[UPDATE] Wakulla County, Florida- September 4, 2012
On April 9, 2012, former Wakulla County Sheriff's Lieutenant Steven Ganey claims Major Shepard Bruner and Lieutenant Billy Jones arrived at his home and allowed Ganey's wife to take his daughter without a court order.
"When your daughter's screaming, Daddy, please help me. And they're dragging her away from you, you know, that strikes," said Ganey.
Ganey's account of that day conflicts with those reported by the Sheriff's office. Bruner and Jones say they escorted Ganey's estranged wife Tammy to the home. Ganey says when they arrived, his daughter did not want to leave with her mother.
"My daughter told Major Bruner twice .... ' I have been abused. Up until the eighth grade,' and nothing happened," said Ganey.
Ganey claims he was treated unfairly because his wife is the niece of Major Maurice Langston and cousin of Sheriff Donnie Crum.
"After I went to the office, and confronted the sheriff, and major Langston, on who authorized my child taken without a court order, Major Langston locked the door and wouldn't even come out," said Ganey.
Ganey also claims his wife had a personal relationship with Bruner. Bruner told Eyewitness News he hadn't met Tammy Ganey until the day of the incident.
"There's people that will testify in court, that they heard from a very reliable source at the sheriff's office, the sheriff's office, that they knew each other prior to that," said Ganey.
The pending lawsuit also sites what Ganey claims was an unfair demotion back in September of 2011. The WCSO said Ganey volunteered for the demotion. Ganey says Sheriff Crum handled the demotions unprofessionally.
"He went around the room, first to one captain and said, you haven't brought me any fish lately. 'Oh, sheriff, I'll get that to you this weekend,' Ok, you'll stay a captain," said Ganey.
Ganey claims another captain was told he would keep his rank because the sheriff was related to him.
"The third, he got to me and said, 'Captain Ganey, you're now demoted to Lieutenant and report to the crime scene unit,' That was my voluntary demotion," said Ganey.
Ganey hopes the lawsuit will stop what he says is a history of the WCSO abusing it's power.
"There's a lot of people, employees there, who are scared. And, um, I think it's important to take a stand for the citizens now. They don't know what's going on at the Sheriff's office," said Ganey.
The WCSO said they stand by their original statements that they did nothing wrong.
[UPDATE] Wakulla County, Florida -August 24, 2012
A lawsuit being filed by former Lieutenant Steven Ganey against the Wakulla County Sheriff's office claims members of the WCSO went to his home and took his children without a warrant.
Lieutenant Billy Jones and Major Shepard Bruner say they went to Ganey's home after Ganey's wife filed a petition for a domestic violence injunction. They say it is common practice for deputies to assist on what the sheriff's office refers to as "stand-by's" as a safety precaution.
Bruner was told to handle the call by the undersheriff at the time, Maurice Langston. Bruner said he chose to handle the call himself rather than send someone of a lesser rank.
"We responded because LT Ganey was on duty that day, and his shift was out working, we just thought that, uh, for lack of better words, to save him some embarrassment to him," said Jones.
Bruner and Jones say they never entered the home. They also say Ganey's daughter left voluntarily with her mother.
When they arrived, Jones and Bruner say Ganey and his wife began arguing.
"Major Bruner stepped in and made several attempts to calm them down, and as the argument just got louder, he quickly established control," said Jones.
Ganey claims Bruner put his hands on him and prevented him from touching his daughter.
Bruner, who declined to go on camera, denies ever touching Ganey. He said he , quote, "stood between Ganey and his wife to create some kind of barrier" when the argument escalated.
In the letter Ganey's attorney sent to the WCSO informing them of a pending lawsuit, Ganey also says Bruner helped Ms. Ganey file a false domestic violence claim.
Bruner released the following statement:
"I categorically deny providing any false information on a domestic violence injunction affidavit."
Ganey claims he was forced into early retirement. Bruner says that retirement was unexpected.
The WCSO shared a photo of Ganey with Sheriff Donnie Crum that was taken at Ganey's retirement luncheon. Bruner says the picture of a smiling Ganey with the sheriff at the luncheon paints a different picture than that of a disgruntled former employee.
[UPDATE] Wakulla County, Florida- August, 23, 2012
Wakulla County Sheriff's Office Release
The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office received a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation from the attorney for former WCSO Lt. Steve Ganey on Aug. 15. In the letter from Marie A. Mattox, the attorney makes a number of frivolous unsubstantiated allegations in an obvious attempt to smear the sheriff’s office.
Ganey’s attorney alleged that her client was demoted without cause from captain to lieutenant in September 2011.
