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Bradley County firefighter resigns after being charged with sexual battery

From the Cleveland Daily Banner: Indicted on one charge of sexual battery stemming from an incident in June, a Bradley County Fire-Rescue batt

From the Cleveland Daily Banner: Indicted on one charge of sexual battery stemming from an incident in June, a Bradley County Fire-Rescue battalion commander has resigned.


James Clayton Smith, 48, who has been employed by the fire department since 2009, submitted his letter of resignation today, Thursday, Sept. 21.


Expressing his gratitude for his time as a volunteer with the department, starting in 2006, Smith wrote in his letter of resignation, acquired by the Cleveland Daily Banner through an open records request, “Thank you for the opportunity to be a full-time employee with several ranks and certifications with Bradley County Fire and Rescue … I’ve enjoyed working with each and everyone (sic) of you and I have definitely fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine.”


Charged by a Bradley County Grand Jury on Aug. 16, Smith was arrested by the Cleveland Police Department on Sept. 3 and was arraigned on Sept. 11.


In the indictment true bill, it is alleged that on or about June 23, Smith “did unlawfully and knowingly have sexual contact with (victim) and the sexual contact was accomplished without the consent of the victim and the defendant knows or has reason to know at the time of the contact that the victim did not consent.”


Obtained by the Banner through an open records request, a letter in Smith’s Fire-Rescue personnel file from interim Fire-Rescue Chief Jeff Stewart details the accusation from the management of CBC who allege an incident occurred “on the evening of June 23, 2023, around the time of 5:15 p.m.”


The letter says, “While sitting in the outside patio area [the] waitress was pouring drinks to the customers and James Smith placed his hand between the crotch area of female waitress of CBC restaurant, the female jumped and walked away while James Smith laughed.”


Security camera video of the described incident was obtained by the Banner, and it shows Smith’s arm go behind the waitress. From the quality and resolution of the video, any physical contact between Smith and the waitress is not entirely clear.


As the woman walks away from Smith’s table, he is seen laughing in the video.


From there, Stewart’s letter says the woman notified CBC management, who proceeded to file a verbal complaint with Fire-Rescue against Smith on June 24.


CBC, which is located across the street from the Fire-Rescue Headquarters on Inman Street, has since banned Smith from its premises.


“Smith, at the time of this incident, was still on unpaid administrational leave” from a separate incident in Polk County in March, Stewart’s letter states.


Smith was on administrative leave from March 19 to July 21, according to documentation requested by the Banner.


Charges from the March incident were dropped in Polk County.


On July 21, a letter regarding Smith’s return from administrative leave, “pending the outcome and resolution of criminal charges from a domestic assault incident occurring in Polk County,” was signed by County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Fire-Rescue Chief Shawn Fairbanks and Stewart.


In it, a clause was included stating, “Any other reported behavior or attitude which affects the efficiency or effectiveness of (Fire-Rescue), exhibits conduct unbecoming of a commander in the Bradley County Fire Department or evidences participation in or involvement with a crime, will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment with Bradley County.”


Smith is on FMLA leave through Sept. 29, after which his employment with Bradley County will end.


His next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 4.