Grand jury recommends impeachment of Sumter sheriff

One month after the FBI and accompanying agencies raided the Sumter County jail, Sheriff Tyrone Clark faces impeachment. A grand jury has recommended impeachment of Clark based on nearly a dozen specific incidences related to willful neglect of duty and corruption while in office.

The impeachment recommendation comes as the culmination of three days of proceedings between a Sumter County grand jury and 17th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Griggers.

“It was my decision that, based on what was developed throughout the course of the investigation, which has been a lengthy investigation going back into 2015,” Griggers said of the decision to push for the impeachment of Clark. “We certainly still intend to pursue criminal charges against a number of individuals that have been revealed throughout the course of the investigation. But this was the quickest way to get Tyrone Clark removed from the sheriff’s office.”

The Grand Jury of Sumter county indicated in documents submitted to the office of 17th Judicial Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway that it began it reconvened its session April 4 at which time it proceeded to investigate and make “diligent inquiry concerning alleged misconduct and willful neglect of duty on the part of the Sumter County Sheriff, Tyrone Clark.”

The grand jury listed nine instances of willful neglect of duty. The first such specification indicates that Clark willfully neglected his duty to secure and supervise inmates in his custody when he made inmate Rodney Coats a trustee. At the time, Coats had been placed in the Sumter County Jail on charges of Trafficking in Cocaine, Trafficking in Methamphetamine, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Marijuana First Degree, Receiving Stolen Property Second Degree, Certain Persons Forbidden to Possess a Pistol, Assault First Degree and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

“When he made Coats a trustee, the Sheriff gave Coats privileges, including allowing him to move freely about both the Jail and the Administration Buildings of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and allowing Coats to leave the Jail, sometimes without law enforcement oversight,” the grand jury recommendation states.

The document also states Clark willfully neglected his duty by not subjecting Coats to searches when he would return from unsupervised outings and that he would protect the inmate from “shake downs” and “drug sweeps” by jail staff and outside law enforcement agencies by either removing Coats from the jail or instructing staff to leave him alone. Clark is also said to have allowed Coats to receive unsearched visitors through an unmonitored entrance at the sheriff’s office administrative building.

Additionally, Clark is said to not have prevented inmates from possessing a deadly weapon by allowing Coats to have access to firearms. The grand jury also states that Clark allowed Coats to process other prisoners. The document also states that Clark allowed Coats access to an unsecured room in the administration building where he had intercourse with female visitors who were never searched. The environment Clark provided in the administration building, according to the grand jury, allowed for Coats to engage in Human Trafficking in the Second Degree.

Griggers indicated Coats is now in federal custody.

The other three specifications of willful neglect state that Clark an uncertified law enforcement officer into the field without supervision, that he failed to swear out an arrest warrant or pursue James Markell Bell after he escaped from the Sumter County Jail, and that he issued a “jail pass” to inmate Ronald James that allowed him to leave for extended periods of time.

Moreover, the grand jury levied three specifications of corruption while in office against Clark, stating that he used his official position to benefit himself personally and privately by employing inmates and that he operated an undocumented work release program in which the inmates were allowed to be released for the purpose of working so long as they paid the sheriff a portion of their wages.

Finally, the grand jury indicated that Clark attempted to use his official position to coerce a female employee to have sexual intercourse with him.

The grand jury report is to be filed with the Sumter County Circuit Court before heading to the office of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office would then proceed with information of impeachment to be filed with the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Once it’s filed, they put Tyrone Clark on notice and he’s provided with an opportunity to deny it or defend himself if he chooses,” Griggers said.

Clark will have an opportunity to hire an attorney to defend himself from the allegations. The Supreme Court is required to hear pending impeachment cases prior to hearing any other cases on their docket.