The following are excerpts of audio recordings between several public offices in Spaulding County as they worked to try to keep a 2015 sheriff’s captain’s sex scandal a secret.
All incoming calls to the sheriff’s office are recorded, and 11Alive obtained a copy of some of those recordings. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
SHERIFF'S SECRETARY: “Judge Caldwell come by and talked to, I think he talked to was it Dallas?"
COUNTY ATTORNEY: "Bill Dallas, yes. Let me ask you a question: I'm assuming Wendell (Sheriff Beam) doesn't have a problem agreeing with Johnnie (Caldwell) and going along with him?"
SHERIFF'S SECRETARY: "No, no, he doesn't have a problem at all."
COUNTY ATTORNEY: "Good, I just wanted to make sure."
SHERIFF'S SECRETARY: “I'm the petitioner of it, so..."
COUNTY ATTORNEY: "Oh, oh hey Ruby. Well how are you?"
SHERIFF'S SECRETARY: "I'm good, thank you."
COUNTY ATTORNEY: "I didn't know, well great. Super. I'm gonna call Johnnie. Do you know where Johnnie is?"
SPAULDING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE (SCSO) EMPLOYEE: “They weren't handing out any more of the Gibson file because Johnnie Caldwell was going to be trying to get it sealed."
SCSO EMPLOYEE: “If Johnnie can get a temporary restraining order (TRO), that's great. But if Johnnie doesn't, we've got to turn these records over in a timely fashion."
SCSO EMPLOYEE: “If we get a TRO, and I hope Johnnie does, great. If he doesn't, we're going to turn them over."
SCSO EMPLOYEE TO RECORDS CLERK: “You don't need to say nothing about Johnnie Caldwell or anything like that…There's no need to tell anybody that there may be a pending action to try to seal it. We just don't need no questions saying, ‘Well why are we saying that Johnnie Caldwell's got something to do with it?’"
SCSO CAPTAIN: “You do exactly what, uh, who was it, Johnnie Caldwell?"
OTHER EMPLOYEE: "Right, I mean I haven't spoken to him, but I think Ruby just spoke to him."
SCSO CAPTAIN: "I gave her all the info…well you know this morning."
SCSO CAPTAIN TO RECORDS CLERK: “I know it's very frustrating for you. I'll ease it just a little bit for you. Anybody else that requests this file, you can refer them to me…I am telling you now, it is not to be released. And if they have any problems with that, you can tell them to come see me."
SCSO CAPTAIN: “That file is not being released."
RECORDS CLERK: "Right. Exactly."
SCSO CAPTAIN: “I'm sorry you're getting caught in the middle of this, but hopefully if Johnnie Caldwell does what he can do, that's fine, if can't, it will be released."
JOHNNIE CALDWELL: “Ms. King, Johnnie Caldwell in Thomaston, Georgia."
SHERIFF'S SECRETARY: "Hi, how are you?"
CALDWELL: “I have been faxed a copy of this open records request that y'all have received from this individual…Tony Ranieri had called me yesterday and had asked me if I would look at this and see if I could help some of the people up there, and I said I'd be happy to, and I have just gotten it in my hands."
CALDWELL: “I know it had to do with (David) Gibson and him being, that he resigned supposedly over sexual harassment and that's about all I know."
SECRETARY: "It was very graphic what he did to her…People have a concern about you know her husband finding out. I don't think he knows that this was being done to her."
CALDWELL: “I'm trying to figure out a way to help, to see if we can stop this thing or at least hold presently, maybe. Of course with an open records request, you've got to respond within three business days.
SECRETARY: "Yes sir."
CALDWELL: “And so this was just served yesterday, so technically you've got 'til Monday."
CALDWELL: “And this darn statute is real long. if you look at the darn statute having to do with public records and the disclosure, and then you've got the next section, it's like 50-18-72 of the official code, it talks about records that don't have to be released."
SECRETARY: "Um hmm."
