After doing some research, we have found the explanation of Brock Hill dismissal as Deputy Commissioner of State Parks is full of holes. According to the following investigative article in the Tennessean, the whole incident of someone accusing Hill of inappropriate behavior and Hill’s firing spanned only three days. Additionally, the State hasn’t released any information to the press nor Hill regarding the accuser or any evidence that anything happened to anyone. As the old saying goes “something is a little fishy” with the State’s actions and subsequent secrecy.
The following are excerpts from the investigation by the The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville along with information we have received concerning the incident.
Four employees accused the former Deputy of Tennessee State Parks Brock Hill of “unwelcome advances” and “sexually-charged comments” over the course of years, until he was fired in early February.
Newly-released public records also indicate the accusers feared retaliation and did not complain until Feb. 6 — less than a month after Gov. Bill Lee appointed a new commissioner to lead the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which oversees state parks.
The sexual nature and long duration of the allegations against Brock Hill have not previously been reported publicly.
These details came to light after The Tennessean appealed a decision by the department to keep Hill’s investigative report secret.
Under the state open records law, disciplinary information of high-ranking public officials is typically public. But TDEC claimed the report was confidential because an attorney wrote it.
TDEC even redacted (blacked out) Hill’s name from documents in his own personnel file, which is a public record.
Department of Human Resources released a summary of the investigation. It said a female TDEC staff member complained of inappropriate behavior to a manager on Feb. 6, and the next day management initiated an investigation. The following day Hill was fired. That’s only two days after the initial accusation was made.
During the inquiry, TDEC claims they learned of three other accusers, the report said. The four staff members reported “unwelcomed (sic) verbal and physical conduct” — allegations that were “substantially corroborated by witness testimony.”
The Department of Human Resources reviewed the TDEC investigation and concluded there was a “consistent pattern of inappropriate behavior by Mr. Hill over a long period of time,” according to the summary signed by human resources general counsel Lesley Farmer. All based entirely on un-named sources.
Hill’s attorney said his client has been kept in the dark, and that he couldn’t respond to specific allegations because he has not seen them.
“This is the first we’re hearing of all this. None of that was ever told to Mr. Hill when he was fired,” attorney Jimmy Bradshaw said. “He denies it. He doesn’t know who these women are. He hasn’t seen any evidence that would support these allegations.”
GOVERNOR APPOINTS NEW TDEC COMMISSIONER
Governor Lee appointed outsider David Salyers, the former executive director of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority, as commissioner in January.
Salyers succeeded Shari Meghreblian, who had been commissioner for one year. Bob Martineau, who was commissioner (and supervisor of Hill) before her, said in an interview Wednesday he was not aware of any complaints against Hill during his tenure, which spanned from 2011 until 2018.
Investigation was conducted internally
The investigation summary shows officials at TDEC investigated the harassment complaints internally (for two days), instead of referring the matter to the state’s central Department of Human Resources — possibly a breach of state policy.
When people accuse a high-level official of harassment, the human resources department should investigate, the policy states. This is meant to guard against favorable treatment by others in the official’s same department, experts say.
“Even if there wasn’t any favoritism in this case … that could have been the situation,” said Drobac, the law professor. “The failure to follow the policy suggests something was wrong.”
Bradshaw said Hill didn’t get a fair investigation by TDEC.
“They haven’t followed their own internal policies and procedures, and that raises a lot of red flags,” he said.
But a human resources spokeswoman said TDEC conducted the investigation internally because it was trying to act quickly. TDEC and human resource officials “determined it was in the best interest of the state to act swiftly and expire Mr. Hill’s appointment,” spokeswoman Amanda Kerns said in a statement.
1057 News has learned Hill was obligated to perform disciplinary actions and possibly terminations of employees at a State Park recently for various work violations. Sources tell us that there may be a connection with those individuals and the sudden allegations and termination of Hill.