Celebrating a birthday on Monday was one thing for Paula Thompson Penson. She’s also hours into a welcome homecoming, this one with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.
Penson, who’s been in the headlines for much of the past year because of her complaints of harassment by a former supervisor at Shorter University, has returned to the sheriff’s office as a deputy.
Sheriff Tim Burkhalter posted this welcome earlier Tuesday:
“Welcome Home Deputy Paula Thompson Penson.
“The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office is proud to have you back!”
Burkhalter’s Facebook post had generated 100 likes through 1:30 p.m. as well as more than a dozen congratulatory comments.
BACKGROUND from our Feb. 22 story:
Barely two days after the GBI closed its investigation into Shorter Campus Safety Director Paula Penson’s complaints against former administrator Corey Humphries, she’s out of a job.
In November, Rome Police referred Penson’s sexual battery and harassing communication complaints against Humphries to the state agency because of a conflict of interest within the department. Humphries — vice president of student affairs at Shorter at the time — left the university around the time Penson’s complaint was filed with RPD and then sent to the GBI.
Since then, the state agency has had jurisdiction of the case and concluded on Feb. 20 that “the GBI case was closed on Feb. 20, 2018, because of no reported criminal activity,” says Bahan “Bain” Rich, GBI Public Affairs Deputy Director.
Thursday afternoon, Shorter’s Dawn Tolbert replied to our email as follows: “I can confirm that Ms. Penson is no longer employed at Shorter University. Out of consideration for the person’s privacy, it is the university’s policy to not provide comment on personnel matters.”
The GBI decision ends any criminal investigation into Penson’s complaints
The background (from previous Hometown Headlines’ reports on Nov. 10):
A sexual battery and harassing communication complaint was filed with the Rome Police Department, alleging continuing misconduct by a senior member of the Shorter University administration.
Corey Humphries, vice president of student affairs at Shorter as well as the Title IX coordinator, is accused of being “handsy” with one of his direct report employees, massaging her shoulders, playing with her hair and touching “her inner thighs and private area with his hands,” according to the police report filed Monday afternoon (Nov. 6).
The complainant says the assault happened in July as they and others worked out in the school gym, according to the police report. She says she immediately told Humphries to stop and left the gym. The report also documents verbal harassment from Humphries and occasions where she would be summoned to his office — alone — and asked why she had quit working out with him.
You can read a copy of the report narrative below.
We asked the administration and attorney for additional comment Tuesday morning after picking up a copy of the police report.
From Shorter University: “In response to this morning’s media reports regarding personnel matters at Shorter: When the allegations of misconduct first arose, Shorter followed its standard policy, which is to initiate an investigation and to separate the employees involved. Per Shorter policy, Shorter has thus far declined to comment on this personnel matter, and continues to decline to comment, pending the results of the investigation which is ongoing. When the investigation is complete, Shorter will take any appropriate action.”
In the police report, the complainant states she filed a verbal complaint with human resources department and recounted a resulting meeting that included Humphries and the HR representative but adds “he continued to harass her the next day.” At that point, she says she tried to speak with President Don Dowless, adding that he had “an attorney take over the investigation.”
Hometown Headlines confirmed last week the office of attorney David Archer in Cartersville had been referred the case. A representative of the firm declined additional comment.
She also says the standard procedure for such a case was to put the person on leave until the investigation was completed. That hadn’t happened as of Monday, the day the report was filed with RPD.
She then filed a written complaint with human resources on Oct. 25, adding that the harassment was continuing through verbal communication as well as email.
She likewise noted that Humphries “suddenly began to be very callous toward her” with “an attitude and demeanor that he might physically harm her… (she) advised me that Mr. Humphries does carry a firearm.”
The report also states James Hall of the campus security team confirmed seeing Humphries “be physical with (the complainant)” by “rubbing her shoulders, playing with her hair and even picking her up. ” Hall told the investigating officer he also witnessed the changed attitude toward the complainant and added that he, too, was concerned about possible physical harm to her. Hall noted that he began accompanying her around campus. (Hall also no longer works at Shorter)