This is my story, in my words, about our family's struggle.
My husband, a former dedicated Captain with a 20 year flawless career, life has been turned upside down by the NAACP and a Sheriff who is more concerned with being a politician than keeping good cops on the road to protect our citizens. Please take the time to read our family's story.
My husband was a loyal employee of the Montgomery County Sheriffs Office (Ohio) since June of 1995 until he was fired on February 6th, 2015. He had never once been disciplined in his nearly 20 year career but on the contrary has received certificates , accommodations and evaluations stating what an exemplary deputy, detective, Sergeant, Captain, and 10 year swat member /asst Commander he was. His perfect record and his consistent promotions spoke as to what kind of officer he was.
Back in late November of 2014 the NAACP contacted the Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer and let them know of some racially motivated text messages from personal cell phones they had received from an "anonymous" source dating back from 2011 and 2012( yes that's right messages were from a couple years ago). It involved one main deputy and his conversations with 5 other deputies individually. Before the sheriff even had these texts in his hands or any proof of these texts on Dec 1st, he placed my husband, former Captain Thomas Flanders, and the other deputy, Michael Sollenberger ,on administrative leave . They were not informed of the actual texts they were being accused of as the Sheriff didn't have that information yet. The sheriff then received these alleged texts in a PDF printed form just prior to a press conference the following day. The sheriff not only gave the media my husbands name but also adding that he did not apologize for the slurs after being confronted with them. His picture was the only picture shown on the news next to terrible derogatory remarks.
The truth is, the sheriff only received these messages in his office moments before the press conference himself from the NAACP . My husband did not know what he was even being accused of until over a week later on the following Tuesday December 9th when they served him with the investigation. He was not able to apologize because he was being asked about possible text messages 3 years prior that may have had a racial undertone yet he couldn't be told exactly what they were?!?! That is just absurd to even think someone could know what in the world he was even talking about. Not to mention the sheriff also made comments saying they were put on leave because they could be perceived as a threat to the public. In addition, the news ( that went National) when displaying only my husband's picture over and over, showed it next to terrible text messages that other deputies were accused of saying..... not my husband!!
The NAACP had these messages for three months but waited until the after the Ferguson announcement was made and the issues going on with the "I can't breath" and "hands up" campaign to contact the sheriff. Later, it was confirmed, these messages were turned in by soon to be ex wife of Deputy Michael Sollenberger (who are in the midst of a bitter custody battle). My husband was scheduled to testify on behalf of Michael Sollenberger as a character witness in his trial the following week after these were made public.
My husband from day one has proclaimed his innocence. There are no phone records available to anyone involved due to how long these alleged messages were from. We are not able to prove from our records nor are they, that these messages in fact took place. He has taken a polygraph and passed with flying colors.!! Our attorney sent the files to a forensic cell phone expert that was able to identify it as a cheap software you can purchase off the internet to download and manipulate messages!!
The ex wife admitted in her custody hearing she gave the phone to a friend to work on for over 3 months!! This alone should of stopped the investigation but the sheriff with pressure from the NAACP kept pursuing this issue with no facts to back them up.
This ex wife is so vindictive she has gone out of her way to ruin people's lives to get what she wants which is to gain sole custody of her children and ruin her soon to be ex husbands life. She is not foreign as to how this process works. Previously, two years prior, she claimed her superior at the Dayton Fire Department sexually harassed her. He was fired originally, but after further investigation her case fell apart from her web of lies and constant changing stories and he received his job back. Unfortunately , his name was pulled through the mud and the media circus before his justice came. Upon learning more about this case , we discovered she constructed a plan to get her first husband fired from the army and made up allegations that he was having an affair. Does all this not add up to no credibility what so ever?? But wait, if I haven't lost you yet there is more.
