“Behavior that shocks the conscience”: Lawsuits filed by deputies against Sheriff Clovis Watson allege that ASO’s disciplinary procedures violate the Officers’ Bill of Rights


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Captain Rebecca Butscher and Sergeant William “Frank” Williams have each filed Complaints for Writ of Mandamus against Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., alleging that the Sheriff’s Office (ASO) has violated the Officers’ Bill of Rights in its handling of disciplinary complaints against the two sworn deputies; a third deputy also appears to be preparing a lawsuit with similar demands. A Writ of Mandamus is used to command public officials to “perform ministerial duties that they have a clear legal duty to perform.”

Both deputies are asking the Court to order the Sheriff to convene a Compliance Review Hearing and reopen Administrative Investigations that have been closed, resulting in 2 days of suspension without pay and 12 months of probation for Butscher and termination for Williams.

Rebecca Butscher

Captain Butscher has served with ASO for 30 years. According to the complaint, Major Lance Yaeger was a deputy just 22 months ago and has been promoted three times since then. Butscher has out-ranked Yaeger for most of her career, but Yaeger was promoted above her about two months ago; the complaint notes that Yaeger and Butscher have had differences at times during their careers.

When the events leading to the investigation began on February 7, Butscher was the Public Information Officer (PIO) for ASO. Yaeger’s complaint alleges that her “non-verbal communication and tone of voice” in a conversation on February 7 “indicated [she was] displeased with having to converse with [Yaeger].” Yaeger wrote that Butscher “interrupted me several times to make unnecessary comments.”

Also on February 7, Yaeger received a list of jail employees who had received awards in the past two years and forwarded it to a number of ASO officials, saying, “The below and attached is pretty impressive if you ask me. Looks like the fine men and women at the ASO DOJ saved a lot of lives.” Butscher replied to Yaeger on the morning of February 8, copying two other people, “When making requests for awards or any information that is maintained or managed within the Public Information Office, I expect to be copied and or notified of such requests so that I do not receive notification such as this after the fact when copied by my Administrative Assistant. Your consideration will be greatly appreciated.”

Yaeger responded directly to Butscher that she should schedule an appointment to meet with him that week. Butscher was transferred from the PIO position to patrol that same day, February 8.

Yaeger wrote in his Administrative Investigation Report that when Butscher had not scheduled a meeting by Monday, February 13, he arranged to meet with her that afternoon. Yaeger and Butscher both brought witnesses to the meeting, which Yaeger described as “corrective counseling.” Yaeger said that Butscher used a “defiant tone” with him and that when he told her he was going to read a prepared “written counseling” out loud, she “again in a defiant tone” asked to read the statement herself, but he insisted on reading it to her. Yaeger wrote that Butscher interrupted him while reading the counseling and asked for clarification on the date of the incident; he said her “disrespectful attitude” occurred on February 7.

After reading the counseling aloud, he handed it to Butscher, and she signed it and asked if he was done, then she stood up to leave, taking the signed form. He said he was keeping the form, and she turned back around and gave it to him. Yaeger said he “explained that I hoped this counseling was the end of any subordination adding that I was slightly pessimistic based upon her attitude, demeanor and tone at the time of her counseling.” Butscher then left. Yaeger wrote, “Throughout the counseling session, Captain Butcher’s [sic] tone was defiant and insubordinate. I periodically looked up at her noting she was leaning forward towards me with a facial expression consistent with anger. I also noted she intensely starred [sic] at me.”

On February 22, Yaeger summoned Butscher to his office and recorded a meeting in which he informed her that he was conducting a formal investigation of her for insubordination. Yaeger gave her 24 hours to either provide a written statement or conduct a recorded interview. Yaeger investigated the complaint himself, a violation of policy, and recommended in his report that Butscher be terminated. ASO’s Colonel and Chief Inspector signed the report and recommended a two-day suspension without pay. The Undersheriff and Sheriff signed the report and set the penalty as a two-day suspension without pay, followed by 12 months of disciplinary probation.

Attorney Bobi Frank is representing the deputies, and she sent a Notice to the Sheriff’s Office on February 23, alleging that Yaeger had violated Butscher’s rights under Florida law by investigating the complaint himself (ASO policies state that the complaint should have been referred to Butscher’s immediate supervisor because Yaeger had a conflict as the complainant), by ordering Butscher to respond to him in writing within 24 hours, and by failing to properly advise her of the nature of the investigation.

