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Greenfield health director fired after Recorder discloses he had no driver’s license

  • At left, Alexeev Jones, former health director in Greenfield, along with Greenfield Board of Health Chairman Dr. William Doyle listen at a hearing on an ordinance to regulate needle exchange in September 2017. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • MARTIN



Recorder Staff
Saturday, January 20, 2018

GREENFIELD — Driving down Routes 5 and 10 in Deerfield around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 9, Alexeev Jones was stopped by police who had run his license plate number through their criminal database. They learned that Jones, the director of the Greenfield Health Department since September, had a warrant dating back to a 2015 arrest in Lawrence, on a charge of driving with a suspended license.

Deerfield police also charged him with driving without a license and for having no inspection sticker.

That early morning arrest led to his firing Friday after news of a pending Greenfield Recorder story about Jones’ court record in Massachusetts and Georgia reached city officials.

Mayor William Martin fired Jones on the grounds of not fitting a qualification for the job — having a valid driver’s license — and lying to the city about having a valid one in the first place.

“The information available to me was enough to determine that his employment will cease immediately,” Martin said.

The mayor’s office conducted an investigation Friday after the Recorder asked the mayor for comment on the story it was preparing about Jones’ history with the courts and police — from traffic misdemeanors to issues connected to child support, from bankruptcy claims to a misdemeanor conviction of simple battery on a family member in Georgia.

Jones had spent part of his Friday morning at the Franklin County courthouse, for his arraignment on the Deerfield arrest. By the afternoon, he was back at work.

“I’m taking care of any personal issues and my full, total passion is to fulfill the responsibilities and do an excellent job for the community of Greenfield, and I will hold on to that,” Jones said Friday afternoon before he was fired.

HR’s blind spot

The investigation by the mayor’s office Friday found evidence of Jones’ arrest in Deerfield, but the mayor’s chief of staff Mark Smith and Diana Letourneau, the director of the city’s human resources department, declined to comment on whether they had knowledge of Jones’ earlier history with the courts. The mayor’s office also declined to comment on whether it knew that Jones was also arrested in Erving Jan. 12 on similar charges to that in Deerfield days before: unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and on a warrant related to his suspended license in Georgia.

“Anyone who applies for a job, they have a responsibility to give truthful information,” Smith said. “We’re acting on it, but the applicant has a responsibility, too.”

The department had run its typical three- to four-week process of assessing a candidate’s qualifications for a job, Letourneau said.

The process involves an I-9 standard governmental form to verify someone’s identify, a CORI (criminal offender record information) check, a SORI (sex offender database) check, an employment application and the person’s self-provided references. The references are the only parts that evaluate the candidate’s background outside of Massachusetts.

Letourneau said the SORI and CORI checks were only in Massachusetts, but that checks are more rigorous for jobs in the public schools.

Jones had lived and worked a majority of his life in Georgia, where he had the suspended license, and most recently worked in Alabama.

“We are a forgiving society, but we all have a level of accountability, and truthfulness is an important part of it,” Smith said.

Looking forward, Smith said, “When these things do occur, we want to look at what changes we want to implement to be more effective and responsive to the employees and the citizens of Greenfield.”

Immediate reaction

When initially told of Jones’ arrests, Martin and Board of Health Chairman Dr. William Doyle expressed shock.

Martin and Doyle said they had no knowledge of Jones’ record or of his recent arrests.

“We have certainly zero tolerance for a number of issues you just raised,” Martin said in reaction to Jones’ history.

The Board of Health chairman said he’s not a part of the hiring process for the health director.

“It’s an embarrassment, really,” Doyle said. “It’s an embarrassment for the town, for the Board of Health. Obviously, it reflects poorly on all of us.”

Doyle explained that Jones was doing a good job in his first five months at the position. Doyle remembers being impressed with his resume and expertise in the field.

Jones’ resume says he received a master’s degree in public health from Mercer University School of Medicine in 2002 and a master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2005 from Fort Valley State University in Georgia. It also cites a certification of completion from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine for its medical education development program.

Martin had said at the time of the hiring, the town was “lucky to receive such a well-qualified individual,” citing Jones’ community health background and his degrees.

Before the mayor announced Jones’ firing, but after the Recorder told her about Jones’ arrest, City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud said he had “impressive qualifications.”

“We are lucky to have him and from all accounts that I’m aware of, he has been doing great work in his position,” Renaud said. “That’s what matters. I support director Jones.”

Run-ins with the law

When Jones was stopped on Greenfield Road in Deerfield Jan. 9, there was an active warrant for his arrest on charges of driving with a suspended license, a number plate violation and driving an unregistered vehicle, according to Deerfield Police spokesman Officer Adam Sokoloski. The warrant dates back to Feb. 16, 2015, and is out of Lawrence District Court.

It was a “relatively minor infraction and Mr. Jones was cooperative and very polite with the officers,” Sokoloski said.

On Jan. 12, Jones was again arrested, this time driving on Route 2. He was stopped by Erving Police on a warrant regarding his suspended license, this one dating back to his years in Georgia. He was held at the jail on $500 cash bail and released the same day.

On Friday, Jones pleaded innocent in Franklin County District Court at his arraignment on the Deerfield arrest and will be arraigned in Orange District Court Jan. 22 in the Erving case.

A review of Georgia court records in Chatham County, where he had worked and lived for a number of years, and in the nearby Bulloch County, showed a history of relatively minor infractions.

Jones went to court over family violence both in Chatham County and in Bulloch County.

In 2009, Jones went to Chatham Court over a case of family violence, which in 2012 was resolved, following Jones agreeing to a restraining order.

In August 2012, after being charged with two counts of simple battery to a family member, cruelty to children in the third degree, obstructing or hindering persons making emergency telephone calls, and driving without a license on his person, Jones was convicted of a misdemeanor on the simple battery charge. He was sentenced to 12 days confinement, 12 months probation, a restriction to stay away from the family member the charge was on, to take a family violence course and to pay a $460 fine, according to Kortney Craig, the deputy clerk of the Bulloch County court.

In April 2013, Jones was arrested on a charge of violating probation terms, although the details of what he allegedly did were not immediately clear. He served 21 days.

He also has been in court regarding child support, which is the reason for his license suspension, according to court officials.

There is currently an open case in the Chatham County courts over contempt of child support, filed first in Nov. 2015.

Jones also filed for bankruptcy twice while in Chatham County. He first filed in 2008 over a failure to make plan payments, according to court documents. In 2013 he filed for bankruptcy again, for what court documents characterize as a “failure to comply with domestic support obligation.”

In Chatham County, Jones went to court over 15 times for traffic misdemeanors, dating from 1993 to 2011.

The police department of Boaz, Ala., where he most recently worked before moving to Greenfield, said he did not have any record with the city.

A brief legacy

In his short time as director, he was seen as a strong voice of support for Tapestry’s needle exchange program that had stalled in the City Council. He spoke out at a highly anticipated council meeting, advocating for it.

Jones eventually shut down Indian by Nature, a Main Street restaurant that violated health regulations multiple times.

He also proposed the idea of instituting grades for the restaurants in town, similar to the practice in some large cities, as a means of transparency over health and sanitation rule compliance.

“I thought he was doing a good job. I was impressed with his background,” Doyle said. “But I’m devastated by the news.”

Reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264