CALDWELL: “I've got to find someone to file it, what I mean, I'm talking about me. Is this going to be in the name of a particular woman or women, or is this on behalf of the sheriff's department?"
SECRETARY: "I don't think the sheriff's department could do it, I think it would have to be the group of people that's involved in it."
CALDWELL: “If that is the fact, the sheriff is the one that I've got to file this against, does that make sense?...I've got to file it against the sheriff and this Sanders fella and say, 'You can't release this because of ___.' You understand what I'm saying?"
SECRETARY: "Oh yeah, that makes sense…We are considered public servants, he's a public servant, so it looks like he's trying to hide something if he's trying to get it sealed."
CALDWELL: “Oh I understand. But I just wanted you to understand that if I can put something together, since it's not for the sheriff's department, you understand?"
CALDWELL: “I've got make the sheriff the respondent in this, does that make sense?"
SECRETARY: "It does make sense."
CALDWELL: “I mean I'm not after the sheriff, I'm just trying to get this stopped (laugh). But if you'll look at that darn code section, that this is...I've got to have somebody to use as the person that's filing, does that make sense?"
CALDWELL: “Somebody has to – got to be the person that's complaining that it's going to be released. You have to have, you might say, a petitioner, like you have you have to have a respondent."
CALDWELL: “The respondent basically is going to be, based on mine and your conversation, the sheriff's department, or the sheriff. I'm not after him, of course.”
SECRETARY: "I know."
CALDWELL: “And this fellow Sanders to say, 'This is why you can't release this.' But somebody has to be the person who wants this stopped, does that make sense?"
CALDWELL: “And I have to have a person."
SECRETARY: "To me it doesn't matter as long as – you can put my name, you can put anybody..."
SECRETARY: "Judge Caldwell, are you still there?"
CALDWELL: “yes ma'am."
SECRETARY: "I've spoke to two of them, and they don't want to do it. You can put my name…If you want to use my name, I'm Ruby, I don't have a problem with it."
CALDWELL: “How long, how lengthy is this report?"
SECRETARY: "It's pretty long. I think it cost – we had one person, she actually requested a copy of it, and they went ahead and had given her a copy because she was involved in it and we didn't fear her. He's the type that will post it on Facebook. And I thought that wouldn't be good."
CALDWELL: “Alright, let me see what we can possibly come up with, see if we can try to help y'all at least to maybe stop it…Don't misunderstand what I'm fixing to say, you're not going to owe me a dime. I'm trying to help the department and help these folks. Let the sheriff know now that I'm going to have to make him a respondent in this.
SECRETARY: "OK. That makes sense, because he can't do anything because he, it would look like he's hiding something, so he understands that."
CALDWELL: “This way I'm trying to stop him from having to do it, you understand what I'm saying?"
SECRETARY: "Yes sir, I do."
SHERIFF BEAM: “Hey this is the sheriff."
SHERIFF'S SECRETARY: "Judge Caldwell called. He told me that he was doing this as a favor, but he didn't really want that out. But he didn't want you to think this was anything against you at all. And I said, ‘Well I understand that,’ and he said – I said, ‘We had already discussed it’ and he had said if anything happened it had to be done by one of us."
BEAM: “How quick does he think it's going to happen, because –"
SECRETARY: "Well he –"
BEAM: “— ‘Cause I got a request back there sitting right now."
SCSO CAPTAIN: “Hey, Judge Caldwell's gonna take the case."
SCSO EMPLOYEE: "Judge who?"
EMPLOYEE: "Oh, OK. Johnnie Caldwell?”
CAPTAIN: “Yeah, Johnnie Caldwell's going to represent them. I already had Karen fax that open records request..."
CAPTAIN: “And they going ahead and get an emergency order up…See about getting, getting it sealed anyway."
EMPLOYEE: "OK. that sounds good."
CAPTAIN: “You know he's a state legislator too."
EMPLOYEE: "I know, yes."