Share This Article
The case between Baxter County and former Baxter County Jailer Tabitha King continues to bring forth new evidence and questions over what occurred in the lead-up to King’s termination by Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery.
Over the past month, court documents from the ongoing case have poked several holes in King’s story about her alleged rape and sexual harassment, and eventual termination, including the revelation that King had allegedly lied about her miscarriage claim in 2020.
But King isn’t the only individual with holes in their story.
Earlier last week, the Observer obtained an affidavit detailing Sheriff Montgomery’s side of the King story, as well as a copy of the transcript of King’s grievance hearing, that allowed the public to shed some light on what the county’s sheriff knew at the time of the jailer’s firing.
In those documents, Montgomery alleged that King’s termination centered fully around an altercation between her and another employee that resulted in damaged county property. Montgomery also revealed that he had discussed the sending of inappropriate text messages between former Baxter County Sergeant Steven Goode and King with Goode in Dec. 2019.
Montgomery’s affidavit further claimed that he was not aware of any instance of sexual harassment between King and Goode at that time.
Yet a newly obtained deposition transcript by the Observer reveals that Montgomery, and his top officers, were fully aware of Goode’s nude photos and of potential harassment occurring between the former Sergeant and King.
A private conversation in Montgomery’s vehicle
During his Oct. 13, 2023, deposition, Montgomery revealed that after learning of a rumor about text messages sent between Goode and King, he met with the former Sergeant in “the parking lot out back of the Sheriff’s Office” and “asked him to step into my vehicle.”
According to his testimony, after getting into the vehicle with Goode, the Sheriff told Goode in a “one-sided conversation” that “I’ve heard rumor that you and Tabitha King are sending photos back and forth between the two of you. If it’s not true, then you need to be more careful; if it is true, it better stop now.”
Montgomery then claimed that he made no attempt to confirm whether or not the rumors were true. The Baxter County Sheriff also stated that he did not hear any complaints about sexual harassment until King had been terminated.
He stated he did not remember how he learned of the rumor.
The Sheriff also claimed that he did not ask Goode about the rumors while conducting the off-the-record counseling. He also said that he did not ask Goode if he could see the photos and texts that were exchanged between the two.
“I didn’t confirm it, there was no need to confirm it,” said Montgomery in his deposition. “I took care of the situation. I addressed it the way I felt was appropriate and never heard another word about it until after Ms. King was terminated.”
Montgomery did not document his private counseling with Goode and no mention of the meeting ever made it into Goode’s record or evaluations.
Following Montgomery’s counseling, the Sheriff claims that Baxter County Lieutenant Brad Lewis approached him in his office a day or two after to discuss the rumors. Montgomery said he told the Lieutenant that Goode had been handled.
King’s attorney then brings up the internal investigation that occurred following King’s termination in 2021. That investigation revealed that as many as 10 employees in the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office knew that Goode and King were sending photos to each other at the time of Montgomery’s private counseling.
Montgomery was then asked if he knew if Lewis was attempting to make a request for Goode’s termination. Montgomery replied in the negative. When asked if he knew that the county judge wanted Goode terminated, the Sheriff again said no.
King’s attorney then asked why Montgomery fired Goode a year and a half later. According to the transcript, Goode’s termination was due to state police verifying that “you photographed yourself with exposed genitalia to former Jailer/Matron Tabatha King while you were one of her supervisors and the photograph appears to have been taken inside of the of the sheriff’s office buildings.”
“When Mr. Goode was terminated, again, the first – and I’m going to have to go back because the word is harassment. I had not heard the word harassment until after Tabitha King was terminated,” Montgomery replied.
King’s attorney then asked if, “it requires us to use the magic word of harassment as opposed to saying my boss is sending me pictures of his penis?” Montgomery responded by stating that Goode only had limited supervisory authority over King and that he was not her boss.
The deposition again looped back to whether Montgomery had asked Goode about his exchanges with King while sitting in the vehicle. In that exchange, Montgomery states that he did not talk to King about the rumors because he did not see the need if it was consensual.
Montgomery was then asked about Ethan Raymond and his sexual relationship with King. In that line of questioning, Montgomery said that he and Captain Lewis did have a discussion with Raymond about the relationship but determined that happened after King was terminated.
