By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
JEFFERSON – In a text message to Chief Deputy Frank Cason, Sheriff David McKnight admitted he made the satirical “Elmer” post on the Marion County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page on April 24.
A letter, containing copies of the text messages, dated June 3 from County Attorney Angela Smoak arrived at the Jimplecute office Thursday morning. The Jimplecute sought the text messages through a Texas Public Information Act request 15 business days ago on May 15.
McKnight’s exchange with Cason occurred the same night the post announcing the hiring of Elmer as the county’s new animal control officer appeared on Facebook, April 24.
Cason – “Did you post something on Facebook about Elmer?”
McKnight – “Yes he starts next Monday.”
McKnight – “I was trying to piss of (sic) the shaw bunch. I think it was successful.”
“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.’”
In an interview with the Marshall News Messenger published April 24, McKnight claimed the department’s Facebook page had been hacked.
“I don’t know how it happened,” McKnight told the News Messenger. He added, “We didn’t make this post, someone had to have hacked into the account somehow but I took it down.”
In the same news story, Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur supported McKnight, yet called for the facts to be known.
“I share the concern regarding this post. As you know Brook (LaFleur) and I have worked tirelessly towards ensuring the well-being of our homeless pet population,” LaFleur told the News Messenger. “As for the content of this post, I’m inclined to believe that the sheriff’s post was somehow hacked.
“As you recall, Sheriff McKnight, despite the baseless accusations levied against him during the Dixie Animal Shelter crisis, wrote a pretty compelling op-Ed to our local paper in which he called for all parties to move forward,” he said. “Given that, let’s not jump to any conclusions until more information becomes available.
“As a judicial officer, I always base my conclusion on fact and fact alone.”
The Jimp contacted LaFleur, McKnight, and Cason for comment today but email requests were not returned.
Kimberly Shaw, a volunteer with Friends of Jefferson Animals (FOJA), did not find the post funny and McKnight’s admission targeting Shaw pathetic.
Shaw and other animal advocates stepped in following the collapse in December of the Marion County Humane Society, dba Dixie Humane Society, dumping almost 80 dogs on the community.
“All that my friends and I have wanted to do is to correct a travesty that allowed someone to milk untold dollars out of good-hearted people while letting animals suffer,” Shaw said. “To make fun of that in such a hideous way is unconscionable.”
Shaw denied she sought any advantage from the controversy.
“This has never been political for me,” Shaw said. “I believe Sheriff McKnight owes me, my husband and his [McKnight’s] constituents an apology, but more so, I believe [McKnight] should search his own heart to decide whether public service is really his true calling.”
Shaw also considered McKnight’s attack on a fellow peace officer, her husband Steven Shaw, a former Dallas Police Department officer, offensive.
“I am hurt and appalled that a law enforcement official would intentionally do or say anything to publicly and personally attack a fellow law enforcement officer,” Shaw said after learning McKnight admitted to making the Elmer post.
Previously, McKnight accepted “full responsibility” for the Elmer post, but stopped short of admitting that he had personally made it. He has not made a public apology for the post or expressed regret.
McKnight also scoffed at possible fallout from the Elmer post.
“They [animal welfare advocates in Marion County] can’t do anything to me,” McKnight said to the Jimplecute on May 2 in regard to complaints that the “Elmer” post was inappropriate.
McKnight previously said he will not seek re-election. He has two years left on his current term.
In her cover letter to the Jimplecute, Smoak questioned the Jimplecute’s news coverage of the matter.
“Attached please find copies of the text messages requested in your previous PIA request. Personal information has been redacted as allowed under the act, however I believe that information is outside the requested time period,” Smoak wrote. “It is only included so that you would not assume, as you [Bob Palmer] are prone to do, that information had been left out. Again, I believe that you are already in possession of this information based on statements by your staff but it has been provided to you again herein.”
Jimplecute Publisher Mica Wilhite in a letter dated June 6, pointed out to Smoak the county has still not complied with the newspaper’s May 15 request.
“As you know, we requested ‘Records and copies of any electronic communication created, transmitted, received, or maintained on any device if the communication is in connection with the transaction of official business by Marion County for Sheriff David McKnight and Chief Deputy Frank Carson (sic) from April 17, 2019 through May 12, 2019,’” Wilhite wrote.
Wilhite went on to note, “As you know, text messages are only one type of electronic communication. We continue to look for your complete compliance with the PIA request with emails and social media messages as well as the results of Tamara Smith’s investigation.”
Assistant Texas Attorney General Tamara Smith has opened an investigation into Marion County’s failure to comply with the Jimplecute within the 10-day limit provided by law.
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