Columbia Co. Administrator's recorded conversation reveals more about hostile work environment claims

News 12 NBC 26 at 6 O'clock / Thursday, May 18, 2017

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A phone conversation only released to News 12 & NBC 26 sheds more light on claims of a hostile work environment in Columbia County.

That conversation is public record now because it was part of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office investigation into a hostile work environment. The conversation is between Columbia County Administrator, Scott Johnson, and a local businessman with connections to the county. Johnson did not know this conversation was being recorded until the very end. The first voice you hear is Johnson responding to a post he saw on Facebook.

"And for some of the comments that you've made on social media without even talking to me. I just wanted to let you know that has really hurt my feelings," said Johnson.

That was posted the day Pam Tucker submitted her resignation letter. The post said, "It's a sad day for Columbia County. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Karma is real."

Johnson then called the local business man, who remains anonymous in this story, made the post. That conversation turned to Barry Smith, who also resigned from the County.

"Scott, I had an hour long conversation with Barry Smith a few months ago. How do you think that went?" asked the business man.

"I don't know that's between you and Barry Smith." replied Johnson.

"It didn't go well. He was forced out. He gave you a demand letter of a resignation with a severance demand letter and told you, you had two hours to do it, and you pulled it off. Now, why ya'll wouldn't do that for Pam Tucker? I don't know why." said the business man.

Smith worked as the Director of Leisure Services for Columbia County. He resigned in 2015, but unlike Pam Tucker received severance pay.

"What I hear is that everyone is scared to s*** of you, and what did you tell me about the Whistle Blower line. There is no f****** way we are doing that. Did you?" asked the business man, "I mean, really. Those were your words. Why would you not allow that?"

"Because I want our employees to come to me," responded Johnson.

"But Scott, you called every employee up from EMA to try to trash her," said the business man.

"How many employees did I call up?" asked Johnson.

"I don't know, but how do you justify calling even one?" asked the business man.

"I had a hostile work environment complaint," said Johnson.

"You sure do now," said the business man.

And from there, it escalates.

"Listen. You and I are done and our relationship with you and your bank are done as long as I'm County Administrator," said Johnson.

"And I will make that known once this done, but I'm going to tell you at the end of this investigation, you are going to be embarrassed," said Johnson, "Because a lot of things were said and done that are going to come out in the investigation. Not by me, but by other people that are going to come out. I want the investigation."

Investigators heard all this too as they looked for evidence of a hostile work place.

"Look, I'm done talking to you. Our friendship is over. Our relationship is over. Continue your bashing. I am very disappointed," said Johnson.

"Well, let me go ahead and tell you, you have threatened to remove (company name removed) from the county business," said the business man.

"I didn't threaten you with anything," said Johnson.

"Okay, well you made a promise then. How about that?" asked the business man.

"Okay," said Johnson.

"And this conversation is being recorded, so you do what you gotta do," said the business man.

At that point, the phone call ends. That business man was on Columbia County's Civil Service Commission and after the findings were released, he said he resigned from that position. News 12 NBC 26 reached out to County Administrator, Scott Johnson, twice day, but he denied News 12 NBC 26 an interview.

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