A former Bibb County sheriff's deputy who announced his candidacy for sheriff this week has two pending lawsuits against his former employer. In one of them, he alleges that incumbent Sheriff David Davis is a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Davis, who is white, denies the allegation.
"That is as far from the truth as it could absolutely be. ... I think my record speaks for itself," Davis told The Telegraph Wednesday. "I am offended by it, and it concerns me that someone would think that of me."
At the heart of one of the suits, both filed in federal court last year, Timothy Rivers alleges that he was demoted due to his race and in retaliation for writing traffic tickets to "the wrong segment of peoples."
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Rivers, who is black, is seeking $5 million and reinstatement to his position. He also wants an Internal Affairs lieutenant, who Rivers also alleged is a member of the secretive white supremacist group, to be criminally charged for making false statements based on what he claims was a biased investigation.
Two versions of a blurry, photocopied picture captioned "Sheriff David Davis posing as a Klu Klux Klan" (sic) were filed along with the suit.
An addendum filed by Rivers last week refers to Davis as "KKK member Defendant Sheriff David Davis."
Rivers, a 33-year-old former bomb-unit K9 handler, was demoted after an Internal Affairs probe into a November 2014 incident found that he'd violated department policies, according to court documents.
He resigned in March 2015 and got a job with the Fort Valley police.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Rivers said he's no longer working in law enforcement.
He said the lawsuits have "nothing to do with me running for sheriff. That stuff happened back then. ... The wrong was committed back then."
He said he couldn't talk about the cases.
Asked about the KKK allegations, he said, "I'm not gonna explain none of that until we go to federal court. ... That's gonna be up to the judge to rule on."
Soon after Macon and Bibb County consolidated in January 2014, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office hired a photographer to take pictures for a yearbook for the newly combined countywide police force.
Members of the drug unit didn't want to be photographed and joked about it, Davis said. Such officers -- and those who work undercover -- often are wary of having their pictures taken.
The sheriff, who saw the group gathered outside his office for the photo, said to himself, "I'm gonna have a little fun."
He explained, "I grabbed some paper towels and I run out the front door and start like I'm gonna hand them to them. Like, 'Hey, y'all don't want to have your pictures made? Here's you some masks to wear."
The photographer took some candid shots. Deputies were laughing and kidding around.
The Telegraph obtained color copies of the series of pictures.
"You can see me with several sheets of paper in my hand," Davis said. "Well, one of those, I took (a paper towel) and held it up in front of my face."
The paper towel has a pair of eye holes.
"Nobody thought anything about it. ... I was having kind of fun time with the drug unit, and that's all it is. When you see the other pictures that go along with that, you see sort of the sequence of events how that happened," Davis said.
Later, the photos were available online for sheriff's office employees.
"I assume that's how (Rivers) came across that particular picture," Davis said.
No other deputies at the photo shoot, some of whom are black, are known to have filed complaints about the episode.
Rivers' first lawsuit, filed in March 2015, was short and handwritten.
It alleges that Bibb deputies were negligent in their handling of disputes at his home concerning an ex-girlfriend he wanted to evict. He also alleges that he wasn't afforded equal protection under the law.
In that suit, Rivers seeks a separate $2 million.
Lawyers representing the sheriff's office and the four deputies named as defendants filed a motion in August seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. The case still is pending in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
According to the motion:
Deputies responded to six separate calls regarding disputes, fights, allegations of criminal trespass and reports of disorderly conduct at Rivers' south Macon home or his mom's house next door. All the incidents involved Rivers, his ex-girlfriend and their family.
On deputies' first visit to the home, on Nov. 24, 2014, Rivers told them he wanted his girlfriend to leave. Because the woman had been living with Rivers for at least five months, deputies told him it was a civil matter and he would have to evict her.
Rivers said he was staying with a family member and had already started the eviction process.
On Dec. 1, 2014, a formal complaint was submitted to the sheriff's office about Rivers' conduct and actions during one of the disputes. He was found to be in violation of several sheriff's office rules of conduct, issued a written reprimand and was reassigned to the jail.
"Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate, even under the most liberal interpretation of the law, that he has been deprived of any constitutional or statutory right," the county's lawyers wrote.
Nothing is alleged that would allow a "reasonable person" to believe that the defendants treated Rivers disparately as compared to similarly situated individuals, the lawyers went on to say.
Court records show Rivers sought a temporary protective order against his ex-girlfriend, alleging that she threatened his life and safety.
The woman allegedly violated the order by contacting him in May 2015. She was charged with aggravated stalking. That case is pending.
In December, Rivers applied for an extension to the protective order, asking that the woman be ordered to pay $5,000 for his missing work at the Fort Valley Police Department to attend a hearing in the criminal case against her.
The second lawsuit, filed Oct. 6, 2015, involves Rivers' racial discrimination claim and names Davis, now-retired Chief Deputy Russell Nelson, five other sheriff's office employees and a Bibb County Human Resources worker as defendants. It also is still pending.
Asked Wednesday what prompted his run for office, Rivers, a political newcomer, said, "To be honest with you, God gave me a vision two years ago. ... I said, 'Man, what if I was sheriff right now? There are so many things that we can change'. ... Almighty God gave me that vision, 'Hey, man, go forward'."
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398 or find her on Twitter @awomackmacon. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397 or find him on Twitter @joekovacjr.