Frank sent another Notice to ASO on February 27, requesting a Compliance Review Hearing on behalf of Butscher. She requested that the Compliance Review Panel be convened within 10 days. When she had not received a response by March 3, she sent an email to Yaeger and Watson, stating her schedule availability. She received a response on March 7 from ASO General Counsel Jacob Rush, advising her that he “must conclude that your allegations and conclusions are mistaken and unfounded in law – none of which qualify for a Compliance Review Hearing.” He warned her that the claims could be “subject to sanctions for frivolous abuse of the court system.” The complaint requesting a Writ of Mandamus was filed on March 13, the deadline to hold the Compliance Review Hearing.

Frank Williams

The complaint on behalf of Frank Williams also requests a Writ of Mandamus ordering the Sheriff to reopen the investigation against him; Williams has been terminated as a result of the investigation. Williams is accused of making a Facebook post on January 12 that criticized “senseless personnel changes” and a lack of transparency at ASO. In the post, Williams wrote that he is “exhausted from constantly being disappointed by this administration” and “done suppressing my feelings and my own mental health just to avoid retaliation.” He acknowledged in the post that it would likely result in a transfer or discipline.

Williams has been with ASO for 13 years and was shot in the line of duty in 2013. The legal complaint states that he “has had to sit back silently while his Patrol Squad has been decimated due to low staffing numbers, low morale, and unsafe working conditions.”

On January 23, Williams was served with the first of two notifications that he was under an administrative investigation for violation of ASO’s social media policy. The complainant was Jacob Rush. The same day, he received a second notification of the same investigation, but this time the complainant was Kelvin Jenkins.

Also on the same day, Williams was placed on administrative suspension without pay, which continued until he was terminated.

Virgil Calhoun was assigned as the investigator on February 16 and arranged for a meeting with Williams on March 1 to conduct an evidence review and interrogation. After reviewing the evidence and witness statements, Frank claimed that Williams’ rights under Florida statutes had been violated, and the interrogation was not conducted.

Calhoun closed the investigation on March 2 with findings of “sustained” for “Insubordination” and “Conduct Unbecoming” and recommended Williams for termination. The alleged violation of “Criticism of Order” was not sustained. ASO served Williams with a Notice of Intent to Terminate on March 8.

The complaint states that “the detriment to the community by allowing the Sheriff, a constitutional Officer, to engage in this type of conduct can’t be overstated. If [the Sheriff] is repeatedly violating its own sworn Law Enforcement Officers’ rights and the plain requirements of the law as a matter of procedure, the public’s faith in the ability of its Sheriff’s office could diminish beyond repair.” The complaint also states that ASO is at “dangerously low staffing levels” and that “officers will seek employment elsewhere leaving the community vulnerable to criminal activity and lack of police services.”

The violations in the complaint include not referring the investigation to Williams’ immediate supervisor; not following policies for processing complaints; not interviewing Rush, who was initially listed as the complainant, or Jenkins; not providing Williams with a description of the events leading to the complaint; and not including body camera videos recorded after the investigation had been opened as evidence in the investigation.

Frank sent a Notice to ASO on March 2 that detailed the alleged violations of Florida statutes; she also requested a Compliance Review Hearing in a separate Notice on that date. The request for the Writ of Mandamus was filed on March 13.

Kevin Davis

A lawsuit has not yet been filed in the case of Sergeant Kevin Davis, but affidavits describing his case appear in the complaints for Butscher and Williams. Davis was also notified twice on January 23 that he had made a social media post that violated ASO policy; the complainant in the first notification was Jacob Rush, and the second complainant was Kelvin Jenkins. A Notice sent to ASO by Bobi Frank on March 6 speculates that Lance Yaeger is the true complainant. The violations are similar to the violations alleged in Williams’ complaint.

In a written statement provided to the Alachua Chronicle, Bobi Frank said, “Clovis Watson’s refusal to follow the clear mandates of the law is so out of bounds it can be described as nothing less than behavior that shocks the conscience. This conduct is extremely dangerous and can decimate the effectiveness of the Agency and its ability to keep Alachua County residents safe. The Law Enforcement Officers that have chosen a life of public service deserve better, as does the community that they choose to serve and protect, every day. Unfortunately, this is now at a critical point where Court intervention is required.”

Sheriff Watson declined to comment because “General Counsel has not had the opportunity to review the filing.”

  • Doesn’t surprise me. Law enforcement is still the ” Good Ole Boys Club”. Play the game or be fired.

  • The governor of Florida should start an investigation at both GPD and ASO due to incompetent leadership which endangers both the employees and the public and appoint someone competent to run both agencies.

  • I spent almost 10 years at ASO and know the 3 above individuals. They were some of the best people I have had the honor of working with. It is a shame what has happened to ASO glad I got out when I did.

  • Wow, quite a mess at ASO. Thank you local democratic party for creating this by locking out republican voters.

