At a news conference Thursday morning, Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt announced that the county’s Fire Marshal Kevin Walton and Assistant Fire Marshal Kerry Price had been fired the day before after an internal investigation that began on July 11.
Watt said the pair has five days to appeal the termination and that time will end on Wednesday. That appeal will go directly to Watt.
“The investigation found conduct that could be considered criminal in nature; specifically forgery of a government document,” Watt said.
The document, he said, was an inspection form for personal protection equipment and had to do with an audit. “And any more specific than that, I probably ought to stay away from,” he said.
He said information about the investigation has been forwarded to the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office.
Price could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon, Walton referred questions about the case to Sherman attorney Bobbie Cate. Cate issued a statement that said, “Kevin Walton is very upset & disappointed
In an email, Cate said, “Kevin Walton is very upset & disappointed in the decision of the GCSO to terminate his employment. A notice of appeal was hand delivered to the Sheriff’s Office first thing this morning. He will pursue all legal avenues available to clear his name and get his job reinstated.”
The terminations come just weeks after the fire marshals were moved out of the Office of Emergency Management to the GCSO.
“I hold their license, they have to go through our (field training) program, there’s many requirements that they have to uphold as a peace officer, also as a firefighter, but mainly as a peace officer due to their investigative abilities, their authority to make arrests and search warrants, and all of that sort of stuff,” Watt told commissioners at that time.
Watt said the investigation began during period when the marshals were being handed off between the two offices after he received information from Office of Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers that he determined needed to be looked into further.
Somers said she had no comment on the investigation Thursday.
Watt said he wouldn’t address what his office will do about replacing Walton and Price because the appeals process is not completed.
“I may hear something from them that causes me to make the determination that, you know, we need to keep them. So, I am keeping an open mind here,” he said.
Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said, “We received the report of the investigation from the Sheriff’s Office yesterday, and will review it to determine if criminal charges are warranted. If the violations are criminal, and not just administrative, we will present to a grand jury, probably within the next 2-3 months, and, assuming the grand jury finds probable cause, the cases would then be filed with one of the district courts.”
The county began its fire marshal office in 2012 when Walton and David Gallagher were named fire marshal and assistant fire marshal, respectively. That move came as the county tried to deal with a round of grass fires that appeared to have been deliberately set. Walton and Gallagher were to investigate fires in the unincorporated areas of the county and make arrests where appropriate.
In July of 2016, the county swore in its first deputy fire marshal. Kerry Price was promoted from fire investigator to deputy fire marshal.
Gallagher left the department in November of 2016.
Herald Democrat reporter Alex Maxwell contributed to this report.