State law allows DA, others to bring ouster suit
By MINDY TATE, Editor and CAROLE ROBINSON, Staff Intern
County leaders say they are receiving calls from the public on whether Sheriff Ricky Headley can continue in office after being arrested on prescription drug fraud charges, but state law limits action which can be taken to remove the second-term lawman.
Agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Metro Nashville’s Drug Unit arrested Headley on Jan. 31 after leaving Brooks Pharmacy at 4701 Trousdale Dr. with a bag containing a bottle of pills.
Headley faces a misdemeanor and a felony charge of drug fraud. Agents said they feel the drugs were for Headley’s personal use, not for resale or distribution. On Feb. 1, he entered an undisclosed residential treatment program after meeting with his command staff and apologizing for his actions.
His attorney, Ed Yarborough, said last week Headley wants to keep his job and they intend to fight the charge the sheriff used fraud to obtain the pills.
Because Headley is an elected official, County Mayor Rogers Anderson said he has no control over whether Headley remains in office. Reelected in August 2006, Headley’s term will not expire until 2010.
“We have had many calls [since the news broke] and most people call to find out and better understand the law,” Anderson said. “All actions of the sheriff, mayor and all elected officials are defined under the Tennessee Code Annotated.”
According to TCA, “if the sheriff’s office becomes vacant due to death, resignation, incapacity or other causes,” the chief deputy or other highest ranking member of the sheriff’s office assumes the duties until the county legislative body appoints a successor who serves until the next general election, which would be in August 2008.
Headley could be removed from office through an ouster suit, which could be brought by District Attorney General Ron Davis, the state’s attorney general or the county attorney, according to Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 8-47-101.
“Every person holding any office of trust or profit, under and by virtue of any of the laws of the state, either state, county, or municipal, except such officers as are by the constitution removable only and exclusively by methods other than those provided in this chapter, who shall knowingly or willfully commit misconduct in office, or who shall knowingly or willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by any of the laws of the state, or who shall in any public place be in a state of intoxication produced by strong drink voluntarily taken, or who shall engage in any form of illegal gambling, or who shall commit any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude, shall forfeit such office and shall be ousted from such office in the manner hereinafter provided,” the statute reads.
Still in a state of shock Tuesday, County Commission Chairman, Houston Naron found it difficult to speak about the subject, choosing his words carefully.
“This is a very difficult time for all of us in Williamson County,” Naron said. “We’re sympathetic with the situation, but right now I don’t know what to say or do.”
Davis, out of the office this week dealing with a personal health crisis, said last week he also was reeling from the news. On Jan. 31, Davis said he was “shocked and surprised and stunned about the whole thing.”
“It originated in Davidson County and now we have to let the investigation run its course,” Davis said at the time. “Ricky is a good friend and I have the greatest respect for him and I will try to be a friend and help to the extent that I can, but I am a prosecutor and if anything happens in Williamson County, I will have to be a prosecutor.”
“He’s an elected official,” Davis said of Headley’s status as sheriff. “The only way he can be relieved is if he is ousted from office and this is premature to discuss at this time.”
Chief Deputy Dusty Rhoades, a 27-year veteran of the department, is now running the department on a day-to-day basis. Rhoades said he is operating the department as he would if the sheriff were on vacation, out sick or in some type of training.
“He will be off at school or on vacation and we are just handling that the way it was,” Rhoades said. “I step up to the plate and handle the day-to-day operations.”
As for the sheriff’s location and how long he will be gone, Rhoades said he is in the dark.
“I know he is gone,” Rhoades said.” I just don’t where and how long he will be gone.”
“We met at the sheriff’s house (Thursday) morning, myself and the rest of command staff,” Rhoades said Friday morning. “He apologized for what he had done, asked for our prayers. We all voiced concerns and issues and that is where we left that.”
The last several days have been difficult on Rhoades and the members of the department.
“I feel like I have been hit with a sledgehammer in the chest,” Rhoades said. “We are telling everybody that we are going to maintain the professionalism that we have strived to get in Sheriff’s Department since Sheriff Headley has been in office.
“We are where we want to be,” Rhoades said of the men and women in the department and their overall actions. “This is a bump in the road for us. It stings, but we will get through this one way or another. The command staff, we tell the deputies, ‘Keep doing the job you are doing and we will get through this.’”
The case against Headley
Shock waves reverberated through the county Jan. 31 when Headley. 43, and Brooks Pharmacy owner, Glenn Brooks, were among those arrested following a lengthy investigation into the illegal dispensing of prescription drugs, including painkillers from Brooks Pharmacy, located at 4701 Trousdale Drive.
