By BOB PALMER
Marion County Sheriff David McKnight told the Jimplecute this week he accepted responsibility for a post to the “Marion County Sheriff’s Department” Facebook page that many found offensive.
“I take full responsibility,” McKnight said when given a Texas Freedom of Information request last week by the Jefferson Jimplecute. “It’s my department and I’m the sheriff.”
McKnight said he would deny the FOIA request since the Facebook page was not an official government location.
“It’s attached to a private email,” McKnight said. “Anyone can take a picture of a sheriff’s car and create a Facebook page.”
Asked whose email was linked to the page, McKnight admitted the email was his.
Previously, McKnight in media statements had asserted the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook account had been hacked.
“We use the page to go on and post weather updates and things of that nature,” McKnight said. “We didn’t make this post, someone had to have hacked into the account somehow but I took it down.”
On April 24, a post on the Marion County Sheriff’s Facebook page announced the employment of Elmer as the department’s new animal control officer.
“We would like to introduce Elmer,” the announcement read. “Elmer will specialize in animal control and will be a perfect fit with our constituents who are concerned with our furry friends. Elmer says, ‘If you want them caught, fed or skint, just flag me down.’”
The language of the post and its accompanying picture of what was later identified as an unkempt homeless man quickly stirred reactions from animal rights advocates.
“Ideally, all law enforcement officers would understand that animal welfare, public trust in the integrity of our judicial branch, and appropriate use of technology by those public servants are serious issues,” Kimberly Parsons, Friends of Jefferson Animals president, said. “Everyone makes mistakes – but people of character admit their errors, apologize and make amends.”
The social media incident follows six months of controversy over the lack of sufficient animal control solutions in Marion County and the City of Jefferson following the two dramatic events involving upwards of 160 dogs found trapped in deplorable conditions.
In December, the Marion County Humane Society, doing business as the Dixie Humane Society, collapsed after almost 80 dogs were found in filthy and exposed kennels along with over a hundred deceased dogs in freezers.
In April, almost 80 more abandoned dogs were found in and around the Island View community on Lake O’ the Pines.
In both cases, organizations and rescuers both inside and outside of Marion County stepped in and provided shelter and care for the dogs needing rescue.
The FOIA request by the Jimplecute sought documents identifying who may have made the Facebook post and any disciplinary action taken by the sheriff.
McKnight also lamented the continuing controversy over the treatment of dogs in Marion County.
“It’s dividing the county,” McKnight said. He accused the Jimplecute of making that divide wider.
The sheriff also complained about Facebook comments on animal rights pages using profane and derogatory terms referring to members of county government and their families.
“Why don’t you write something about that?” McKnight asked.
McKnight expressed frustration with the continuing controversy.
“All of this has done got old,” McKnight said.
Weekly Jail Report
The Jimplecute has routinely reported the weekly jail activity for Marion County using a report generated upon request from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. On Wednesday, the Jimp was informed that a FOIA request would be required to receive that information. The Jimp will begin submitting a FOIA for the arrest and jail activity in Marion County starting with our May 16 edition.
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