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COLUMBUS — Polk County’s Sheriff’s Office is investigating potential employee misconduct in its evidence and property room.

The employee in question is Christopher Byers, 35, who oversaw the checking in and out of materials from the evidence room, according to District Attorney Greg Newman, whom WLOS interviewed about the situation on Friday.

CPP had previously learned that Byers was placed on paid administrative leave during the course of the investigation, but CPP initially withheld his name until public officials were willing to identify him as the subject of their inquiry.

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Byers has been with the sheriff’s office since April 2013. He’s been working as a support services sergeant with a current salary of $37,128, according to public records.

“We have got an issue that we’re dealing with internally, just with one employee at this point,” Lt. Lowell Griffin, the sheriff’s staffer in charge of operations, told Carolina Public Press on Thursday.

“There’s nothing that I can release about anything right now because it all falls under the confidentiality statute,” Griffin said in reference to state personnel law.

As soon as he’s allowed to release information about what the investigation turns up, Griffin said he will. “I would think that if there’s something to release, that we’re probably looking at within the next week to two weeks,” he said.

Asked if other agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation, are looking into the matter, Griffin said, “Right now, it’s just internal. Again, I can’t elaborate on anything. As soon as I’m able to, I will give you the full gamut of everything I have.”

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Paul Welch, Polk County’s lead public defender, said Thursday that he’d been briefed on the situation by an assistant district attorney but had little information, including whether the SBI or other outside agencies were looking into the matter.

As to whether the matter would affect ongoing cases that may rely on that potentially tainted evidence, Welch said he didn’t know. “I assume that that will become clear as they finish the job of uncovering what needs to be uncovered,” he said.

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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