FACT: Former employee Ganey took a voluntary demotion in October 2011 as part of Sheriff Donnie Crum’s reallocation of personnel following his appointment by Gov. Rick Scott. Lt. Billy Jones was the first captain to volunteer for a voluntary demotion and Ganey was second.
Ganey’s attorney alleged that Major Shepard Bruner and Lt. Billy Jones appeared at Ganey’s home and “took his children without the benefit of any court order.”
FACT: Major Bruner and Lt. Jones received a call for service and went to Ganey’s home as part of a routine safety “standby” while Ganey’s spouse retrieved personal property. The major and lieutenant took the standby duty to avoid having a member of Ganey’s road patrol unit respond to the call to keep from embarrassing Ganey in front of his shift subordinates.
At no time did Major Bruner or Lt. Jones prevent Ganey’s teenage child from speaking and hugging her father, who arrived on the scene a short time later. Lt. Jones explained to Ganey’s spouse that the WCSO did not have the authority to prevent the child from visiting with her father. Ultimately, the child visited with her father and followed the commands of her mother and left the scene with her without law enforcement intervention.
Ganey’s attorney alleged that Major Bruner has a friendship with Ganey’s spouse.
FACT: Major Bruner met Ganey’s spouse for the first time when he went to the home to assist Lt. Jones with the standby activities. “That was the first time I’d ever met her,” said Major Bruner.
Ganey’s attorney claims that Major Bruner provided information for a domestic violence injunction “with information he knew was false.”
“I categorically deny providing any false information on a domestic violence injunction affidavit,” said Bruner. “In addition, Ganey’s attorney claims that someone overheard a third unnamed party make a statement about Ganey being ‘set up’ for a sexual harassment complaint. This is also totally untrue. I find it convenient that there are no named witnesses to this fairytale set up.”
“Normally we don’t speak about litigation,” said Sheriff Donnie Crum. “But this is total fabrication. This is just about smearing the sheriff’s office.”
“Lt. Ganey was working his regular shift and was armed,” added Lt. Jones. “We were concerned about the situation escalating and it did turn into a verbally aggressive argument. Once we were able to de-escalate the situation, all parties left the scene and we returned to service.”
“We take potential threats of domestic violence very seriously at the sheriff’s office,” added Sheriff Crum. “It is our duty to protect women and children from domestic violence, regardless of election campaigns and lawsuits, even if it is a member of our own agency. Once the court issues an injunction ruling, we are required to act.”
Public Information Officer
Wakulla County Sheriff's Office
15 Oak Street
Crawfordville, FL 32327
[UPDATE] August, 23, 2012
There's new information tonight in a story Eyewitness News was first to report on Wednesday.
Steven Ganey claims on April 9th, 2012, members of the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office entered his home and took his children without a warrant. In a letter of intent to file a lawsuit against the WCSO, Ganey's attorney says Ganey's wife had filed a petition for a domestic violence injunction that same day.
The letter states, "Ms. Ganey and her mother, Teresa Crum, met with Major Langston and Major Bruner earlier that morning at the Sheriff's Office."
Eyewitness News previously reported Ms. Ganey is a relative of the Sheriff. We've now learned she's also the niece of Major Langston.
Her mother is Langston's sister. At the time Ganey says the incident took place, Langston was the Undersheriff.
Ganey's attorney Marie Mattox says her client is suing the Sheriff's Office for negligence, negligent retention and conduct unbecoming a public employee.
Wakulla County, Florida- August 22, 2012
Falsifying a domestic violence complaint, seizing children from a home without a warrant, and setting up a false sexual harassment complaint are all claims being made against members of the Wakulla County Sheriff's command staff.
The attorney representing a former member of the command staff sent a letter to Sheriff Donnie Crum explaining those accusations.
She says the letter is required by law in advance of a lawsuit she plans to file against the Sheriff's Office.
Steven Ganey used to be a captain with the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office. However, he took early retirement in June after he claims he was demoted to lieutenant without cause. He says that demotion was just the beginning of his troubles.
In the letter dated August 13Th, 2012, Ganey's attorney claims Major Shepard Bruner and Lieutenant Billy Jones took Ganey's children from his home "without benefit of any court order."
The letter goes on to claim Major Bruner helped Ganey's wife file a petition for a domestic violence order "he knew was false". Ganey's attorney also claims witnesses overheard Major Bruner planning to "have Mr.Ganey "set up for investigation" on a bogus sexual harassment complaint.
Attorney Marie Mattox tells us the letter is in advance of a lawsuit she plans to file against the Sheriff's Office within the next six months.
Sheriff Donnie Crum declined comment on the letter due to the pending lawsuit. According to Ganey's attorney, his wife is a relative of Sheriff Crum and a friend of Major Bruner.