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Florence Detective Who Was Fired/Rehired Facing Retaliation, According to Memos

Former Florence Police Detectives Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson. Hunter is now the town code enforcement officer.
Former Florence Police Detectives Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson. Hunter is now the town code enforcement officer.

Despite their best efforts to get rid of Walt "Hondo" Hunter, Florence Police Chief Dan Hughes and Lieutenant Terry Tryon were forced to accept him back as a member of the Florence Police Department.

The pair orchestrated Hunter's termination in December over alleged town policy violations. But Hunter appealed and a hearing officer in October found there was no merit to his termination. (Ironically, Hunter's partner -- and the town's only black detective -- Jarris Varnrobinson, was fired on the same day over nearly identical allegations of policy violations, but his termination was not overturned.)

Reinstatement to the Florence Police Department hasn't exactly been a victory for the wrongfully terminated detective. Instead, he's being written up for asking questions, "talking over" his boss and, gasp! interrupting a chair delivery.

See also: -Injustice for All: The Florence PD Compromised Public Safety -Suffer the Children: How FPD Sabotaged Investigations of Slaying, Alleged Rape -Rankin's Law: Tragic Consequences Follow Mayor's Control of Politics and Police

Records obtained by New Times show that police officials are diligently nitpicking. For instance, his boss made a note that Hunter's was disrespectful because he was "delayed" in greeting Police Chief Dan Hughes when he entered a room.

We detailed Hunter and Varnrobinson's story in Injustice for All, the first in New Times' three-part investigative series: Florence Exposed.

Since his return, the former detective was demoted twice -- from detective to patrol officer, then, stripped of his gun and badge, and demoted to a code enforcement officer. Although the hearing officer concluded there was no valid reason for the town to fire him, officials only restored half of his backpay and hit him with a pay cut.

Also, Sergeant William Tatlock, Hunter's supervisor, started a log of his interactions with Hunter that include his underling's indiscretions.

We're not making these up -- and the absurdity of Tatlock's memo couldn't be a more obvious attempt to build a case against Hunter.

 

"On 10/15/13 Hunter was on time but showed little respect for the Chief of Police when he entered the room. He had a delayed response to acknowledge him ," Tatlock wrote.

And another: "Hunter was advised only to drive his assigned patrol unit for lunch break only. Officer Hunter ignored my directive and drove to Town Hall in my absence."

Yep, Hunter made that two-minute drive between Town Hall and the police department in his patrol unit -- after he was summoned by town officials.

Hunter was ordered to read administrative policies, but was dinged by Tatlock for failing "to keep focused on the task at hand" because he was "having conversations with some staff and not reading them as assigned."

Tatlock continued:

"On 11/01/2013 I gave Hunter at approximately 1200 hours a memo instructing him on what is required of him as code enforcement officer. ... As I was speaking to him, Hunter notice a typing error ... and he said 'which is it' and when I tried to explain he became disrespectful by talking over me while I was speaking. ... While Hunter was being disrespectful to me Chief Hughes and Detective Gaston were just outside my door and overhead the conversation."

After those dutifully kept notes, Tatlock made it formal.

On November 6, Hughes and Tatlock filed what's called a "record of employee counseling" for "insubordination to a superior officer" against Hunter.

Here's the shocking series of events that earned Hunter admonishment for insubordination.

 

From Tatlock:

November 1: "Officer Hunter was advised ... not to be disrespectful to myself or other supervisors ... He was in my office and while I was trying to give him directions on the code enforcement program he spoke over me in a loud voice. I asked him to go into the officer room until further notice. (Time out for cops?) I advised him, at that time, he is not to be disrespectful to myself or any supervisor. I had given him written information that clarified his duties and assignment. Upon reading the memo there was no need for his abusive tone or questioning."

[In Tatlock's log, there is no mention of an "abusive tone" in his November 1 entry. He simply noted that Hunter was "talking over" him.]

November 6: "I was meeting with our new employee, Officer Horn, at the entrance of the police lobby. I also had an employee from DOC that was delivering a chair for dispatch at the same time and was speaking to me about the delivery. The conversation I was having was interrupted by Officer Hunter who while walking in my direction started saying, "Do you have anything for me. ... Officer Hunter did not address me as Sergeant, Serg, Bill or any other acceptable greeting. His statement was disrespectful of my position as a supervisor for the police department."

Tatlock also was offended that Hunter made small talk with him while signing his application.

"I did not respond and let him proceed to sign the document," Tatlock wrote. "This is the second occurrence that Officer Hunter has acted in a manner unbecoming of an officer and disrespectful of my supervisory position."

Hunter responded to his write-up, essentially noting that Tatlock was "clearly retaliating and misusing his authority against" him.

An excerpt from Hunter's response memo:

Florence Detective Who Was Fired/Rehired Facing Retaliation, According to Memos

Both Hunter and Varnrobinson are pursuing legal action against the town.


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