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Roane sheriff-elect resigns from Spencer police

The sheriff-elect of Roane County, who was placed on leave from the Spencer
Police Department after evidence went missing, has resigned from the
city department.

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The sheriff-elect of Roane County, who was placed on leave from the Spencer Police Department after evidence went missing, has resigned from the city department. However, he has not told county officials whether he plans to take office as sheriff next month, according to the county prosecutor. Matthew "Bo" Williams, a Spencer police officer for two years, was elected Roane County sheriff last month. He was placed on leave from Spencer police on Nov. 25, and resigned from the department on Monday, Spencer Police Chief Greg Nichols said. Williams' resignation took effect immediately. 

The police chief said that Spencer Mayor Terry Williams — who is Bo Williams' great-uncle — had asked him to speak for the city. Nichols had previously declined to describe the events leading to Williams' suspension, calling it a "personnel matter." He also declined to go into specifics Wednesday, citing an ongoing investigation. But the mayor previously said in a statement that the Spencer Police Department had begun an internal investigation upon learning "that evidence collected in certain criminal investigations was missing." Roane County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Downey said Wednesday that county commissioners don't know if Williams plans to take office as sheriff. "The county commission has not received any indication of what his intention is," Downey said. County officers, according to state law, can be removed for official misconduct, neglect of duty, or incompetence. 

The county commission or county prosecutor can make the allegation in circuit court. In counties with more than 10,000 and fewer than 50,000 people, the lesser of 500 or 10 percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the election also can file a petition in circuit court. Roane County has an estimated 14,435 residents in 2015, according to the U.S. Census. But none of that can happen until Williams officially takes office, Downey said. Misconduct, according to state code, "means conviction of a felony during the officer's present term of office" and incompetence can include "conviction of a misdemeanor involving dishonesty or gross immorality" that takes place "during the challenged officer's term of office." 

"They haven't made a decision yet," Downey said. "There's no need to make a decision if they can't take any action anyway." "If the issue continues to be there Jan. 1, and Bo Williams takes office," he added, "then they can consider what action may be appropriate and what actions they want to take." Downey said he would recuse himself if any criminal charges are filed against Williams, but he has not ruled out filing a civil petition to remove Williams. He noted that numerous people have been involved in the case and reviewing the appropriate next steps. 

"It's a mess," he said. State Police have said the Roane County prosecutor's office contacted troopers "to investigate possible misconduct regarding the handling of evidence by a member of the Spencer Police Department."Downey has said that Sgt. R.E. Richardson with the State Police detachment in Elizabeth, Wirt County, is investigating.State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous has said questions should be directed to him. Wednesday, he said that State Police do not plan to comment on the investigation, even when it is concluded. 

"We continue to have an open investigation concerning the evidence room at Spencer PD," he wrote. "We will not be releasing any further information. When the report is complete, it will be turned over to the Prosecutor for review. If any further comments are made to the media, it will come from the Prosecutor assigned to review the report."Williams used to work for the Roane County Sheriff's Office, according to Downey and Williams' LinkedIn profile. Current Sheriff Todd Cole has not returned calls. -

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