She originally took a phone into the sheriff's office claiming that was the phone with the racist messages. However, they couldn't find any racial messages on that phone. She claimed she must of given them the "wrong phone". She was scheduled to come back with the correct phone but missed that appointment and two others and refused to stay in contact with the sheriffs office ignoring their messages for over 2 weeks. They arrived at her home and confronted her only for her to refuse to give them the actual phone at that time. Later, she sent a friend into the sheriff's office with the text messages on her lap top ( yes this same girl who had the phone for three months) and downloaded the messages into a Sheriffs office phone. Upon reviewing these messages they determined this would not suffice. She then turned in a third phone just two days before the investigation was to be completed that she claimed they were on. The sheriffs office down loaded the phone, then gave it back to her without any forensic testing. She refused to allow the SO to keep the phone for forensic analysis.
We have no doubt she was buying time and got a phone to download these messages onto in order to try to prove her case. No testing whatsoever was done by any party involved and the NAACP had only received printed copies from a PDF file when this investigation started.
The sheriff has somehow decided based on this lack of evidence and proof, that my husband and Michael Sollenberger should be terminated.
He also added in his press conference that the others involved were not terminated because they admitted guilt and apologized. The report claims this as well. They however did not and still do not claim they sent these messages nor have apologized . The interviews are all recorded and will prove this when we go to court.
My husband is the only one involved that was member of the command staff and had zero union protection unlike the others. They had representation provided. We've had to pay an attorney for ours. Because of his position as a Captain, he could be fired easily because he was an at will employee.
Our sheriff is a politician and needs to look out for himself and his political future. His next election is 2016. He not only applauded the NAACP in this matter but thanked them in his press conference. The NAACP reciprocated the hugs and kisses back during their press conference. Oh isn't that just sweet........
Our sheriff put my husband and family at risk by proclaiming in the media with lack of evidence or proof that he was a racist cop. Cops are being targeted just for wearing a badge all over this nation. It could take one irate crazy person to come to my home and cause us harm. We bunkered down in our home for several days as this story spread not only locally but nationally. We were living in fear for our safety. When my children went back to school, other kids made comments to them that were cruel and hurtful. Thankfully they have friends of all races that stood up for them when some tried to judge.
To sum this up my husband has been our sole provider in our nearly 17 year marriage. We were high school sweethearts and he was hired 20 years ago when we were still dating. He climbed the ladder quickly because of his dedication and commitment to the county. He made a decent living for us as well . In the blink of an eye, because of this evil woman, a nation that is looking for the next media storm, a sheriff that wants to aim support during his next election and future endeavors, our entire family has been turned upside down. My husband and I are not strangers to our community. We have tons of support, more than we ever imagined. Even , not surprisingly though, a huge support from the sheriffs office whose morale is at an all time low. My husband and I combined have gone to Peru on mission trips 4 separate occasions at our own expense and have helped build a church and help clothe and feed the people of a desolate village. We've been active in our church community since our children (15,11,6) were babies. We've both coached youth sports for years, served on Pto, homeroom parents and most recently my husband is the president of our local youth football league and serves as our league rep in our conference. His most endearing quality is that he allowed me to take in my elderly step-father when my mother unexpectedly passed 3 years ago and shares our home with him!! I think that alone shows you my husband is a compassionate person. I don't say these things to brag or play off what amazing people we are, but just to shed some light that we are good decent hardworking people who do not deserve to be caught up in this mess.
Each one of you reading this are one crazy allegation away from your life being turned upside down. It's really that plain and simple. We went to bed one day with a normal life then next day everything had changed.
Please help us take a stand and fight back. This fight is going to be costly but we have no choice.
Our community and nation needs more people to step up for the good, stand up for our police who risk their lives daily and in an instant they are berated and slammed because of the racial tension created by ignorance and fed by our media.
Our family sees no color. We do not judge one by their skin or clothes or the car they may drive. If you are a good person and you treat others with kindness, if you work hard in this world and have compassion then you are friends of ours. We have friends of all races here in our community and a hundred plus of the people in Peru that would tell you we have shown them nothing but love.
Thank you for reading our story and considering our cause. Please keep our family in your prayers and share with friends and family to spread the word.
*The full report can be found online at wdtn.com to verify these facts even though their are still a few inaccuracies regarding the taped interviews.