Search warrants executed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as part of Headley’s arrest on prescription drug charges states the sheriff allegedly obtained “at least 1,900 Hydrocodone/Lortab pills” between October 2006 and Jan. 20, 2007, although they can only account for prescriptions for 800 pills.
Following Headley’s arrest — while driving his patrol car — TBI agents executed search warrants on his office at the Williamson County Criminal Justice Center.
According to the search warrants, dozens of empty prescription bottles, as well as dozens of pills, were found in the office of Headley, 43, and his secretary, Michele Corley, at the Williamson County Criminal Justice Center.
The confidential informant providing information told TBI agents “Corley routinely picks up illegal prescriptions for Headley at Brooks Pharmacy.”
The confidential informant told TBI agents, Headley “frequently receives illegally diverted prescription drugs from Brooks Pharmacy” … “wearing clothes displaying the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department logo.” Headley was also seen driving his unmarked police car “that has ‘Sheriff’ on the front license plate and the Tennessee tag “94SHERIFF.”
When Headley would enter the pharmacy, according to the informant, “he would meet with Brooks rather than other employees of the pharmacy.”
To allow Headley — and reportedly others — to obtain the illegal drugs, Brooks would “reprint labels from Headley’s prior prescriptions and then illegally fill the prescriptions again.”
The sheriff allegedly would call the pharmacy in advance so Brooks could create the labels and fill the prescriptions before Headley arrived at the pharmacy, according to the warrant.
“CS-1 has provided investigators with the pharmacy’s copy of labels that show Headley gets several refills based on each one-time written prescription,” the warrant states. “Headley’s patient profile at Brooks Pharmacy does not reflect receipt of the illegal prescriptions.”
The warrant also states that “Headley does not pay for every prescription he picks up” … and then when he does, “Brooks put the payment in his wallet without running the sale through the cash register.”
Corley’s first alleged involvement in the case came on Oct. 24, 2006, when she reportedly picked up a prescription Headley had called into Brooks for 100 Lortab and 100 Soma.
Again on Nov. 13, Corley called Brooks and spoke with the confidential informant, who told Brooks Corley had called.
“When he hung up, he went to the computer and printed out labels for Lortab for her and several drugs for Headley, including Lortab and Soma,” the warrant states. “The labels were printed from Michelle’s prescription from 10-24-06 and from Headley’s prescriptions from 9-25-06. Corley paid cash for the drugs.”
On Dec. 13, “Corley called and asked the CS-1 if CS-1 could do what Brooks does for her and Headley,” the warrant continues. “The CS-1 told her she would have to check with Brooks and ask him first. “The CS-1 contacted Brooks and Brooks told the CS-1 to have them wait until tomorrow when he was there, he did not want the CS-1 to be liable if something went wrong.”
On Jan. 12, the TBI set up surveillance on Headley as it says it has done on numerous occasions during the investigation. On that date, Corley was again observed leaving the Williamson County Criminal Justice Center, traveling to Brooks Pharmacy and then leaving the pharmacy carrying a bag.
To this date, no charges have been placed against Corley in this case.
On Jan. 26, Headley reportedly called Brooks and said he “would be coming to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Ambien CR later in the day,” according to the warrant. He came to the pharmacy at approximately 3:30 p.m., while Special Agent Harmon was working undercover at the pharmacy.
She “observed Brooks create a label for Ambien that had instructions to take one or 2 as needed for sleep. SA Harmon stated that there was no name on the bottle, and when Headley arrived at the pharmacy, she observed Brooks give Headley that bottle,” the warrant states.
Surveillance of the transaction by CS-1 showed Headley gave Brooks $90 for the prescription and Brooks put the money in his wallet, according to the warrant.
As part of the execution of the warrant, the computers of both Headley and Corley were confiscated, as well as message books, checkbooks and check registers, tape and digital recorders, empty and partially full pill bottles containing unidentified pills and substances, such as an “unknown white powder wrapped in paper” found in Corley’s desk.
Items confiscated at Headley’s home at 202 Gen. J.B. Hood Drive in Grassland were mostly pill bottles containing various pills.
Headley is known throughout Williamson County for performing with his band, Pure Country, at hundreds of charity events to raise money for the organizations. According to his Web site, www.rickyheadley.com, Headley’s performances have raised over $300,000 for the charities.
Posted on: 2/8/2007