STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
LLANO — The Llano County sheriff had issued a jail facility ban — due to “general conduct” — against a Llano Police Department officer prior to the officer being put on paid leave Nov. 24 by the Llano police chief, officials say.
The two agency leaders say that, despite the timing, the two actions are “unrelated.”
Sheriff Bill Blackburn said that, a week prior to Thanksgiving, he had banned Officer Matthew Grant Harden from delivering arrested suspects to the Llano County Jail.
Harden has been with the Llano Police Department since February 2015.
“I’m not going to accept prisoners from Mr. Harden … been in effect for about a week,” Blackburn said in a phone interview Nov. 27.
For about the past six months, however, because of the officer’s “general conduct,” Harden had not been allowed to come into the administrative or dispatch part of the sheriff’s office facility, Blackburn said.
“As far as him being banned from the dispatch and administrative part (of the Llano County Jail), I was well aware of that,” said Llano Police Chief Kevin Ratliff, who is the officer’s supervisor. “It was an agreement that Grant and I and the sheriff came to.
“It’s a personal issue that the sheriff has, but as far as being a threat to anyone or the employees out there, that was not the case,” Ratliff added.
On Nov. 24, about a week after the sheriff’s ban on the officer delivering prisoners or suspects to the jail, Ratliff placed Harden on leave with pay.
“The paid leave has nothing to do with him not being allowed to go into the dispatch or administrative part (of the jail),” Ratliff said. “He’s currently under investigation by the Texas Rangers and (District Attorney’s) office.”
Blackburn said he could not comment further on a “pending investigation” by an outside agency in connection with the officer.
City Manager Scott Edmondson said city staff have been advised not to comment on the issues under investigation by the Llano County district attorney’s office.
An attempt to reach Harden was unsuccessful.
The Llano Police Department is comprised of six patrol officers, including Harden, an animal control officer, a patrol sergeant, and the chief.