When asked why Raymond wrote an apology letter for having the relationship, Montgomery said he “had no idea.” When pressed why Raymond “thought it was necessary to pray and hope that you will consider allowing him to continue serving alongside his family and friends that he has made at Baxter County’s Sheriff’s Office,” the Sheriff reiterated again that he had no idea.
When asked if Raymond’s job was ever threatened, Montgomery said no.
The KTLO interview
Following the news that King had filed a lawsuit against the county in 2022, Montgomery was asked to address the allegations during a KTLO political forum on May 2, 2022, during the 2022 Sheriff’s race in Baxter County.
The interview, which was covered by the Observer, would make its way into the deposition.
In the May 2022 interview, Montgomery claimed that he had first learned about any sexual harassment after King was fired, before detailing the results on the full internal investigation.
Montgomery said the investigation had revealed two key facts before stating that “It is not sexual harassment unless someone’s offended, just the fact that there’s inappropriate behavior, does not make it sexual harassment.”
Montgomery then said, “After the investigation we conducted, we discovered that there was a supervisor that was having inappropriate behavior, and that supervisor was fired.”
This public statement appears to be in contradiction with Montgomery’s knowledge of the rumors surrounding Goode and King, as well as his knowledge of the private counseling that occurred with Goode in Montgomery’s vehicle.
In the same interview, Montgomery then claims that “we did not find any claim, any basis for the sexual harassment claim.”
Yet, notes taken by Baxter County Lieutenant Brad Hurst throughout that investigation reveal otherwise.
When asked by Hurst if they knew of any sexual harassment taking place with the Sheriff’s Office, multiple employees including Jailer Dawn Dunford admitted to knowing about King’s claims prior to her termination.
Ethan Raymond also told Hurst that he was aware of King’s allegation of sexual harassment. Raymond was also shown photos of Goode by Dunford.
Multiple employees also knew about the photographs sent between Goode and King. It should be noted that not every employee who saw or learned about the photographs were aware of King’s harassment allegations.
Dunford, according to Hurst’s notes, told King to file a complaint over the harassment.
King may have attempted to ask about filing a complaint with her superiors.
According to Hurst’s notes, and Montgomery’s deposition transcript, Captain Jeff Lewis was shown photos of Goode on or about April 28, 2021, and that he was approached by King around May of 2020 over what to do about an employee being harassed by someone. Lewis told Hurst that no “complaint was filed.”
According to the deposition transcript, King complained to Jailer Hailey Sanders about an inappropriate photo that he had recently sent her approximately one month before her termination.
In his deposition, Montgomery also revealed that King was not interviewed or approached during the internal investigation for her side of the story.
When asked why she was not included, Sheriff Montgomery said, “Because she’d already gone to the state police. That was my understanding from the prosecutor, she had already gone to the state police, and they were in the process of investigating so we would not have overstepped on them.”
When asked if an investigation would trigger if an employee went to a supervisor and asked about being harassed by a coworker, Montgomery said, ”I would say then you need to tell us – file a complaint, tell us who’s harassing you so that we can investigate.”
Montgomery stated that he did not know about King’s conversation with Captain Lewis until after her termination before stating that “What Captain Lewis told me was that she asked what to do and he told her she had a duty to report if she was being harassed, and she said, no, she was not and did not want to report it.”
In his sworn affidavit, Montgomery said that Lewis “disputes” that conversation with King never occurred.
Montgomery then said if Lewis was informed of any harassment of any kind, then he had a duty to investigate it. Montgomery also said King had multiple ways to report any alleged harassment but that there was no report form to fill out and that the complaint could be verbal.
It should also be noted that Montgomery’s affidavit contradicts his statements to Hurst during the internal investigation.
In his affidavit, Montgomery states that he was first notified about King’s sexual harassment allegations by Baxter County Prosecutor David Ethredge well after her firing, and that King never mentioned sexual harassment during their face to face meeting on the day of her firing.
Yet, Hurst’s notes document that Montgomery claimed to have been notified about the sexual harassment allegations while meeting with King on April 23, 2021.
More questions than answers
While the public may never truly know what actually occurred inside the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, the recent round of court documents and testimony are raising more questions than answers.
This continues to be a developing story as more court documents are released.