Thursday, July 8, 2010

There Must Be a Punch Line Here Somewhere ...

From the Odessa American:

KERMIT Not since two nurses were fired and prosecuted for reporting a doctor to the state medical board has Winkler County been more abuzz with gossip over a possible scandal.

But since a Kermit police officer abruptly turned in his badge last month, the details of a Texas Rangers investigation into his supposed indiscretions have been guarded like a state secret.

What authorities have confirmed is that Cpl. James W. Slayton, a seven-year member of the force, was placed on administrative leave after an incident at the Daylight Donuts on West Austin Street. Slayton resigned June 15, saying in e-mail to Kermit Police Chief Scott Williams that he was departing “to take care of my family.”

Like so many others here, the Texas Rangers are curious about what happened in the doughnut shop. They’ve opened a criminal investigation, but Slayton has not been charged with a crime.

Authorities have refused to discuss what Slayton is alleged to have done, and employees at the shop said they were admonished not to speak to the media.

The newly minted Ranger Phillip J. Breeding confirmed his investigation into the incident, but he declined to release Slayton’s name as the subject. Chief Williams, meanwhile, would only say that Slayton committed “a violation of city policy” and declined to be interviewed.

“I don’t know why they’re being that closed about it,” said one civic leader who described the mood in Kermit. “It’s not like we have this sort of thing happen all the time. Nobody knows anything.”

According to one source familiar with the case, Slayton is accused of walking into the doughnut shop before it opened one morning last month and performing a lewd act in the presence of a female employee. Slayton was on duty at the time.

The owner of the shop, Bill J. Beckham, has not returned messages seeking comment. Slayton’s wife, Brandy, answered the door Wednesday at her house in Kermit and said Slayton “no longer lives here.”

“We don’t have any comments,” she said, closing the door.

Slayton’s personnel file contains a number of commendations but no mention of any doughnut shop incident or administrative leave. Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, city attorney Steve Taliaferro said the city withheld “a letter of dismissal” from the personnel file pending a state attorney general’s opinion.

“Because there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Texas Rangers, the city believes that the letter of dismissal contained in the file has information that could hinder the investigation and could prejudice the potential jury pool if it were released,” Taliaferro said in a letter explaining why the dismissal letter was withheld.
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