Wrong men pay for sheriff's mistake
An elected official is caught on a recording using a homophobic slur to describe another elected official.
It’s the kind of thing that might lead to a resignation or a firing.
In Carroll County, it led to both, but the man whose actions caused the entire episode wasn’t the one who resigned or lost his job.
Instead, the county has lost the services of former District 3 Justice of the Peace Lamont Richie and former Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Maj. George Frye largely because of the actions and attitude of Sheriff Randy Mayfield.
It was Mayfield who uttered the homosexual slur in reference to Richie in a meeting with two staff members on Oct. 2. It was Mayfield who denied it when asked about it directly by Richie. It was Mayfield who ultimately was forced to admit he had indeed said exactly what was alleged, but not until Oct. 22 — the day this newspaper obtained video footage from a security camera outside the meeting room at the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office where Mayfield made the asinine remarks. Mayfield issued a written apology, describing the whole thing as a “momentary loss of professionalism.” He didn’t apologize for lying about it, instead claiming not to remember making the remarks because in his words “that is not my belief or character.”
Mayfield could have handled the situation very differently. He could have admitted what he said to Richie during their first conversation and given him a sincere personal apology. He could have admitted what he said during my conversation with him on Oct. 16, the day after Richie raised the issue during a quorum court meeting. He could even have tendered his resignation after he knew he was caught.
Mayfield did none of the above. Instead, he went out of his way in his apology to take a cheap shot at CCSO Sgt. Mark Bailey, the Democratic candidate for sheriff whose wife, Dana, was one of the two people in the room with Mayfield when he made the comments about Richie and apparently the only person in the room who has told the truth from the beginning. To protect himself, Mayfield in fact implied that Dana Bailey was lying.
Richie resigned on Oct. 30, citing not only Mayfield’s comments but the lack of any real response or action from other county leaders. He didn’t name County Judge Sam Barr, but it was clear that Richie wasn’t pleased with Barr’s ambivalence toward the whole situation. In fact, Richie endorsed Barr’s opponent, Green Forest Mayor Charlie Reece, in last week’s election despite the fact that Reece is a Republican while Barr is a Democrat like Richie.
Richie did mention Frye and some others from the sheriff’s office in his resignation letter, writing that they reached out to him privately “disavowing and condemning the mindset” that led to Mayfield’s comments.
Frye was on vacation at the time of Richie’s resignation. On the day he returned, Mayfield fired him. The sheriff isn’t returning my calls anymore, so we don’t have an explanation from him about Frye’s firing. I suspect he invented some excuse, but I further suspect that the firing was Mayfield’s response to what he perceived as disloyalty on Frye’s part.
Frye could have covered for the sheriff. He could have made the damning video go away. He could have chosen not to be kind to Richie. Instead, he followed the law, he did his job and he was a decent human being.
Mayfield has been the subject of criticism virtually since the day he took office. Much of that criticism rang hollow with me, in large part because of Maj. Frye, who was my primary point of contact with the sheriff’s office. He was always polite, professional and aboveboard and my sense now is that he probably made the sheriff look much more competent than he really is.
Two good men who served this county honorably are no longer doing so, because of the actions of one man who has dishonored his position, dishonored the voters who trusted him to serve, and dishonored his own staff.
Mayfield’s final day as sheriff will be Dec. 31. It’s long overdue.