Hale violated 3 county policies, according to investigation

 

Former Assistant Fire Marshal Oren Hale violated the county’s internal policies prior to his resignation, according to an internal investigation conducted by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

Hale, who retired amid the investigation, was placed on paid administrative leave after he was pulled over for allegedly watching pornography and drinking bourbon and Coke in his county-owned vehicle.

“Hale was a distracted driver, because Hale was allegedly viewing pornography while operating the county's vehicle and possessed an open container of an alcoholic beverage,” according to the deputy’s report.

Hale was pulled over by a Smith County sheriff’s deputy at 9:20 p.m. Aug. 20 for driving erratically on West Northwest Loop 323, near the intersection with North Broadway Avenue.

Deputies then noticed what appeared to be porn playing on his onboard computer monitor inside the vehicle.

Hale passed a field sobriety test, conducted with the help of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Deputies then drove Hale home, and the truck was impounded at the Emergency Operations Center.

Hale was placed on leave Aug. 22, pending an internal investigation into whether Hale’s actions violated the county’s employee handbook. The investigation was completed Aug. 30, but Hale resigned Aug. 24 in a handwritten note to Fire Marshal Connie McCoy Wasson. The report into the investigation was released Tuesday.

The investigation, conducted by Mark Simmons, concluded Hale broke employee policies. Those violations included: viewing pornographic material on a county-issued computer, possessing an open container of alcohol in a county vehicle, and being under the effect of alcohol while operating a county vehicle while scheduled for on-call status.

“After carefully considering the known facts, examining the evidence, and considering the totality of the circumstances, I find the evidence to be convincing and irrefutable,” Simmons wrote, recommending the county accept Hale’s resignation. “I have concluded that Oren Hale's actions did violate Smith County policies and procedures.”

 

REPORT DETAILS

The deputy told Hale he saw the computer content Hale was viewing and suggested it was probably not the best idea, because if the deputy could see it, everyone around the vehicle could see it, according to Simmons’ report.

The deputy said he did not smell alcohol on Hale but did notice a drink in his console and asked to see it.

As Hale passed the drink to the deputy, Hale said his drink was a Coke. Hale then added, "it's got bourbon in it; not much, but just a little bit," according to the report.

That’s when the deputy asked for help from the Texas Department of Public Safety to do a sobriety test on Hale.

Hale told the DPS sergeant he had one bourbon and Coke at home and his second drink was in the truck. Hale came to Tyler to pick up a to-go order of food.

After the physical field sobriety tests were completed, Hale was found to test positive for the presence of alcohol in his system, but not to be intoxicated.

Sheriff Larry Smith made a courtesy call to Fire Marshal Wasson. After it was determined Hale was not intoxicated according to Texas law, Smith made a second courtesy call to Fire Marshal Wasson. She did not want Hale to drive his county vehicle after consuming alcohol and requested Smith take his vehicle to the Emergency Operations Unit and not release it to Hale.

On Aug. 23, Ms. Wasson told Simmons she personally removed the laptop computer from Hale's county vehicle and saw the drink containing alcohol still in the console. Ms. Wasson commented the vehicle smelled of alcohol. Hale told her of his intentions to retire.

The computer was then turned over to the IT Department for imaging. It was taken to the Smith County Sheriff's Office forensic criminalist to see if pornography was present on, or had been viewed on, the laptop. Hale retired the same day.

“A search of internet history and multimedia files revealed that some pornographic websites were visited from the laptop," according to a report filed by the criminalist Aug. 30.

Twitter: @TMTFaith

Digital Content Manager

Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.

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