Cherokee County Courthouse in Murphy, N.C. Frank Taylor / Carolina Public Press

Cherokee County’s acting jail administrator said Thursday he quit his job after being told he would be demoted after he trained his replacement.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is facing three inquiries by the State Bureau of Investigation. The most recent SBI investigation came at the request of Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer after an Oct. 29 Carolina Public Press report on alleged patterns of inmate abuse.

Shortly after the report published, jail administrator Mark Patterson resigned. Tom Beasley, interviewed Thursday, said he was then made the jail administrator.

Cherokee County Detention Center Administrator Mark Patterson

About a week after that, Beasley said, he was told the administrator position was only temporary and that he would become essentially the second-in-command once the new administrator took command.

Shon Crisp, who is the current administrator of Clay County’s 40-bed jail, will start work as Cherokee County jail administrator on Saturday, said Melody Johnson, Cherokee County human resources director.

But Crisp isn’t coming alone.

“I was informed yesterday that Shon Crisp wanted to bring somebody over with him and I would be demoted from my position,” Beasley told CPP Thursday evening.

“I was asked if I would stay on and help train him. In good conscience, I could not train somebody who will occupy the job I was being demoted from.”

Beasley, who has worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 2009 in various capacities, said the sheriff asked him to give two weeks’ notice, which Beasley declined.

Another high-profile resignation came Thursday, Johnson said.

Sally Lawson has worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 2004 and was made a lieutenant several weeks ago after Patterson resigned.

Lawson was the longest-serving employee at a jail where about half of the workforce has been on the job for less than a year.

She could not be reached for comment.

The previous jail administrator, Patterson, has moved to a new position with Cherokee County schools as a school resource officer, Superintendent Jeanna Conley told CPP in a phone interview on Thursday.

Carolina Public Press has asked Palmer for comment, but he did not respond prior to publication of this report.

Second-in-command at the jail will be Marty White, Johnson said. White’s first day will be Dec. 17.

Crisp and White are taking over a jail that is facing multiple SBI investigations, the most recent one requested by Sheriff Palmer in response to Carolina Public Press’ report about alleged inmate abuse in his jail.

Palmer is about to begin his second term as sheriff after winning his May primary election and running uncontested in this month’s general election.

On Wednesday, District Attorney Ashley Welch said she planned to ask the SBI to include in its most recent investigation why an inmate was chained to a grate in the floor while naked, possibly for hours in 2017.

Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer

After CPP reported Welch’s plans Thursday morning, Palmer announced that he would seek the expanded investigation with an announcement late Thursday.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Palmer said he and Welch made a joint request to expand the SBI investigation further “to investigate any and all allegations of impropriety at the Cherokee County Detention Center since Dec 1, 2014.

“Sheriff Palmer hopes that this investigation will clear up any allegations of improprieties that may have occurred in the past and hopes that this investigation will restore public trust and confidence in the detention center and the employees who serve there on a daily basis.”

Welch confirmed in a text to CPP late Thursday that she did make the request jointly with Palmer.


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Kate Martin

Kate Martin is lead investigative reporter for Carolina Public Press. Email her at kmartin@carolinapublicpress.org.

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