Complaint leads to jail investigation

By Brandon Evans | Published Thursday, August 5, 2010

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An internal investigation at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office revealed a possible improper relationship between a jail official and a former inmate.

“We started an internal investigation about two-and-a-half weeks ago after we received a complaint from an employee at the jail,” said Sheriff David Walker. “When she turned in her letter of resignation, she complained of a hostile work environment. We took it seriously. We started looking into her allegations to see if there was any validity to her claims.”

The department hired a private investigator from Dallas.

“We wanted an unbiased investigator to come in and look at this from top to bottom,” Walker said.

Although the inquiry started out looking into an alleged hostile work atmosphere, it uncovered a possible improper relationship between Capt. Martha Nivens, second in command in the Jail Division, and an inmate. Nivens has been suspended without pay.

Nivens has been employed with the sheriff’s office since 1993.

“She’s a good employee,” Walker said. “She knows how to run the jail, she’s dedicated and she’s well respected among the Jail Association. This is an unfortunate deal.”

Walker said there is no evidence of criminal violations at this time. But he asked the local Texas Ranger to enter the investigation and determine if any criminal violations have occurred.

Lena Tucker, a former medical officer at the Wise County Jail, filed the initial complaint.

“I was basically a whipping child,” she said. “I was screamed and cursed at repeatedly for a long time (by ranking officers). I eventually reached a breaking point.”

She said the last major incident occurred over a discrepancy with Nivens in the policy of counting medications before they are distributed to inmates.

“Now it looks like there was a lot more going on than what I thought,” Tucker said. “It’s brought out some dirty trash.”

She is now dealing with her own problem of being unemployed and taking care of a family.

“I wish I’d kept my mouth shut,” she said. “Now I don’t have a job. But something good will come out of this.”

Walker said they tried to mediate the situation, but Tucker decided she was going to quit anyway.

“We feel confident this outside investigation will get to the bottom of this,” he said. “We just want to make sure we keep everything above board and maintain transparency.”

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