Via Kentucky Department of Corrections Facebook page

The director of the state Division of Probation and Parole was fired on Monday for mishandling an allegation of sexual assault, in yet another personnel shake-up at the Kentucky Department of Corrections over the past two months.

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn confirmed to Insider Louisville on Tuesday that probation and parole director Johnathan Hall was fired and has been replaced by interim director Erica Hargis.

Wynn told Insider that Hall’s termination letter indicated he was fired because he “mishandled an allegation of sexual assault,” adding that “while former leadership at the Department of Corrections may have tolerated this type of negligence and misconduct, the Justice Cabinet finds it unacceptable and is taking decisive steps to root it out.”

Hall’s departure follows the firing last month of Department of Corrections Commissioner James Erwin and operations director Chris Kleymeyer. The cabinet has yet to reveal the specific reason why both were terminated.

The firing of Erwin and Kleymeyer took place just days after Hall and Erwin notified the state’s probation and parole officers and supervisors that they would receive a 12 percent raise effective March 16.

However, the day before those raises were to start, Hall and Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Jonathan Grate notified probation and parole officers in a letter that their raises were now on hold, blaming “former leadership” for improperly vetting how such pay increases would be implemented.

Erwin sued the Justice Cabinet three weeks ago for wrongful termination, alleging that he was fired due to his refusal to fire two corrections at the direction of Secretary John Tilley. Erwin’s lawsuit states that he refused to fire the officers due to the cabinet’s investigation of them being “deficient.”

The cabinet responded to the lawsuit with a statement asserting that Erwin’s “false claims are an obvious attempt to distract from the wrongdoing that occurred under Mr. Erwin’s command. The Justice Cabinet will not be intimidated from rooting out deception and misconduct, and we will have much more to share regarding this situation very soon.”

The Cabinet has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Erwin does not have a claim to whistleblower protections under law over his refusal to fire officers.

Insider obtained copy of Hall’s 3-page termination letter Tuesday afternoon — written by Secretary Tilley — which explained that he was dismissed with cause due to “unsatisfactory performance of job duties” and a violation of department rules concerning the prevention of sexual abuse.

In the letter, Tilley referred to former probation and parole officer Ron Tyler, who was fired on Jan. 17 over allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted his parolee and is now under investigation by the Kentucky State Police. Despite that offender absconding from custody last summer over her “fear of being raped” by Tyler, Tilley’s letter goes on to state that Hall did not properly follow through with an investigation of the allegations.

The termination letter states that Hall has 30 days to appeal his firing to the state Personnel Board.

In the termination letters of Erwin and Kleymeyer obtained through an open records request last month, both were told that they were fired without cause.

Tom Coffey, the attorney representing Erwin in his lawsuit against the cabinet, told Insider in a statement the cabinet’s continued “disparaging” inferences about his client are in contradiction to the content of the termination letter Tilley sent the former commissioner last month.

“Secretary Tilley put in writing to Jim Erwin that his termination was without cause, and furthermore, Jim’s reemployment rights were not impacted by the termination,” stated Coffey. “It is striking that the Cabinet keeps making disparaging statements and inferences about Jim’s leadership directly at odds with Secretary Tilley’s letter.”

This story has been updated.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]