The latest deputy resignation has raised questions on the employment practices at the Sheriff's Office.
Deputy Vernon Beamer resigned earlier this month claiming he was being forced out after 26 years of service to the agency.
Sheriff Stephen Simpson (R) made a number of changes to his command staff after winning his third term on Nov. 4. He ran against five opponents, three of whom were former members of his staff. Beamer was one of the staffers who was demoted. Lt. Col. John Patton, having served for 27 years, was demoted to second lieutenant. Additionally, Dennis Patterson was not re-sworn in as an officer. All three had supported Chris Harmison in his bid against Simpson.
“He never came right out and accused me of backing another Sheriff but that’s exactly what it was. I wasn’t out there actively campaigning but if someone asked me, I gave them my opinion,” said Beamer.
“The problem is that deputies work at the pleasure of the Sheriff. There’s no guarantee that you have a job,” said Beamer.
SIMPSON CONTENDS, “The actions that were taken were not politically motivated. But, I can’t have people within the department try to undermine the agency.”
Harmison said, “He’s gotten rid of people who didn’t support him, but how’s that undermining the agency? I just think that’s un-American. A guy can support whoever he wants. It’s a dangerous precedent. That, to me, is undermining the agency.”
Beamer and Harmison say people within the department are apprehensive to speak up about what’s been happening at the Sheriff’s department for fear of their own jobs.
“People’s jobs depend on politics. It’s like Long down in Louisiana,” said Harmison.
Employees are indeed “at will” but, Simpson said, “I signed an agreement saying I would follow the county policies.”
Harmison suggested that deputies affected by Simpson after the election should pursue this. “He signed an agreement. Vernon and these guys should go back and ask about it,” said Harmison.
Beamer counters that there was nothing in his service record that warranted the way he was treated by his superiors after the election. There are two instances on Beamer's record that he says were blown out of proportion by Simpson and his new second lieutenant colonel Ron Gibson. Beamer was found in violation of two general orders and the violations were sustained. At one point he was relieved of duty with pay.
After being told he was being relieved of duty, Beamer asked the major and another officer there who were delivering the news why such drastic action was being taken. “Neither one could remember a time that had ever happened,” said Beamer.
Beamer maintains these are instances of the Sheriff’s office “abusing the constitution by just being able to do what he wants to do.”
Beamer said he made the decision to quit after it became clear that he was being forced out of the department. “On [Nov.] 24 [Simpson] said we needed to clear the air. I told him that Ron Gibson had told me he was going to fire me. People would ask me all the time, 'What does Ron Gibson have against you?'”
“With 15 months left to go before retirement, I realized with the stress, there was no reason to stay on,” said Beamer. “I was intimidated and harassed. It was constant harassment and threats,” said Beamer.
Simpson said he cannot comment on personnel issues but said that if Beamer wanted to release his personnel file, he would “make this a fair exchange.” Beamer said he has no issues with releasing his personnel file and is willing to stand on his record of service.
BEAMER INTENDS to go before the Board of Supervisors later this month to detail his treatment and what he witnessed at the Sheriff's department.
He is also going to propose that there is more accountability at the Sheriffs office.
“Loudoun County needs a police department, its own separate police department that answers to the county administrator. That’s how this will go away. I’m not going to go away. I’m going to push for that,” said Beamer.
Harmison said that is an idea that could work well for the county. “So much is already funded by the county that you might as well go ahead,” said Harmison.