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Police

Fairview Police Chief Placed on Administrative Leave

Granver Tolliver faced a sexual harassment allegation in 2012.
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Image via town of Fairview

I’ll get to the police chief’s current employment status in a moment. But first I want to talk about the town of Fairview, Texas, population 10,683, with a police force of 13. It has become a reporting beat that I never wanted.

This whole thing started when a businessman last year complained to me about a ticket he’d gotten on Central Expressway, in Fairview. I was less curious about the ticket itself than I was about how many tickets Fairview writes on Central. Only 2.5 miles of northbound Central lie within the town’s border. And then I learned the police chief is named Granver Tolliver, which is one of the all-time greatest names ever. (I have a thing for names.) So I wound up talking to Chief Tolliver and filing open records requests for ticket data from Fairview and its Central Expressway neighbors, Allen and McKinney. Turns out, Fairview does indeed issue a lot of tickets on Central. I wrote about that in the October 2022 issue of D Magazine, in a story titled “The Great Central Expressway Speed Trap.”

Then I started receiving anonymous tips from a ProtonMail address. I got one on the night of May 23 telling me that Tolliver had been placed on administrative leave. The next morning, May 24, at 9:07, I asked the town’s secretary in an email if she could confirm that fact. Her name is Tenitrus Bethel. I don’t know what it is about Fairview, but that’s another great name.

Last year, when I asked for ticket data from Fairview, Bethel was a paragon of efficiency. It took about two weeks for her to send me numbers for a four-year period, going back to 2018. My question about the chief was handled differently.

What followed was a month-long back-and-forth with Bethel and the town’s lawyers in an effort to confirm what was obviously true, seeing as how Tolliver wouldn’t return texts from me, and the ProtonMail person leaked me a letter written to the police department from the town’s manager, Julie Couch, saying that their chief had been placed on administrative leave. I’ll share that and then tell you how silly the back-and-forth got. First, here’s the letter to the Fairview Police Department from Couch:

“I wanted to inform you that Chief Tolliver has been placed on administrative leave. Please note, administrative leave is a standard procedure used to ensure a fair and impartial investigation can take place. During this time, Chief Tolliver will not have any involvement in day-to-day operations or decision-making processes. The sergeants will be reporting directly to me during this process. I understand that this news may raise questions and concerns among the department. While I cannot disclose specific details of the investigation due to privacy and confidentiality concerns, I want to assure you that I am committed to providing updates as appropriate, while respecting the confidentiality of the process. My primary objective is to foster a workplace culture that upholds respect, transparency, and accountability.”

So I can’t tell you what exactly is going on in Fairview, other than to say it’s a mess, and an investigation is underway, and the town manager says she wants to foster transparency, which is a hoot.

I can tell you, as an aside, that Tolliver’s law-enforcement career has been marred by a number of lawsuits. He used to work for the Dallas Police Department and sued the city for race discrimination in 1996. Then he sued the city of Mesquite for discrimination when they declined to hire him. Then he sued Dallas again when he wasn’t allowed to run for county constable. The Dallas Observer wrote about all this. Nothing came of these cases but a lot of boring court filings.

Far more interesting is the 2012 sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Tolliver and the town of Fairview by a woman named Lisa Mitchell who had resigned from the Fairview Police Department. She accused Tolliver of all sorts of unsavory behavior, including taking pictures of himself “standing by the back seat of a patrol car receiving oral sex and having sexual intercourse with a married woman whose wedding ring was clearly visible in the picture” and then leaving those pictures on a thumb drive for Mitchell to find at her desk at work. She also alleged that Tolliver made “unprofessional and unwelcome sexual comments” to her and that she was repeatedly passed over for a promotion, in one case in favor of an officer who’d been reprimanded, she claimed, over a sexual harassment complaint.

I hasten to add that in 2013 the parties reached a settlement agreement, and Mitchell dropped her lawsuit. Chief Tolliver was never found to have done anything wrong. And I am not suggesting this decade-old lawsuit has anything to do with the current investigation underway in Fairview.

Which brings me to the back-and-forth I had with Fairview as I tried to confirm that the chief had been placed on administrative leave. I’m going to recast our communication so that it’s more digestible and so that you don’t choke on all the legalese Fairview threw at me in multiple emails and three certified letters. The postage for those letters cost $25.50. Who knows what the town paid the law firm of Wolfe, Tidwell & McCoy to write them. I guess I could file another open records request to find out.

Anyway, here’s how it went for a month with Fairview and Bethel and the law firm:

TIM: Hey, I’m sorry to ask this question, but can you confirm that Chief Tolliver has been placed on administrative leave? [a day of silence ensues] OK, fine, here’s an official open records request. I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of all emails sent through Fairview’s server that contain both the name Tolliver and the phrase “administrative leave,” from the period of April 1 to May 25.

FAIRVIEW: We are super confused. The way we see it, you’ve made two open records requests. That is so confusing. We seriously can’t figure this out. And even if we could figure it out, in your second request, you said you want to inspect or obtain these records. Which is it? Because inspecting and obtaining are two different things, and each one requires a different process. And then one last thing: you said April 1 to May 25. We understand the month and day thing, but you didn’t specify which year or years you’re interested in.

TIM: My bad. That one is on me. I’m talking about this year. 2023.

FAIRVIEW: We found some records responsive to your request! But some of these emails are between the town and our lawyers. This is kind of sensitive. We could ask the attorney general to determine whether we have to show you these emails, but that would take a lot of time. Are you cool with us hanging onto these emails?

TIM: You guys are so thoughtful. Yes, absolutely. I don’t need to see those sensitive emails. Again, I’m just trying to confirm that the chief has been placed on administrative leave.

FAIRVIEW: We’re getting so close. But here’s the deal: we still cannot determine the mechanism by which we should fulfill your request. You said inspect or copy the emails. Which one is it?

TIM: Oh, good grief. I request that the town display the records on a computer screen of its choosing. Please let me know the date and time this computer screen will display the records. I will come to the town and look at the computer screen on that date and time.

FAIRVIEW: Great! We’ve got the emails. You can come look at them. Or we can email you a PDF.

TIM: Email me the frickin PDF.

I am not exaggerating. That’s what happened, only with more words. The only emails I got from the open records request were the one from the town manager, one from the town secretary mentioning my emails, and my own emails, which was a nice touch.

You want to know the best part? Remember, I made my first request at 9:07 a.m. on May 24. That email from Town Manager Julie Couch to the police department about putting Tolliver on administrative leave? In the PDF I got yesterday, I saw that she sent her email to the cops at 8:31 that same morning. And Tenitrus Bethel, the town secretary, sent Couch an email that morning at 11:39 saying, Hey, I got an email this morning from Tim Rogers about the chief. Have we placed him on administrative leave?

That timeline means that the ProtonMail tipster told me the chief had been placed on administrative leave even before the police department was officially informed of the news. Dear Fairview: you’ve got a high-level leak.

Also, the town secretary had email confirmation from the town manager about two and a half hours after I asked for it. She could have replied to my first email with a very simple: “Yes, he has been placed on administrative leave. It’s a personnel matter, though, so I can’t tell you anything more.” Instead, doing absolutely everything they could to avoid being transparent, she and the town dragged out the process for more than a month.

Fair play to you, Tenitrus Bethel. Well done. But I bet that when this investigation concludes, I’ll have the results before you do. I look forward to confirming them with you.

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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