    • Joe, my memory is getting a little fuzzy. Remind us again the name of the sheriff candidate the local Republican Party ran in the November 2020 election?

      • Indeed, and Clovis was the Great Black Hope of the GOP in Alachua politics for years until they were no longer his path to power.

        • At one time, Clovis promoted “OPERATION RED” propaganda intended to transition the City of Alachua from Dem to Republican.

  • Unionized workplaces are a double edged sword. There’s pluses and minuses the employees must tolerate and weigh in their minds, and decide how much they can take.
    Citizens don’t know the personnel histories of our civil servants. It’s best the judicial process plays it out.

  • You can thank the County Commission and the DEC for pushing out Sadie Darnell and installing their pal Clovis. Now the ACSO is a mess and they’ll claim don’t understand why.

    • You all loved Clovis when he was a Republican in Alachua, and if he had endorsed Scott for Senator, you’d still love him.

  • After I watched the video of Cpl. Scott Bertsyk (GPD) DUI and the way the officer was so rude to the man he hit and she bent over backwards for a drunk then I read about Edwaldo Santa’s (ASO) I gave up on accountability for LE Administration.

    These arguments within ASO and GPD have been going on forever.

    We need oversight.

  • Nothing has changed over there apparently since Joe Crevasse was Sheriff. Elected officials can be very vindictive when crossed.
    Just another example of the ‘good ole boy’ system in Alachua county. And folk wonder why people are leaving police work in record numbers.

  • So Mr. Williams was fired for criticizing “senseless personnel changes” and a lack of transparency at ASO. Gosh, it must be so much fun to work at a place where you can get fired for telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  • As if Police officers don’t have enough to contend with just doing their jobs, they have to contend with politics as well.

    That a man was fired for criticizing senseless personnel changes and lack of transparency is appalling and says a lot about the current leadership, or should I say, lack thereof, at ASO.

    As another poster pointed out, this stuff didn’t happen under Sheriff Sadie Darnell but I guess she refused to “play the game” and got pushed out.

    News Flash for ASO: You work for us, and playing politics and firing good people because they dare to speak the truth just doesn’t go down well with us. Clovis needs to be voted out as soon as possible. I voted for him, but you can bet I won’t vote for him again.

  • More fallout stemming from the senseless election of the corrupt and self-idolizing Clovis Watson, who was only brought into office with the help of white liberal guilt after the death of St. Fentanyl Floyd. Sadie seems like a nun after just a few years of this lunatic’s reign.

  • Watson is dirty. I recall his physical abuse against Charles Grapski when Watson was Alachua City manager/police chief. Here is the whole story in a youtube interview. (hot links not allowed in the comments section so paste it together) [ youtu. be / Qmu5SHRfthQ ]

  • What better way to encourage opposition for reelection next year.

    Keep circling those wagons, Clovis!

  • Hope Sadie is sitting back laughing at the voters who didn’t know how good they had it with her. Also hope she is enjoying retirement.

  • Where did Jake Fuller’s cartoon of Clovis go? It was here in the Chronicle earler, were there nefarious threats which caused it to be removed?

  • Problems within ASO from top down. Incompetence at the top does not surprise me: read on…One of our citizens was arrested (never charged) based on falsified allegations and a falsified timeline. Evidence to discredit the falsified allegations and falsified timeline was available but not reviewed. And the resulting mugshot and arrest record is still posted, including in this news outlet. Think about it…fabricated allegations, fabricated timelines, evidence available to discredit, arrested anyway. No charges, case dropped, and being redacted, but still publicly on display. Waste of tax payer money, waste of a very good and solid citizen’s reputation and the family’s reputation with over 40 years of family public service to the Alachua County citizens. The innocent who speak out against these travesties always pay the price with attempts to silence, whether internal employees who refuse to take it anymore or innocent citizens who are the by-product victims of top down incompetence. And they both suffer the public display, except the employees are celebrated by the public for their courage to speak out whereas the citizen who was innocent and never charged is berated by the public. Go figure. I herald those who speak out against an agency’s policy violations, and I ask that all equally herald an innocent citizen who is still on public display for a false crime. All citizens need to educate themselves as either professionals (via professional development) or as citizens by googling this site called Mothers of Sons group to get a picture of how alarming things have become. Read it thoroughly, and pray it will never happen to any of you. Clean up your act ASO, and please all of you understand innocent people do get arrested and humiliated publicly even though they are innocent.

  • Why can’t we make comments on ASO’s Facebook page since this Sheriff took over? Get rid of him before all officers leave for better conditions. Maybe he will have to go to patrol duty when they all quit.

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