Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

District 8 assist. chief under fire

With conflicting stories flying in all directions, the truth about what happened with Cotton Valley Fire District 8 may only be known once Webster Parish Sheriff's deputies complete their investigation.

At the center of the maelstrom are assistant Chief Adam Hurley and Sarah Butts, the woman with whom Hurley exchanged photographs. Butts granted an interview on Monday and Hurley met with members of the press Wednesday.

Fire District 8 board chair Linda Hayes and Fire Chief Dennis Meshell were also present at the meeting with Hurley.

A few things are not in dispute.

The alleged photographs exist. They are Hurley. Butts and Hurley exchanged photographs through text messaging.

"These pictures were exchanged between myself and a 28-year-old female (Butts)," Hurley said. "She sent me pictures, she sent me videos ... I sent her some pictures of myself."

"We sent them the same day," Butts said. "August 17th, 18th. And then they just occurred over and over until I came home." (Moved home to Cotton Valley on September 10.)

The question of Hurley's status as a civil service employee has also been raised.

Hayes gave Minden Press-Herald a copy of a letter from Office of State Examiner Resource Services Manager Cynthia Johnson dated March 12.

The letter states: "Act 282 of 1964 makes civil service mandatory for full-time firefighters in all fire protection districts."

Hurley is the sole full-time paid employee of the district.

From this point, accounts begin to differ about whether the photographs were taken while Hurley was at the fire station.

Hurley said the photographs were taken at his home. Butts said that some were taken at the fire station.

"The first day he contacted me, you know, that we were talking on the phone he said, 'Is it okay to send pictures to this phone?' and I said 'yeah,'" Butts said. "So then came the pornographic photos of him. Well, some of them were taken at the fire station."

Hurley disagreed.

"They were between two adults, taken from my home." Hurley said.

Butts and Meshell referred to a floor that allegedly proves where the photographs were taken.

"We looked at the picture and looked at the floor at the fire station and they do not match," Meshell said.

"Some of (the photographs) were taken at the fire station," Butts insisted. "It has been matched to the bathroom floor at the fire station."

What exactly the board did with Hurley once the photographs were out is also in question.

An anonymous Cotton Valley official said that Hurley verbally resigned and was then reinstated.

"He actually resigned," the official said. "He gave a verbal resignation – directly to the fire board – during a meeting.

"He was never formally reinstated. A member and someone else decided they would ignore what the board voted and gave him the keys to the truck and basically said okay you're back."

(It was incorrectly stated in the previous article that the anonymous Cotton Valley Official identified Fire Chief Dennis Meshell as one of the people who returned Hurley his keys.)

Meshell said that a board member gave Hurley the choice of resigning or being terminated.

"Herman Coleman stood up and told him, 'You have a choice. We either fire you or you resign,'" Meshell said.

Meshell said he pointed out that he needed time to learn how to perform some of Hurley's duties, so the board laid out a deal.

"'We'll give you 30 days,'" the board said, according to Meshell. "'At the end of 30 days if he doesn't resign, we'll fire him.'"

"Part of their deal was, he had to turn in his truck, he had to turn in his keys," Meshell continued. "He could only be at the fire station if a firefighter was with him. He could not respond as a firefighter or as a first responder to any calls."

According to Meshell when lawyer John Slattery informed the board of Hurley's status as a civil service employee and his right to file suit against the board and its members, three of the board members resigned.

Meshell said, "When they found that out, Brother (Kenneth) DeHart, Hershel Jones and Darwin Parker said, 'I didn't sign up for this. I'm not getting paid for this. I'm out. I'm out. I'm out.'"

Meshell then brought Hurley back to work.

"I said, 'Well, Adam, you come back to work on Monday,'" he said. "The lawyer said that anything that happened during that meeting, such as it was an illegal meeting, is null and void."






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