Coates: Internal investigation reveals infractions at jail

Administrator Phillips fired, another jail employee resigns

Kenny Phillips


ERATH COUNTY (March 8, 2017) – An internal investigation that followed inquires by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) has left two more county employees without a job.

Erath County Jail Administrator Kenny Phillips was terminated Tuesday, and Sgt. David Bass, also a jail employee, resigned as a result of the internal audit, which Sheriff Matt Coates said began shortly after Chief Investigator Heath Crossland and Cpt. Jesse Metcalf signed on with the county in mid-January.

Coates said Metcalf spearheaded the investigation after a report from TCOLE alerted local officials of a number of unspecified problems at the jail. The internal investigation concluded Tuesday.

He also said the latest personnel issues related to administrative infractions that were in violation of state and federal mandates.

“Compliance with jail standards and practices is mandated by state and federal law,” Coates explained. “Personnel decisions and changes were necessary to maintain that compliance.”

The last inspection of the jail by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards was conducted in January 2016 when Phillips claimed state officials showed up unannounced and found no deficiencies. 

Bass previously served as jail administrator but left the department for some time, returning after Phillips assumed the administrator role.    

Coates said it’s business as usual at the jail, where Vanessa Griffin has been appointed to serve as interim administrator.

The latest personnel changes follow news late last year relating to the termination of top ranking officials at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office.

Coates, who took office following the death of longtime Sheriff Tommy Bryant, also chose not to rehire other employees when he took command.

When asked for additional details on the TCOLE investigation and an ongoing inquiry by the Texas Attorney General, Coates said he hasn’t been provided any official information from state officials.

Meanwhile, requests from The Flash to both agencies have turned up little public information. TCOLE provided basic details relating to the commission’s initial investigation into operations at the sheriff’s office and jail. 


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