing 7.75 points, complete with hyperbolic and superlative descriptive comments.
Corporal Ben Burch recalled in a statement given on February 27, 2014, that on a day off, he got a call from Eubank regarding a conversation he had with another officer about Blossman’s evaluation being changed. “Another deputy had been questioned by the county attorney about the employee evaluations being changed by upper management. Lt. Eubank informed me that he thought I was ‘stirring up shit’ and that he “thought I was leaking information to the other side of the lawsuit.”
Burch referred to a federal civil suit in which nine deputies sought money damages after being dismissed or demoted by the new Sheriff, Parnell McNamara. Mike Dixon, a private attorney retained by the Commissioners’ Court advised settlement of the dispute when he learned of the entanglements of then Lt. Eubank with employees over the evaluations and TCOLE records of present and former employees. The suit was reportedly settled by an attorney retained by an errors and omissions insurance carrier, with McLennan County admitting no wrongdoing for a gross sum of $2 million, $375,000 of which was paid as a deductible from a “contingency” account of the General Fund.
Corporal Burch denied leaking any information. “Either you or Lionel are lying and the Sheriff and the Chief Deputy are pissed,” Eubank told him. “…I will find out which one of you is lying and recommend termination for whichever one of you is lying.”
“I was uncomfortable with this conversation and feared reprimand or loss of my job in spite of having been truthful with Lt. Eubank,” said Burch. “…I was asked by my superior officer to document this incident.”
The smoking gun appeared when Captain Kolinek ordered the termination of Spencer Rowell, a Jail Deputy who became involved in a drunken dispute with a trio of marijuana smokers in the parking lot of a student apartment complex near Baylor University following a beer bust in a fellow employee’s apartment. That is consistent with the original reprimand removed from the personnel file, telling how, in an intoxicated condition, he showed his badge and threatened to take legal action. Statements on Waco Police Department DASHCAM recordings, received in a public information response, support the finding.
When Cpl. King received the resulting paperwork from his supervisor, Capt. John Kolinek, she automatically submitted an electronic copy of an “F-5” General Discharge report to the state licensing board, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Eubank later told her that “per the Sheriff,” she should change the document and destroy the original. She couldn’t bring herself to do that, knowing it is a criminal offense to do so. She left the paperwork with him after making a backup copy. Eubank later asserted in a notarized statement that he shredded the document. Former Chief Deputy Matt Cawthon recalls that he had agreed to allow the deputy to resign rather than be terminated, but “I didn’t agree to have his F-5 destroyed.”
In a lengthy interview process, we learned that though the elected official at a law enforcement agency may wish to change the F-5 statement of “discharge of a licensee,” the original is a permanent record and must not by law be destroyed. According to a highly placed source, “Any person who is under investigation or has been let go over alleged misconduct cannot be discharged in other than a General Discharge.”
In a statement, John Beauchamp, the general counsel of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE), the state peace officer licensing authority, wrote, “Primarily, the F-5 reports exist to protect the public from gypsy cops with disreputable employment histories, and as such are used by potential employing agencies to determine a law enforcement applicant’s fitness for employment. To illustrate the seriousness of an F-5 report, a TCOLE license is automatically suspended and subject to revocation after the holder receives a second dishonorable discharge.”
A number of statements given by colleagues say that they were told “per the Sheriff” or “per the Chief” (deputy) that they should take some action to reverse a previous decision. Reached for comment, Matt Cawthon says he can recall giving no such instructions.
In an exclusive interview given previously, Eubank confidentially pointed to his patrol vehicle, a white Ford SUV with more than 200,000 miles on its odometer, and said “I’m the only Sergeant driving one of these. The others drive the new black Chevrolet Tahoes, the ones that say ‘Your safety comes first’ in gold lettering…That’s because of Matt Cawthon.”
He now works deep nights, from dusk to dawn and every other weekend, supervising a shift of between five and eight deputies on patrol duties throughout McLennan County’s sprawling rural territory.
To read previous reports from these columns, follow these links: