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COUNTYWIDE : Appeal Hearing to Begin Over Deputy’s Firing

A former Sheriff’s Department deputy who allegedly made 794 personal, long-distance calls from county phones is appealing his dismissal from the department.

James Winstead’s appeal hearing before the county Civil Service Commission is scheduled to begin today.

The commission has the authority to overturn the department’s dismissal, officials said.

Winstead was fired on Aug. 16 after being accused of dishonesty, insubordination, failure of good behavior and acts incompatible with public service, according to an Aug. 15 notice of termination written by Assistant Sheriff Richard S. Bryce.

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But Winstead said he never intended to defraud the county and that he believed that the phone calls were acceptable because other deputies also use the county phones.

He said he was under so much stress he never thought about the telephone calls he made to deal with misfortunes that befell his wife, who was then living in Arizona with his stepdaughter.

The deputy racked up $739.13 in telephone bills during 104.3 hours of conversations to Phoenix between July 16, 1989, and May 1, 1990, Bryce said in the letter.

A comparison of shift rosters and telephone statements shows Winstead spent a minimum of 36 hours and 22 minutes on the telephone to Arizona while he was on duty, Bryce said.

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On one day, the deputy made as many as 28 calls to Arizona. The majority of the calls were to his home phone in north Phoenix, Bryce said.

His dismissal followed other reprimands, Bryce said. They included a seven-day suspension in October, 1989, after department officials accused Winstead of being inefficient and dishonest with a superior, as well as two verbal reprimands in July and May, 1989, for an alleged failure to report to duty, according to the letter.

In May, 1990, Winstead was interviewed about the phone use, Bryce said. At the conclusion of the interview he was ordered to refrain from using the county phone system to make personal calls.

About two weeks later, Bryce said, Winstead told a supervisor that he had made two more personal calls to Arizona.

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Winstead said he had moved his wife and stepdaughter to Arizona with the intention of joining them someday.

Meanwhile, his wife was diagnosed with hepatitis, had a miscarriage, was involved in a bad automobile accident and lost a relative to cancer.

“I feel like there were mitigating circumstances they never considered,” Winstead said.


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